So check out these reasons why the average Joe would want to be the next great “Top Gun” fighter pilot.
1. Getting a kick-ass callsign
Face it — Maverick and Goose are pretty epic names — but be as original as possible if you get to pick yours.
2. Keeping up with foreign relations
Rarely do allied forces get close to their enemy on the battlefield, but to be inverted while sitting in a cockpit whilst flashing the grand FU gesture — that’s badass.
3. Attracting a hottie
There are many ways to pick up women at a squid bar. If you ever had an issue getting the girl as a civilian, we’ve got a solution: throw on that uniform.
Lady pilots, this works for you, too — just make sure you find a man who can appreciate a strong woman.
Oh, and don’t forget your wingman.
4. Wear aviator sunglasses
Nothing says “I am awesome” like putting on a blacked-out pair of aviators. This look never gets old.
5. Play shirtless volleyball
With arguably no real reason to be in the movie story-wise, the producers had some of Hollywood’s brightest stars in their film at the time and they took advantage.
It’s safe to say that no man, after watching Top Gun, doesn’t think about this scene while playing the popular beach sport.
6. Aerial Dogfighting
This is where the real ass kicking takes place. Naval aviators are some of the world’s best at aerial maneuvering to take down the enemy. All jokes aside, the dogfighting scenes are where the real motivation to be a fighter pilot begins.
For the defenders of a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Nurestan Province, Oct. 3. 2009 was “A Day for Heroes.” Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was relentlessly attacked by 400 Taliban fighters and protected by 53 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.
For 12 hours, Bravo Troop fought to keep the enemy from overrunning the base. The bloody fighting cost both sides dearly.
In the end, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters died trying to destroy the base. In all, eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded. The defenders of COP Keating were awarded 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, 7 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann’s Silver Stars were later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha and Spc.Ty Carter received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.
The battle is the subject of the new movie, The Outpost, directed by Rod Lurie and starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, now in theaters and on demand. The film is based on CNN correspondent Jake Tapper’s book about the Battle of Kamdesh, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.”
COP Keating was not a place the soldiers should have been in the first place. Their limited reach and manpower turned their counterinsurgency mission into a constant need to defend the base itself, according to the Army’s after-action report on the battle.
To make matters worse, defending that base was a nightmare. Positioned at “the bottom of a bowl,” it was surrounded by high mountains, ceding the high ground to the enemy. It made the base an “attractive target,” according to reports. The Taliban attacked COP Keating 47 times during the soldiers’ five-month deployment there.
Combat Outpost Keating from up high
(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Brad Larson)
But they weren’t just randomly attacking the COP. Taliban fighters were probing the base, gathering information on key areas, and learning the soldiers’ defensive tactics in preparation for a larger strike.
Worse still, there was not much help that could come to their rescue in case of an attack. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets were being used in the search for a missing soldier elsewhere. Other forces that could have been used to reinforce the defenders or speed up the closure of the base were being used on a mission for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The soldiers soon became accustomed to the probing attacks.
Until the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, when the base became a Taliban shooting gallery.
Just before 6 a.m. local time, the soldiers woke up to a high volume of fire coming from the surrounding hills. Using the information from their probing attacks, Taliban fighters overran Keating’s 60mm and 120mm mortar support and began to hit COP Keating in force, taking the Army by surprise.
Incoming attacks from the surrounding mountains laid a punishing fire on the base and its defenders, the Taliban were closing in and the Army was losing ground. Soldiers defending the base withdrew into a tighter perimeter and began to call down close-air support from Air Force aircraft and AH-64 Apache helicopters, often inside the base’s original perimeter.
Things looked bleak, but there was still a lot of daylight left.
(Screen Media/’The Outpost’ Film)
By the afternoon, the Bravo Troop was angry and ready to hit back. Inside the TOC, the soldiers listened to the din of battle; explosions, bullet hits, and near-constant shouting from outside. According to Mark Seavey’s account of the battle for the American Legion, Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha suddenly spoke:
“‘Ro’ said in a very stern and demanding voice – just as there was a moment of odd but haunting silence – ‘I’ll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to take this f***ing COP back!'”
After enduring hours of withering fire and fighting off the invaders, the Army began to turn the tide. A quick-reaction force landed three kilometers to relieve the defenders of COP Keating. Even if the base was secured, they still had to focus on bringing the fight to the enemy outside of the valley using air support to neutralize Taliban positions in the nearby hills and villages, including a local police station.
The Taliban lost half of their attacking force and sustained scores of wounded. The base was still in American hands, but it was more clear than ever that it was in an unsustainable situation. Soon after the fight for COP Keating, the base was abandoned and destroyed by American aircraft to keep it from the enemy.
The soldiers from Bravo Troop displayed incredible heroism and valor in the face of an enemy onslaught that could have totally wiped them out and destroyed the base. Every medal citation from the Battle of Kamdesh reads like a Homeric epic.
To learn more about the Battle of Kamdesh or the story behind COP Keating, check out Jake Tapper’s exhaustively detailed book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, and catch the new movie, The Outpost, in theaters and on demand now!
In what is widely considered the best role of his acting career, legendary film and television star Louis Gossett Jr. plays Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, a hardcore drill instructor, in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.
Gossett Jr.’s portrayal of a no-nonsense DI in the film earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. If you watch his performance, you’ll quickly see why Oscar came calling. The character is crude and tough on the group of would-be pilots attending a 13-week Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School where he serves as the primary instructor.
Like many great actors who have donned the campaign hat on the silver screen, as DI Foley, Louis Gossett Jr. imparts knowledge on how to survive the daily challenges of life in his own unique way.
Here’s what we can all learn from Gossett Jr.’s Oscar-worthy performance.
