Navajo airman is heir to 'code talker' legacy - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY HISTORY

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip Rock is part of his family’s legacy of military service — a legacy that, in fact, would not have continued if it weren’t for that military service itself.

Stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base, Rock is a B-2 Spirit weapons load crew member in the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. It is his first Air Force assignment and the most recent in his family’s military history.

“I was raised in Kayenta, Arizona, which is an hour away from the four corners,” said Phillip, who is three-quarters Navajo American Indian. “It is really the heart of the reservation.”


Raised by his grandparents, he learned much about his cultural heritage from them. He also learned where his family’s long military lineage began.

This Rock family tradition started with his great grandfather, Joseph Rock — Grandpa Joe — who served in World War II.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron B-2 weapons load crew member, weaves a dream catcher on Nov. 15, 2018, in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Mo.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“At first, I didn’t know much about what my great grandfather had done,” Phillip said.

Grandpa Joe died in 2004 at age 92 when Phillip was 5 years old. It wasn’t until he was nearly a teen that Phillip realized his great grandfather was a war hero.

One day, when Rock was 12 years old, he was flipping through TV channels with his grandfather, Ernest Rock Sr., in their living room. They stopped to watch a historical documentary about World War II.

Rock recalled asking his grandfather about his great grandfather’s role in the major world conflict which spanned across Europe and the Pacific.

“I said, ‘Isn’t that the war Grandpa Joe fought in? What did he do?'”

His grandfather told Phillip “He was a code talker.”

Western expansion, cultural repression

It was the early 1900s and Joseph Rock was a young boy living on a Navajo reservation in Arizona. As the country expanded westward, much of the tribe’s land was taken by the U.S. government. Joseph was sent to school, where his long hair was cut and his name was changed.

“He went up to a chalkboard, pointed at a random configuration of letters, and that’s how he became Joseph Rock,” Phillip said. “Four generations later, we still carry on that last name.”

Grandpa Joe was also punished in school if he spoke his native language — the same language that would later save countless lives.

By 1941, shortly after the U.S. had entered WWII, the Marine Corps began to recruit Navajo tribal members for a top-secret code-communications program that wouldn’t be declassified until two decades later.

At first, fewer than 30 Navajo Indians were recruited as code talkers. In total, only about 400 of the 44,000 American Indians who served in WWII were Navajo code talkers. Joseph Rock was asked to work among them, and he accepted.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron, poses for a portrait on Nov. 15, 2018 in his dorm at Whiteman Air Force Base, Missouri.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

“He was told if he served, the family would get some of their land back and a house,” Phillip Rock said. “None of that happened.”

But those promises weren’t what enticed Grandpa Joe to join the military. He wanted to serve his country, and did so honorably.

“My great grandfather was proud of his service,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s his legacy.”

Military recruitment

This was not the first time American Indians were recruited for U.S. military service, either as combatants or code talkers. During the first World War, American troops relied on messages transmitted in Cherokee and Choctaw tribal languages to pass secret information. However, the languages used were eventually all deciphered by enemy troops.

The Navajo language, though, is considered particularly linguistically difficult. And at that time, it had not been written down. The U.S. government knew it would be nearly impossible for a non-Navajo to learn.

So, in the early 1940s, Navajo code talkers used their language to create more than 200 new words for military terms and then committed them to memory.

“The enemy never understood it,” a Marine general was quoted as saying after the Navajo code was first used in WWII. “We don’t understand it either, but it works.”

The Navajo code is the only spoken military code that has never been deciphered, and Navajo code talkers are credited with saving thousands of Americans’ and allies’ lives.

Winning the war

Before he knew his Grandpa Joe served as a code talker, Phillip learned about his tribe’s role in WWII as a boy in school.

“We were taught that we should be extremely thankful for what they did,” Phillip said. “Without the code talkers, we wouldn’t have won the war.”

During the Battle of Iwo Jima in 1945, Navajo code talkers worked around the clock sending and receiving thousands of messages. One Marine later stated, “Were it not for the Navajos, the Marines would never have taken Iwo Jima,” according to the Naval History and Heritage Command.

Joseph Rock was one of those code talkers involved in the critical battle to claim the Pacific island.

During the battle, a grenade landed only feet away from Joseph Rock, who “watched it hit the ground,” Phillip said. Then, Joseph Rock saw one of his fellow Marines dive on top of it, giving his life to save Grandpa Joe.

“He wanted to save the life of a code talker,” Phillip Rock said. “It’s inspiring what people will do to continue with the mission. My Grandpa Joe owed his life to that man.”

Neither Joseph Rock nor the Rock family was ever able to find out who the Marine was, but know future generations of Rocks have their lives thanks to his valor.

“I owe my life to that man, too,” Phillip said.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Traditional native american jewelry is laid out on the couch of Airman 1st Class Phillip E. Rock, a B-2 weapons load crew member assigned to the 509th Aircraft Maintenance Squadron. Each piece of jewelry was gifted to rock throughout his childhood.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Kayla White)

Culture and service

Since Grandpa Joe, many members of the Rock family have answered their nation’s call including his grandfather, his father, uncles and an aunt.

For Phillip, his great grandfather’s service as a code talker influenced Philip’s own decision to join the Air Force.

Phillip is the most recent member of his family to serve in the military.

“I feel like it was a prideful thing to carry on that lineage of service,” said Phillip. “It felt like the right calling. My Grandpa Joe was the first to wear this name on a uniform. I am very proud of this name. I knew I wanted to carry that on and wear it on a uniform.”

Meanwhile, Navajo principles have taught him respect, perseverance, and determination.

“My culture really shapes who I am,” Phillip Rock says. “I wear my culture on my sleeve and my name on my chest.”

This feature is part of the “Through Airmen’s Eyes” series on AF.mil. These stories focus on a single Airman, highlighting their Air Force story.

This article originally appeared on the United States Air Force. Follow @usairforce on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

U.S. Department of Education proposes big changes to distance learning

If you have ever run into a situation in which you asked yourself, “What rule? How could someone think that was a good idea? Why was I not told?” you can now offer your comments for an upcoming rule.

You may have experienced distance learning during your military service or know someone who has. As such, you can provide valuable insight into a proposed rule, Distance Education and Innovation, which will likely affect service members’ online schooling worldwide.

The U.S. Department of Education, led by Secretary Betsy DeVos, has published a proposed set of rules that will significantly affect distance learning for service members and their families enrolled in post-secondary educational programs. The public comment period for your valuable insight closes May 4, 2020, at 11:59 PM ET. If, after reading, you feel you would like to share your thoughts, you can do so here. Following the comment period, the Department will publish a final regulation before November 1, 2020.

In its Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on Distance Education and Innovation, the Department has proffered many changes to current educational policies from how universities define their curricula to how regular and substantive interaction between students and instructors is defined. Most importantly, educational institutions with proven track records will benefit from a streamlined approval from the Secretary for the first direct assessment program offered by the school.
Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

What this means for service members

In the coming months, service members will likely see a rapid expansion of new online schools and online programs — also, advertisements for newly G.I. Bill-approved schools will appear on social media platforms everywhere. Also, a more comprehensive array of applications will be made accessible to members of the military and veterans. This is excellent news for members of the military bouncing from state to state and country to country, where some traditional universities’ programs cannot follow due to their accreditors’ archaic and arguably avaricious policies.

For example, in response to one of its student’s military-related mobilization, a servicemember’s military friendly school may state, “You want us to record your classes? That’s too much of a burden. You volunteered to deploy, that is not the university’s problem.” Thus, the traditional university, under the guise of its federal and state regulations, may deny a student-soldier’s request for accommodation and defer to its accreditation standards in its defense.

Conversely, the non-traditional university, better equipped, may see a mobilization of a Reserve or National Guard soldier as a straightforward situation to accommodate because, fundamentally, the online university is best positioned to handle the unique circumstances that affect service members and civilians alike. As an example, the current COVID-19 pandemic, which is forcing traditional students to stay at home, has driven student-soldiers nationwide to temporarily drop their textbooks and, instead, get into their uniforms. Thus, student-soldiers’ statuses and VA-payments may be negatively affected.

Despite the proposed set of rules accommodations for non-traditional students, the rapid development of the rule itself – the process – may be cause for concern.

Criticism of the Rule

According to William J. Zee, partner and chair of the Education Law group at Barley Snyder, LLC., a strategically focused, full-service law firm representing businesses, organizations, and individuals in all major areas of civil law, “Critics believe it is worrisome that these regulations were proposed at the same time the biggest commentators – namely higher education institutions – are busy trying to institute distance learning in the face of COVID-19 and do not have enough time to fully digest and comment on the proposed regulations.”

Critics’ concerns about the rapidity of this Rule’s development are supported by a seemingly absent involvement of traditional universities within the Department’s “months-long negotiated rulemaking effort” that constituted public hearings and engagement from education-subject matter. See generally Notice, DoED, 2020 at 1.

Also, Sharon L. Dunn, PT, Ph.D., president, American Physical Therapy Association, stated publicly, “. . . changing the accreditation requirements, process, or standards for purely programmatic accreditors could cause lasting damaging effects.” See Public Comment, APTA, September 14, 2018.

Thus, the Department’s shift towards programmatic accreditation standards may mean damaging effects on educational institutions relying more on institutional accreditation, and an outcome possibly welcomed by some in the military community.

Support for the Rule

Mr. Zee, continued, “On the other hand, the proposed distance learning regulations could prove positive for current active military servicemen and women who have the possibility of being deployed while obtaining some sort of degree. These regulations propose to broaden the ability for institutions to better use technology and serve the classes of people who may not be in a traditional school setting. These regulations call for more use of technology, a broader acceptance of distance learning, and a recognition that the method of obtaining credentialing isn’t as important as the end result.”

In addition, Blake Johnson, a first-year law student, stated publicly, “This is a very important move toward protecting the student . . . First year itself is difficult and presents an educational challenge unlike any I’ve faced before. That being said, I was getting used to the in-person socratic lectures. That’s all gone. The ABA (American Bar Association) is stringent on their allowance of distance learning. This current situation has seen an unprecedented move in which the ABA allowed for students to not only go ‘online’ but also allowed for a trend towards Pass/Fail type grading. This proposed rule allows for a relaxed and more accommodative approach to education and factors in the issues associated with the current [COVID-19] pandemic.” See Public Comment, April 15, 2020.

Thus, more significant innovation in distance learning could prove beneficial to members of the military.

Author’s Public Comment and Concerns

This author will be specifically addressing administrative remedies in his public comment to the Federal Register.

Because of the extraordinary degree of speed by which the Department has rollbacked regulations in its Proposed Rule, student-soldiers could be at higher risk of exposure to misrepresentation and fraud.

Addressing this author’s concern, the Department generally states, “These proposed regulations attempt to limit risks to students and taxpayers resulting from innovation by delegating various oversight functions to the bodies best suited to conduct that oversight—States and accreditors. This delegation of authority through the higher education regulatory triad entrusts oversight of most consumer protections to States, assurance of academic quality to accrediting agencies, and protection of taxpayer funds to the Department.” See Proposed Rule, DoED.

In laymen’s terms, the Department is passing the buck to State regulators such as the Massachusetts Department of Higher Education, for example, a state agency charged with the duty of assuring academic quality in Massachusetts.

The problem with such delegation is (1) many state regulators are hyper-focused on targeting for-profit institutions and politically incentivized to protect non-profits, and (2) there are very few remedies for student-soldiers facing disputes with their universities, regardless of the school’s tax status. Frequently, military commanders cite the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, USERRA, a federal employment law, in response to their student-soldiers’ concerns with missing classes due to drill or deployments.

Expect to see a Public Comment from this author very soon that will advocate for the inclusion of protective language to the Department’s Proposed Rule modifying eligibility to ensure student-soldiers are given big sticks to augment their respectful, soft voices in the classroom.

The metaphorical equivalent of a student-soldier’s attempt to resolve a dispute with their non-profit university would be like an attempt to sue God. The cards are stacked unfairly in favor of universities nationwide, and, in closing, for those who believe non-profit universities to be a fragile, delicate butterflies, worthy of extraordinary deference by state regulators, please research universities’ publicly available Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 990(s).

Call to Action

After reviewing the Department’s Tips for Submitting Comments, submit your comments through the Department’s Rulemaking Portal or via postal mail, commercial delivery, or hand delivery. The Department will not accept comments submitted by fax or by email or those submitted after the comment period. To ensure that the Department does not receive duplicate copies, please submit your comments only once. In addition, please include the Docket ID [ED-2018-OPE-0076-0845] at the top of your comments. If you are submitting comments electronically, the Department strongly encourages you to submit any comments or attachments in Microsoft Word format.

If you must submit a comment in Adobe Portable Document Format (PDF), the Department strongly encourages you to convert the PDF to print-to-PDF format or to use some other commonly used searchable text format. Please do not submit the PDF in a scanned format. Using a print-to-PDF format allows the Department to electronically search and copy certain portions of your submissions.

Federal eRulemaking Portal: Go to www.regulations.gov to submit your comments electronically. Information on using Regulations.gov, including instructions for accessing agency documents, submitting comments, and viewing the docket is available on the site under ”Help.” See 18638 Federal Register Vol. 85, No. 64. Thursday, April 2, 2020, Proposed Rules. at 1.

Attending a Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Educational Institution 

A common misconception about non-profit educational institutions is that they cannot, by definition, be predatory. In an online document concerning non-profits, last updated February 2018 by Pasadena City College (PCC), a non-profit educational institution, PCC states, “None are predatory, but have varying success rates – students should research institutions carefully applying.” See Document at 2. In its blanket immunity declaration, PCC also highlights the importance of carefully researching educational institutions’ successes, which can be intentionally elusive to some consumers.

A more in-depth article addressing the logical fallacy behind blanket immunity granted to non-profits is discussed further in These Colleges Say They’re Non-profit—But Are They?, written by Robert Shireman, Director of Higher Education Excellence and Senior Fellow at The Century Foundation. If further clarification is needed on what it means for an educational institution to be predatory, the Federal Trade Commission, in concert with many State Attorneys General, maintains publicly available reports and cases that define bad actors’ deceptions of consumers in areas ranging from aviation to wine and beer.

According to Mr. Zee, “For-profit institutions have been preying on the education of current soldiers and veterans because their GI Bill does not go toward the for-profit institutions’ 90/10 limit of federal funding. For-profit institutions have been caught deceiving prospects into believing they are actually non-profit institutions, and many soldiers have been negatively impacted, as they are seeking a non-traditional method of schooling.”

In deciding whether to attend a non-profit or for-profit educational institution consider this, enrolling at an institution of higher learning through an online portal provided by the bursar’s office may not feel the same as removing a wrinkled dollar bill from a tired, leather wallet, handing it to a cashier across a counter, and receiving a delicious chocolate candy bar unwrapped in return. Still, it is a financial transaction just the same. Students are consumers of educational services provided by companies, whether the U.S. Internal Revenue Service sees them as 501c3 or not.

Measure of a Post-Secondary Educational Institution’s Success

It is generally easy to discern the success of teaching a child to play catch, the child either catches the ball, or they do not catch the ball. However, some may take the view that the measure of success is instead the child reaching to catch it. The attempt itself is worthy of some admiration, an ideal not lost to many.

However, an attempt to catch the ball is categorically not a success, determined by many programmatic-accreditation bodies, an example of which would be the American Bar Association. One either passes the bar exam or does not pass. Likewise, one either passes their State’s medical board or they do not. The ramifications of either determine whether one will be permitted to practice law or medicine, an ideal we value for the professionals charged with the duties of either keeping us out of prison or alive on the operating table.

Conversely, to an institutional-accreditation body, a child may be the next Jason Varitek despite missing the ball and landing on his or her face. An institutional-accreditation authority is not so concerned whether the child catches the ball, it is concerned with what the ball is made of, how fast it was thrown, and whether the child was the intended recipient. In other words, institutional-accreditation bodies are more concerned with the educational process, the number of students per class, than the result, the number of students working in their desired field. An accredited university can retain its accreditation by solely focusing its business decision-making process on an extensive gamut of unique gradable metrics, rather than merely one: whether its graduates obtained jobs.

In its Notice, the Department “call[s] for institutions, educators, and policymakers to ‘rethink higher education’ and find new ways to expand educational opportunity, demonstrate the value of a post-secondary credential and lifelong learning, and reduce costs for students, schools, and taxpayers. See Factsheet (emphasis added).

What is a CFR?

CFR is short for a Code of Federal Regulation, more amicably known as administrative law by members of the legal community. Administrative law is unique because it is technologically complicated. For example, Lawyers and Judges typically do not enjoy defining what is or is not the correct way to fly an airplane.

Hence, a federal agency, the Federal Aviation Administration, filled to the seams with aviation experts, defines the technical means to fly an aircraft correctly. Likewise, other areas of specialization like immigration or education are governed by administrative rules, ultimately guided by the federal, executive branch of government.

In this instance, the Department’s change to the CFR will result in a cascading effect on how the education sector conducts its education-business – or for the FAA, flies a plane. However, unlike flying a plane, which arguably has a clear right and wrong way of doing it – up or down, education has its unique nuance. For example, a law student, activated for a combat military deployment – yet with access to computers, may

As a valued reader of We Are the Mighty, you may know or be a Soldier, Sailor, Airmen, Marine, or Coast Guardsman who balanced online, distance learning with their military service. Please, share your insight on what you think of the Department of Education’s proposed rules.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Chinese rip off Hollywood for their own propaganda films

It is long been an issue with Washington that the Chinese have been able to save billions of dollars in research by stealing American intellectual property and repurposing it for their own use. Resultantly, the Pentagon is always on the trail of espionage directed at stealing years and billions worth of research. Now you can add Hollywood to the list of Chinese theft victims.

The Chinese military has blatantly ripped scenes from several Hollywood blockbuster films to use in its own propaganda video that shows the capabilities of its bomber forces.


The South China Morning Post news service was the first to report that the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF) posted the aforementioned video to its account on Weibo. The video is titled “The God of War H-6K Attack!” and shows several Chinese planes taking in actual PLAAF footage. But when the planes go on their attack runs, the stylized explosions and cinematic special effects look right out of a Michael Bay film… That’s because in some cases they are.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Chinese video depicting an airstrike is actually a scene from “The Rock.”

Why spend millions on special effects and CGI when a video editor can rip the scenes right out of a film that was already expertly done? Thus, the PLAAF saved on trying to recreate some of Hollywood’s best action sequences. It just ripped them off to show how good Chinese air assets are.

The video in question contains blatant rip-offs of American films “The Rock,” “The Hurt Locker,” and “Transformers, Revenge of the Fallen.”

解放军空军“模拟轰-6K轰炸美军基地”视频

www.youtube.com

The South China Morning Post reported that, according to a source close to the Chinese military, it isn’t unusual for the Chinese military “to borrow” ripped scenes for its own purposes. For example, in 2011, the Chinese military used ripped scenes from the 1986 blockbuster “Top Gun” for another video.

The subjects of the latest video are the H-6K and H-6N bombers. These are heavily redesigned models of the older Soviet Tupolev TU-16 twin-engine bombers that the Chinese have built under license. The Chinese also have newer designs currently in development.

These aircraft give the PLAAF a long-range standoff offensive air capability. The aircraft comes with precision-guided munitions and is capable of aerial refueling and carrying cruise missiles.

However, the scenes from Hollywood aren’t the only disconcerting images included in the video. In an example of extreme saber-rattling, Reuters reported that the airbase attack scene is actually satellite footage of the U.S. military’s Andersen Air Force Base on Guam.

When comparing the satellite imagery of the base to the short clip from the Chinese video, there is no doubt about what the target is purported to be. Andersen AFB is an important strategic location for American operations in the Pacific and would be one of the first targets in any U.S.-China conflict.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Satellite image of Andersen AFB in Guam, the same image used in the Chinese military video. (Google Earth)

This video comes amid tensions between the two countries being at extreme levels. The recent visit to Taiwan by Undersecretary of State Keith Krach, the highest-level U.S. diplomat to visit Taiwan in decades, has obviously angered the Chinese.

And the not-so-veiled threat against the U.S. base in Guam was the message that China’s air force can hit and destroy the base whenever it chooses — with Michael Bay-like precision.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.


MIGHTY HISTORY

This Nazi officer risked his life to save an American soldier

It may surprise amateur historians to discover that wars can take a humanitarian turn. There are many, many recorded instances of exceptional displays of humanity, even during the most brutal fighting. Considering the Nazis’ monstrous reputation, it would surprise many others to discover that kind of kindness among the German officers in World War II.

Even in the Wehrmacht’s most desperate days, there were some among them who retained their humanity in the middle of one of the world’s deadliest conflicts. In the Hürtgen War Cemetery in Hürtgen, Germany, you’ll find a small monument to one of these brave souls.


Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

“No man hath greater love than he who layeth down his life for his enemy.”

As the Allies pressed their post-Normandy advantage against the Nazis in Europe, they began to outrun their supply lines. Unfortunately, the men and materiel required to bring down the Nazi regime weren’t as fast at replacing the men and materiel who were actively taking down the regime. The Allies were forced to slow down and, in some places, pause as their supplies caught up to their breakneck drive toward Germany.

This lull gave the Germans time to regroup and rest.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

The worst was yet to come.

Before the Allies could enter Germany, there were a few things they had to consider. They had to cross the Rhine, the city Aachen was under siege and refused to surrender, and the Allies were afraid the Germans would destroy the Ruhr Dam. To avoid this, the Allies needed to enter the dense woods that lay between the city and the dam and do it before the Germans thought to blow the dam.

During the relatively brief lull in the fighting, the Germans made good use of the Hürtgen Forest. Its hills and ravines were loaded with minefields, booby traps, barbed wire, and anything else they could think of that might halt the Allied advance or end it entirely. What’s more, deep inside the woods were the overgrown and abandoned remains of the concrete Siegfried Line. The advantage in numbers and air superiority the Allied troops enjoyed would be completely negated by the forest. The dark woods were now almost impenetrable, and the Allies were walking into it.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

This is not the place you want to assault.

For four months, the Allies sent men into the German-held meat grinder trying to dislodge the Nazis. Among the Germans trying to keep the Americans out was a Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. Lengfeld was a young officer who had just taken command of his unit in November 1944, after his commander was killed in combat. He and his men were holed up in a lodge of some kind, sheltering themselves from the elements and trying to stave off their hunger. Next to their shelter was a minefield known as the Wilde Sau.

An American attack pushed Lengfeld’s Germans from their shelter, but his men quickly counterattacked and retook it the day after. The U.S. troops scrambled out so fast that one of them walked right into the Wilde Sau and immediately stepped on a mine. The man survived and began calling for help.

None came. And to this day, no one knows who the wounded American was.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

This road once bisected the Wilde Sau minefield.

Lieutenant Lengfeld ordered his troops that no one was to fire at any Americans who would come for the man. Hours passed, the man begged anyone within earshot to help him. But no one came. The man cried for his compatriots the entire time, but still, no one came to his aid. Lengfeld decided he would help, and took a team of his medics along a road that led to the minefield. He was determined to help the man, but while his team had placed anti-tank mines along the road, he did not know the location of anti-personnel mines. Lengfeld stepped on one immediately, shredding his back. He would die later that night.

In 1994, a monument was erected at the Hürtgen Forest Cemetery, bearing the name and wartime deeds of Lt. Friedrich Lengfeld. It read:

Here in Huertgen Forest on November 12, 1944,
Lt. Lengfeld, a German officer, gave his life
while trying to save the life of an American
soldier lying severely wounded in the “Wilde
Sau” minefield and appealing for medical aid.

The monument was placed there by the American members of the 22nd Infantry Regiment to honor Lt. Lengfeld.

MIGHTY HISTORY

How WWII soldiers used their downtime to make spectacular trench art

The National WWII Museum in New Orleans has launched a fascinating new exhibition about the arts and crafts soldiers created during World War II, often using castoff war materiel to create beautiful objects treasured for generations.

SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II is on display now through Jan. 2, 2022, in the museum’s Senator John Alario Jr. Special Exhibition Hall, giving visitors a chance to plan a safe trip after we’ve all had a chance at getting a COVID-19 vaccination.Advertisement

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Soldier Artist: Trench Art in World War II (National World War II Museum)

The museum opened in 1991, and curators have spent much of the last two decades systematically collecting the more than 150 pieces featured in the show. Most were donated by the original artists or their families.

Time can move slowly between battles, and soldiers have been occupying themselves with creative projects since the beginning of warfare. Trench art came to describe the handiwork during World War I, and the term has survived even though soldiers had far more tools and opportunities during World War II.

The museum has shared some photos from the exhibit, but you’ll have to visit to see the entire collection up close.Advertisement

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Portable machine shops expanded the tools available for World War II trench artists. (National World War II Museum)

The United States managed to get an enormous amount of support gear into the fields, and soldiers suddenly had access to portable machine shops in almost all theaters of war. More powerful tools led to far more elaborate art.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This knife’s rotted leather washers were replaced with Plexiglas washers in the field. (National World War II Museum)

Plexiglas was a revolutionary new material that transformed design, repair and maintenance during the era. Here’s an example of a knife repaired with Plexiglas washers. Most American military knives of the era were created with stacked leather washers. Take those to the South Pacific’s heat and humidity, and you’ve got the perfect recipe for handle rot.

This handle features green Plexiglas salvaged from tinted portions of aircraft canopies and red Plexiglas from marker lights.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This P-38 sculpture made from bullet casings is also an ashtray. (National World War II Museum)

Spent bullets and shell casings were plentiful and sturdy, so these leftovers became a popular medium for trench artists. The P-38 Lightning featured twin booms that lent themselves to bullet art. Abstract representations such as this one are immediately identifiable as the American plane.

Something else that soldiers did with their downtime was enjoy the free cigarettes sent by U.S. tobacco companies, and these sculptures are designed to be used as ashtrays.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This vase was made from a 105mm shell casing. (National World War II Museum)

Vases made from shell casings were particularly popular during World War I, and the practice continued into World War II. This vase was created in 1943 from a 105mm shell casing.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This violin was made from wood scraps by an American held in a German POW camp. (National World War II Museum)

This incredibly ambitious project was undertaken by POW 1st Lt. Clair Cline, 448th Bombardment Group, 714th Bombardment Squadron, while he was imprisoned in Germany’s Stalag Luft I during 1944. Cline had serious woodworking skill and created this violin with makeshift tools such as broken glass and table knives.

He scavenged wood bed slats, table legs and aid cartons for materials and put the whole thing together with glue scraped from the bottom of German mess-hall tables. He finished the instrument in time to perform a short Christmas concert for his barracks.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This swagger stick was made for an American by the German POWs he supervised. (National World War II Museum)

Technician 3rd Grade John D. Sweitzer of the 551st Ordnance Heavy Maintenance Company oversaw a detail of German POWs at the 6960th Ordnance Depot at war’s end. The Germans thought Sweitzer needed to look more like a man in charge, so they made this elaborate swagger stick and gifted it to him.

Sweitzer, who obviously inspired respect even from enemy troops, kept the piece and later donated it to the museum.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
There are over 150 pieces on exhibit in the SOLDIER | ARTIST: Trench Art in World War II exhibit. (National World War II Museum)

The rest of the exhibit includes frames, cigarette cases, airplane models and even a vessel for communion wafers. If you’re looking for insight into what troops did before video games and social media, you’ve got almost a year to visit New Orleans and see for yourself.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why France’s president calls Syria ‘the brain death of NATO’

French President Emmanuel Macron believes Europe is standing on the edge of a precipice and needs to think of itself as a power in the world in order to control its own destiny. He told the Economist the European alliance needs to “wake up” to the reality that the alliance and its deterrent is only as good as the guarantor of last resort – the United States. In his view, the United States is in danger of turning its back on NATO and Europe, just as it did to the Kurds in October 2019.

Along with the rise of China and the authoritarian turn of Russia and Turkey, Europe needs to act as a strategic power, perhaps without the US.


Macron spoke to the Economist for an hourlong interview from Paris’ Elysée Palace and spoke bluntly about NATO, its future, and the United States.

“I’d argue that we should reassess the reality of what NATO is in the light of the commitment of the United States.” he said. “… [President Trump] doesn’t share our idea of the European project.”

Europe faces myriad challenges that go far beyond the expectations of NATO and its American ally. Brexit looms large over European politics, while new EU membership is a point of contention within the European Union, especially in France. There is also much disagreement over how to engage with Russia, especially considering there are many NATO allies and EU members who used to be dominated by Moscow. But it wasn’t just Trump’s policy that concerned Macron.

“Their position has shifted over the past 10 years,” Macron said. “You have to understand what is happening deep down in American policy-making. It’s the idea put forward by President Obama: ‘I am a Pacific president’.”

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

That isn’t to say Macron is rejecting the American alliance. France’s president has taken a lot of time with Trump to keep that alliance closely engaged. But when the U.S. wants to go, it can go in the blink of any eye, just like it did in Syria. Meanwhile, Macron sees Europe as increasingly fragile in a hostile world, and he wants Europe (and France alone, if necessary) to be strong enough to stand up for itself.

“Our defence, our security, elements of our sovereignty, must be re-thought through,” he said. “I didn’t wait for Syria to do this. Since I took office I’ve championed the notion of European military and technological sovereignty… If it [Europe] can’t think of itself as a global power, that power will disappear.”

All it will take, he says, is one hard knock.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Germany expressed outrage at the comments, while Russia called them “Golden.”

While some conceded that Macron has a point about the strategic coordination of the alliance, many others were angered by his remarks. In response, the November 2019 meeting of NATO held a discussion about the validity of the French president’s description and what, if anything, they should do about it. Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg reminded reporters that week that the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is the only body where North America and Europe sit together and make decisions together.

“I think it has value to look into how we can further strengthen NATO and the transatlantic bond,” Stoltenberg said as he made plans to visit Paris in the coming days. “We need to look into this as we prepare for the upcoming leaders’ meeting and then we will see what will be the final conclusions.”

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 ways Navy SEALs overcome sleep deprivation

Growing evidence suggests that poor sleep habits harm our health, our relationships, and even our jobs. So if you’re having trouble sleeping, then it’s time to get back to the basics — military style.

Special operators, who are sent on the US military’s most dangerous assignments, must sleep when they can and often face extreme sleep deprivation to complete their missions. Whether you’re a new parent, have a stressful job, or are dealing with a difficult situation, there’s a lot you can learn from these elite operators.


To get a sense of how to sleep like a champ in the worst situations, we pored over sleep techniques for special operators and interviewed a former Navy SEAL who trains pro athletes, firefighters, and police tactical teams on how they maximize their performance.

“There’s not a harder job out there than being a mom or dad, working or stay at home,” said Adam La Reau, who spent 12 years as a Navy SEAL and is a cofounder of O2X Human Performance, a company that trains and advises groups from the Chicago Blackhawks to the Boston Fire Department. “There’s definitely a sleep debt that could occur over time.”

Small tweaks to your routine — what La Reau called “1% changes” in a March 19, 2019 phone interview — will make a huge difference to your sleep.

These are the basics of sleep boot camp. Know these before you nod off.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

An airman catches some zzz’s on a C-17 Globemaster flight.

(US Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan)

Have a presleep game plan.

“It’s like a warm-up routine you do for a work out,” La Reau said. He then ticked off a list of do-nots: eat within two hours before bed, stare at bright lights, or start playing “Fortnite.”

During this time, La Reau suggests activities that will calm your nerves, maybe reading, meditation, listening to music, or dimming the lights.

Definitely: turn off your electronics.

TV watchers, e-tablet readers, “Fortnight” gamers — “They’re getting crushed with light,” La Reau, whose O2X team includes a half-dozen sleep scientists. “And that’s just going to disrupt their circadian rhythm, it’s going to trick your body into thinking it’s day and your body should be up.”

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

La Reau recommends writing a daily list to help you mentally prepare for the next day.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Put together a list or a reminder of what you need to do the next day.

We all have a lot going on, especially new parents. La Reau says you need to tackle that head-on.

In the hours before bed, put together a list or reminder of what you need to do the next day.

“Every time I go home, I have a list of what I need to do the next day … I feel like I’m prepared when I wake up in the morning,” La Reau said. “I know exactly what I’m going to do, and I sleep better at night for it.”

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Aerobic exercise boosts the amount of rejuvenating deep sleep you receive, according to researchers at the John Hopkins Center for Sleep.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Exercise is important, but do it well before bedtime.

Obviously. These are Navy SEALs.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

The Navy SEALs’ Basic Underwater Demolition/SEAL training is notoriously exhausting.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep when you can.

One military sleep manual advises special operators to use the lulls in combat to nap. “Uninterrupted sleep for as little as 10 minutes may partially recover alertness,” the Naval Health Research Center report said.

A nap can boost your energy but don’t zonk out too close to your bedtime, La Reau said.

“Naps are really helpful, and any sleep is better than no sleep at all,” La Reau said. “When the baby takes a nap, that could be a good time for you to take a nap.”

Just think of it as a lull in combat.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Set yourself up for nighttime right.

(US Army photo by Scott T. Sturkol)

Get a high-quality mattress, black-out shades, and a white-noise machine.

“The bedroom should be a sanctuary for sleeping and relaxation and recovery, it’s not to be used as an accessory or a work station,” La Reau said.

He suggests black-out shades, a white-noise machine, and a quality mattress.

“Sleeping on a high-quality mattress is the best investment you’ll ever make,” he said.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Light from devices such as your phone can delay the release of the hormone melatonin, which regulates when you’re tired.

(Photo illustration by Senior Airman Destinee Sweeney)

Put away that phone. Seriously.

It’s not just because of that blue light, either. It’s about stress. You want to use the two hours before bed to relax and unwind — not get yourself worried.

“If you’re going to check your email and you realize you have 10 emails — that doesn’t help you be very settled at night,” La Reau said.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Recognize when you’re exhausted and ask others to help you.

(US Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Abe McNatt)

Sleep can be a team sport.

An exhausted parent needs to recognize it and call in reinforcements: friends, family, or their partner.

“I think there’s opportunities to have those open and honest conversations,” La Reau said. “Be like, ‘You know, I’ve got a huge meeting tomorrow, I’m on a long period of travel, I’ve got a lot going on,’ or someone’s just completely exhausted.”

“‘Let me take care of all issues that come up with the kids tonight.'”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

‘The man who saved the world’ dies at 77

Stanislav Petrov was a lieutenant colonel in the Soviet Union’s Air Defense Forces, and his job was to monitor his country’s satellite system, which was looking for any possible nuclear weapons launches by the United States.


He was on the overnight shift in the early morning hours of Sept. 26, 1983, when the computers sounded an alarm, indicating that the US had launched five nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missiles.

“The siren howled, but I just sat there for a few seconds, staring at the big, back-lit, red screen with the word ‘launch’ on it,” Petrov told the BBC in 2013.

It was already a moment of extreme tension in the Cold War. On Sept. 1 of that year, the Soviet Union shot down a Korean Air Lines plane that had drifted into Soviet airspace, killing all 269 people on board, including a US congressman. The episode led the US and the Soviets to exchange warnings and threats.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
HL7442, the aircraft that was shot down, parked at Honolulu International Airport on September 15, 1981. Wikimedia Commons photo by user Hansueli Krapf.

Petrov had to act quickly. US missiles could reach the Soviet Union in just over 20 minutes.

“There was no rule about how long we were allowed to think before we reported a strike,” Petrov told the BBC. “But we knew that every second of procrastination took away valuable time, that the Soviet Union’s military and political leadership needed to be informed without delay. All I had to do was to reach for the phone; to raise the direct line to our top commanders – but I couldn’t move. I felt like I was sitting on a hot frying pan.”

Petrov sensed something wasn’t adding up.

He had been trained to expect an all-out nuclear assault from the US, so it seemed strange that the satellite system was detecting only a few missiles being launched. And the system itself was fairly new. He didn’t completely trust it.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. DoD photo by Senior Airman Ian Dudley.

Arms control expert Jeffrey Lewis recalled the episode in an interview last December on NPR:

“[Petrov] just had this feeling in his gut that it wasn’t right. It was five missiles. It didn’t seem like enough. So even though by all of the protocols he had been trained to follow, he should absolutely have reported that up the chain of command and, you know, we should be talking about the great nuclear war of 1983 if any of us survived.”

After several nerve-jangling minutes, Petrov didn’t send the computer warning to his superiors. He checked to see if there had been a computer malfunction.

He had guessed correctly.

“Twenty-three minutes later I realized that nothing had happened,” he said in 2013. “If there had been a real strike, then I would already know about it. It was such a relief.”

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

That episode and the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis are considered to be the closest the US and the Soviets came to a nuclear exchange. And while the Cuban Missile Crisis has been widely examined, Petrov’s actions have received much less attention.

Petrov died on May 19, at age 77, in a suburb outside Moscow, according to news reports Sept. 18. He had long since retired and was living alone. News of his death apparently went unrecognized at the time.

Karl Schumacher, a German political activist who had highlighted Petrov’s actions in recent years, tried to contact Petrov earlier this month to wish him a happy birthday. Instead, he reached Petrov’s son, Dmitri, who said his father had died in May.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Four of 56 US Air Force BOMARC IM-99A nuclear antiaircraft missiles. Photo under Public Domain.

Petrov said he received an official reprimand for making mistakes in his logbook on Sept. 26, 1983.

His story was not publicized at the time, but it did emerge after the Soviet Union collapsed. He received a number of international awards during the final years of his life. In 2015, a docudrama about him featuring Kevin Costner was called The Man Who Saved The World.

But he never considered himself a hero.

“That was my job,” he said. “But they were lucky it was me on shift that night.”
Humor

This is what the Marines from ‘Heartbreak Ridge’ are doing today

The 1986 movie Heartbreak Ridge took the Marine Corps community and audiences by storm, introducing Gunnery Sgt. Thomas Highway’s rough and tumble personality to the delight of all.


Clint Eastwood took on dual roles as he starred in and directed this iconic film role about a man who is on the tail-end of his military service.

But did you ever think about where the Marines may have ended up today?

Well, we used our (fictional) WATM private investigators to look for the Recon Marines’ silver screen whereabouts, and here’s what they found.

Related: This is what happened to the soldiers from the ‘Hurt Locker’

FYI: Don’t take this literally.

Major Powers

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
(Source: WB)

After this Marine officer was humiliated in front of his superiors by a seasoned gunny, Powers decided to get out of the Corps and become a criminal — then just went totally grey.

He teamed up with a computer hacker and highjacked a train to use as a mobile headquarters to take control of a destructive U.S. satellite. Unfortunately for him, Powers ran into a former chef and Navy SEAL named Casy Ryback who was on vacation with his niece. How about those odds.

They duked it out in a narrow kitchen, and Ryback eventually broke his neck, killing him instantly.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Tough break. Get it? Tough break.

Stitch

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
(Source: WB)

This dive bar musician-turned-Marine was so motivated that he was recruited into an android program that has nothing to do with smartphones. The government turned him into a freakin’ android soldier and released him on a “Solo” mission to Latin America to destroy some local rebels.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Nowadays, Stitch pops up here and there but mainly stays behind the scenes.

Profile

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
(Source: WB)

Remember the guy in the squad who most reassembled a twig? That’s him. He didn’t do much after faking his own death to get out of the Marines.

Legend has it that he developed a nasty skin infection and began to murder teenagers near a theater during a horror movie marathon — but that can’t be right.

Rumors are rarely true. Right?.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Also Read: Here’s what the Marines of ‘Full Metal Jacket’ are doing today

Gunny Highway

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
(Source: WB)

After serving three decades in the Corps, chronic laryngitis forced gunny to retire — but not for long. He stumbled upon a job in the secret service and spoiled a plot to kill the president.

What a guy!

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

Gunny continued life in law enforcement for a few more years before actually retiring to a small house with his beloved Gran Torino.

Too bad he had a problem with a local Asian gang. Gunny was shot several times after pulling out his “hand pistol” from inside of his jacket.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

He recovered “like it ain’t shit” because a couple of bullets isn’t going to stop Gunny Highway. No f*cking way! Now you can see him hanging around the baseball field spotting players who have trouble with curveballs.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

MIGHTY GAMING

6 reasons why it would suck to be a Stormtrooper in Star Wars

With release dates just around the corner for the new film, Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and game, Battlefront II, it’s time to fill that Game of Thrones-sized hole in our hearts.


Related: This is what Game of Thrones can teach you about squad composition.

Out of all of the troops in the Star Wars canon, no one has it worse than the Stormtrooper. The Clones of the prequel saga were beloved across the Galactic Republic despite having numbers around the same as Eritrea’s military (both at 200,000). And the rebels had somewhat stable living conditions and maintained some form of identity.

But it’s the Imperial Stormtroopers and the First Order Stormtroopers that truly embrace the suck. Still, First Order Stormtroopers have been training since they were born, which is terrible in and of itself. The Stormtroopers of the original trilogy enlisted like troops today and would then realize their Imperial recruiter lied to them.

1. Loss of comrades

With 1,179,293 deaths on the first Death Star and 2,471,647 deaths on the second Death Star, roughly 120 on-screen deaths, and god knows how many Imperials have died elsewhere in the series, it’s fair to say that if you’re a Stormtrooper, death is all around you.

Troopers who would survive would be damaged by survivor’s guilt. The deaths of their comrades, best friends, and squad mates may not mean anything on the scale of the Galactic Empire, but it would devastate the surviving trooper.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
(Image via Funnyjunk)

2. No identity

Every Stormtrooper dons the signature white armor. Only differences would be by rank and position.

All of this would be more apparent when officers over you keep their identity and maintain far more privileges than the average buckethead.

The lost of one’s identity can be detrimental to their mental health. Being forced to work until exhaustion, training constantly (they’d have to, right? They’re formations are impeccable), constant control by higher-ups and other rigors of being a soldier without the benefit of “off-time” would be disastrous.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
I refuse to believe that every one of these Troopers avoided locking their knees and passed out. (Film by 20th Century Fox)

3. Chain of command would be at their throat

Speaking of constant control by higher-ups, the expression “sh*t rolls down hill” would take on a whole new meaning for Stormtroopers.

While in the novels and comics, Darth Vader is seen personally earning the loyalty of his troops, the same could not be said of the rest of a Stormtrooper’s chain of command.

In the real-world military, a threat from a General officer to the next echelon down is taken seriously, even if the consequence is a stern talking to. That rolls into more dire consequences until Article 15’s are tossed around like candy. Now imagine how that would multiply if the General knew he would be force choked in a board meeting for a slight mistake.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
This meme is true… from a certain point of view. (Meme via Twitter)

4. Acclimatization to new planets

Being deployed to Afghanistan from Fort Campbell, Kentucky can take some time to adjust for a U.S. soldier.

Now imagine going from Tatooine to Hoth to Endor. The suit may help with the weather, but the changes in gravity, atmosphere, and day length would still take its toll on a trooper. Expect to go to a new planet many times within the span of a few weeks.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Yeah. Iraq could totally be Tatooine… wait… those brown marks… OH GOD! Please don’t tell me they had burn pits too! (Film by 20th Century Fox)

5. All of the ways physics would screw you over

Neil deGrasse Tyson would probably have a field day with this.

The science of Star Wars is still fairly vague. The series is more about the adventure than the theoretical physics. Throwing E=MC^2 out the window for a bit, allows nothing with mass to reach the speed of light (if not faster) without a power supply with infinite energy output — let’s keep this going.

The Galactic Empire governs the entirety of the galaxy, all 14,670 light years across. Because even if they could travel faster than the speed of light, everything on the planets would stay the same.

Getting from the capital of Coruscant to the other end of the galaxy on Tatooine would mean hundreds of lifetimes passed while you blinked. An order given on Hoth would take eons to reach Bespin.

But that doesn’t seem to be the case in the Star Wars franchise, meaning everyone is traveling faster than scientifically possible. What would that do to a body? (The answer: nothing good.)

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Good luck at the Imperial VA… (Image via Reddit)

6. Aiming

And the most commonly attributed trait among the Stormtroopers is their terrible aim.

The first moments we see them they can gun down the rebels on the cruiser with ease. Every battle shown with nameless rebel characters, they shoot perfectly fine. Even a former General in the Clone Army, Obi-wan Kenobi, says “These blast points… Only Imperial Stormtroopers are so precise.”

You miss shooting a princess one time — a princess who is also your boss’ boss’ boss’ boss’ daughter, who your orders are to capture alive, and needs to stay alive so the tracking device can lead your moon-sized planet destroyer over the entire enemy base — you’re forever labeled as having sh*tty aim. No respect for just doing your job.

Other than that moment, they have no problem shooting Princess Leia. Once with a stun laser at the beginning of New Hope and again at the Battle of Endor.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy
Existence is pain to a Stormtrooper. (Image via Reddit)

MIGHTY MOVIES

Steven Seagal is Russia’s new envoy to the United States

Many Russia-watchers are questioning or making light of the Foreign Ministry’s surprise appointment of Steven Seagal as a special envoy for humanitarian ties with the United States — but not the action-film actor himself.

“I take this honour very seriously,” Seagal tweeted late on Aug 5, a day after the Russian Foreign Ministry announced the appointment on Facebook.


Seagal, who has warm ties with President Vladimir Putin and was granted Russian citizenship in 2016, said he was “deeply humbled and honoured” by the appointment.

“I hope we can strive for peace, harmony, and positive results in the world,” Seagal wrote.

Seagal, 66, starred in Hollywood action movies such as Above The Law (1988), Hard To Kill (1990), and Under Siege (1992). His films were popular in the Soviet Union and then in Russia and other ex-Soviet republics.

Seagal has vehemently defended Putin’s policies, including Moscow’s 2014 annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea Peninsula, along with criticizing the U.S. government.

Kyiv last year banned Seagal from entering Ukraine for five years, citing what it said were national security grounds.

The Russian Foreign Ministry statement said that Seagal’s task will be to “foster the further development of Russian-American relations in the humanitarian sphere, including interactions in… culture, the arts, public and youth exchanges, and so forth.”

The position is not paid and will be similar to the United Nations’ goodwill ambassador positions, the statement said.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why ‘Spider-Man’ was exactly the film that America needed at the time

There’s a constant debate within the nerd-o-sphere about which superhero film is best. Some score points for being accurate to the source material, some are of a higher quality than others, and some are just downright enjoyable to sit through while munching down a tub of popcorn.

In the end, this debate always boils down to personal preference, but there’s no denying that just one film truly cemented the audience’s desire for more superhero films — and that’s 2002’s Spider-Man, starring Tobey Maguire. Sure, it’s not the best filmmaking that the genre’s ever seen, nor is it even close to being the highest grossing, but what this film can claim that no other superhero film can is a crucial role in American pop culture following the horrific events that occurred the morning of September 11th, 2001.


Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

I mean, the guy is so down on his luck that he has to live with his aunt.

(Marvel Comics)

For anyone unfamiliar with his role in the comic books, Peter Parker was never some big, strong superhero. He never wore a cape and he he was never really a permanent member of some greater superhero alliance. In fact, he was generally the opposite of what most people would assume a superhero would be. He’s a quiet, shy nerd who works a low-paying, entry-level job for a boss that hates him.

In both the films and the comics, Peter Parker is actually the stand-in for the audience. The general public isn’t made up of rich billionaire philanthropists or Norse gods — they’re just average Joes trying to make ends meet.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

We told ourselves we would rebuild. And we did.

The film was in production for years and, just like in the comics, it showcased New York City a character, as much as anyone else in the film. So, in much of the film’s advertisements, they used the two most iconic buildings in the New York skyline: the Twin Towers. In promotional posters and even a stand-alone story trailer that showed Spider-Man stopping bank robbers in a getaway helicopter, the Towers placed a fairly central role.

Then, the day that none will forget came. Four passenger airliners were hijacked. Two successfully struck their target, the World Trade Center in New York City, and another hit the Pentagon. The fourth was brought down in Shanksville, Pennsylvania.

What seemed like an eternity to onlookers took one hour and seventeen minutes. There’s no denying that, in this moment, all American felt scared and, for once, vulnerable.

America was hurting bad. Meanwhile, certain scenes had to be re-shot that featured the New York skyline. This, of course, shuffled the release date back. But in the process, Sam Raimi, the director of the film, added one iconic moment that made the most lasting impression on pop culture — the very last twenty seconds of the film.

Spider-Man had saved the day, saved a hurting New York City, swung up to the top of the Empire State Building, and stood in front of a proud, billowing American flag.

It was exactly what most people, especially the film’s target demographic — a younger crowd that couldn’t really comprehend what had happened — needed to hear. Your average, everyday guy who just happened to be bit by a radioactive spider, is there to save the day.

And that America will be okay.

MIGHTY MOVIES

How ‘Saving Private Ryan’ could use a sequel, but not in the way Hollywood thinks

There’s no doubt about it. Steven Spielberg’s 1998 war epic, Saving Private Ryan, was a masterpiece in every aspect of filmmaking. It won five of the eleven Academy Awards for which it was nominated. The immense scale of the invasion of Normandy was expertly recreated for film in a way that hasn’t been replicated since — and likely never will be.

Despite the massive war that characterizes the film, the movie’s primary conflict wasn’t between warring nations, but rather between Tom Hanks’ character, Captain Miller, and his duty to return Pfc. Ryan (as played by Matt Damon), who refuses to leave behind the brothers with whom he’d fought so far.


The film, being the masterpiece that it is, wraps the story up nicely, leaving few loose ends, but there’s that ever-burning question in Hollywood — how do you make that special lightning strike twice? How can you create another story surrounding the incomparable D-Day and find just as much success?

The truth is, simply, that you can’t. The story has already been perfectly told by one of the finest filmmakers in Hollywood at just the right moment. But that doesn’t mean that the story has necessarily ended…

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

What made this scene so great wasn’t the million put into it — it was Tom Hank’s reaction to everything happening around him.

(DreamWorks Pictures)

As stated by Jack Knight of War History Online, there is serious interest in following-up Saving Private Ryan by continuing the story of the Rangers at D-Day and the mission that occurred at Pointe du Hoc. What made the beach landing scene so spectacular wasn’t the battle itself, but rather how the battle was seen — through Capt. Miller’s eyes.

The audience felt the immense gravity of war in a truly human way. In one moment, we’re listening to a guy joke on the landing craft; one second later, his blood is splattered on Miller’s face. This is the essence of what made Saving Private Ryan so great. World War II was just the backdrop to a more personal story, but the sheer, raw horrors of war were still very much present.

The audience saw the enemy in the distance, but the focus was entirely on the Capt. Miller. Any spiritual successor (or direct sequels) should keep that in mind.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

It’s a grim reality, but it’s comforting in it’s own way.

(Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer)

Such a sequel, a movie that follows someone’s personal life after a major conflict, has been dreamt up before. One film, known as “the greatest war film never made,” that was to explore this theme was to be called The Way Back.

The 1955 film To Hell and Back was an amazing anomaly. It was the World War II experience of Audie Murphy, based on the autobiography of the same name that was written by Audie Murphy and David McClure, starring Audie Murphy himself. But this wasn’t the only film the war hero wanted to make. Everyone wanted to see his heroic stand on the back of the Sherman, but he never got the finances for the script that told the story of what happened after he was bestowed the Medal of Honor.

He struggled daily with post-traumatic stress. His family life was, to put it lightly, troubled. He turned to drugs and alcohol to cope with the pain. He even famously locked himself in a dirty motel room to kick his morphine addiction. He was lost in a world that wanted “him,” but not the real him. But he knew countless children looked up to him, so he put one foot in front of the other with a forced smile on his face.

This movie, were it ever made, would’ve been a powerful piece. Audie Murphy, arguably the greatest soldier to ever don a uniform, would’ve told everyone that not everything is fine when the war’s over. There’s a pain there that nobody can see, but many of us feel.

Navajo airman is heir to ‘code talker’ legacy

It’s not like there are too many war films out there specifically made for Post 9/11 vets. The bar is set kinda low…

(Summit Entertainment)

War films are a dime a dozen in Hollywood and rarely will they have any impact on the public because they’re just action scenes after action scenes until the credits roll. If Hollywood really wanted a powerful message to send to the world, they could make a grounded story following the life of one of the Rangers after D-Day. Use Saving Private Ryan’s personal approach and make it about one soldier. They could keep the action scenes, but make them a background to the story of just surviving. Then, as Act II rolls around, shift the story to show how a returning soldier survives this world he left behind to fight in D-Day.

Hollywood could have their cake and eat it to while also sending a powerful message to the countless returning veterans of the Post-9/11 wars, telling them that they’re not alone.

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