Some of the best and most memorable lines of the film come in the early scenes when new recruits line up to hear Gunnery Sergeant Foley talk about what they should expect in the next 13 weeks of training. Foley knocks each person down a couple of pegs by making them understand they are, in fact, not special.
When Foley asks one of the recruits named Della Serra if he was a “college boy,” the character quickly lists his academic accolades, saying he graduated in mathematics with honors.
Della Serra gets a rude awakening from Foley when the Marine shows him his cane with notches on it. Each notch represents each “college puke” who has dropped on request during his time in the program. Foley suggests Della Serra may be one of those notches and then tells the group that half of them will not make it through the training.
In this powerful scene, DI Foley lets all the recruits know that his authority outweighs their individualism.
Although Mayo has all the skills and physical traits to pass the course, Foley consistently questions Mayo’s strenght of character. Officer Candidate Mayo is an arrogant and self-centered individual only looking out for himself. He’s also quite the hustler, selling inspection-ready boots and belt buckles to his fellow recruits to make a quick buck.
After discovering Mayo’s little racket, Foley gives him a chance to straighten up his act during a weekend-long smoke session. Foley breaks Mayo down physically and emotionally. It’s during this sequence that the audience is treated to the film’s famous scene in which Gere’s character screams, “I got nowhere else to go!” This is the turning point. From here on out, we see a change in Mayo’s character and attitude.
The importance of teamwork
Mayo’s change of attitude is clear when instead of trying to achieve an individual obstacle course record, he goes back to encourage one of his fellow classmates, a young lady named Seeger, as she struggles to get over a 12-foot wall. Thanks to Foley, Mayo learns the true value of teamwork.
Quitting is not the answer
Tensions between the two main characters rise yet again toward the end of the movie. Following the death of his friend, Mayo wants to speak with Foley in private.
After Foley dismisses his request, telling him to get back to work, Mayo gives his DOR. Instead of accepting his resignation, Foley asks to meet Mayo a nearby hanger — where they fight it out. After fists fly, Foley tells Mayo that if he still wants to quit, he can. By that point, Foley knows the recruit has come too far to quit now.
At the end of the movie, the officer candidates earn the rank of ensign. Per tradition, each new officer receives his or her first salute from the instructor and, in turn, each officer hands Foley a silver dollar. When Mayo hands Foley his coin, the Marine places it in his right pocket instead of his left. This act symbolizes respect for Mayo as an exceptional candidate.
“I won’t ever forget you, sergeant,” Mayo says after the salute. You can see Foley start to choke up just a bit when he replies, “I know.” The mutual respect between the two is evident.
Although it’s only a movie, many veterans may have encountered someone in real life who reminds them of DI Foley.
Tell us who made an impact on your life during your time in the military in the comments.
Last week rapper Nicki Minaj performed a concert in Angola, which is not necessarily a big deal except she reportedly received $2 million dollars for the show from Unitel, a mobile phone company owned by the family of Angolan President José Eduardo dos Santos. Dos Santos has been in power in Angola for 36 years and is widely considered a dictator.
Minaj posted photos of herself with the President’s daughter Isabel dos Santos on her Instagram, saying:
“Oh no big deal…she’s just the 8th richest woman in the world. (At least that’s what I was told by someone b4 we took this photo) Lol. Yikes!!!!! GIRL POWER!!!!! This motivates me soooooooooo much!!!!”
According to an open letter to Minaj from the The Human Rights Foundation, the Dos Santos family make their money through “exploiting Angola’s diamond and oil wealth to amass an illegitimate fortune while maintaining control over all branches of the government, the military, and civil society … it his policy to harass, imprison, or kill politicians, journalists, and activists who protest his rule.” Minaj performed the show anyway, which she has a right to do. There are no limitations for visiting or working in Angola.
There is still the stigma of legitimizing what is one of the top most corrupt governments in the world (the most in southern Africa). But Nicki Minaj is not the first star to perform for a questionable government. Here’s a rundown of a few other A-listers who’ve been willing to make despot’s toes tap:
1. Jennifer Lopez -Berdymukhamedov’s Turkmenistan
“We wish you the very, very, happiest birthday,” Lopez said to Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov before singing to him at a huge celebration in his central Asian country.
Human Rights Watch calls the Berdymukhamedov regime “one of the most repressive in the world, marked by new levels of repression.” Berdymukhamedov seized power in 2007 after the only person more mad than he is, Saparmurat Niyazov, died. (Niyazovchanged his language’s word for bread to his mother’s name, renamed the month of September after the book he wrote, and once tried to build a permanent structure made out of ice in the middle of the desert). Berdymukhamedov proceeded to honor himself with a giant bronze and gold statue of his likeness in the Turkmen capital of Ashgabat.
Leaked diplomatic cables confirm Queen Bey and Company performed gigs at parties thrown by Qaddafi’s sons Hannibal and Mutassim in Italy and St. Barths. All four claim they donated their fees to earthquake relief in Haiti. Also, Lindsay Lohan was there.
Hannibal escaped Libya during the civil war that ousted his father. He was briefly taken captive in Lebanon this month but was set free soon after. Mutassim got his around the same time as his father, when he was captured by Libyan rebels outside of Sirte. The rebels stabbed him in the throat.
3. Nelly Furtado – Also Muammar Qaddafi’s Libya
Around the same time as Beyoncé’s work with the Qaddafi family came out, Furtado self-identified on Twitter. She was paid $1 million to perform for the family at an Italian hotel in 2007. (Which seems remarkable because few can name two Nelly Furtado songs without googling her, and the Qaddafis liked her enough to buy an entire concert.) Still, Furtado wasn’t Colonel Qaddafi’s true love. We all know who that was:
The singer promised to give the money away to an unnamed charity. In 2012, she released a song called Arab Spring.
4. Michael Jackson – King Hamad’s Bahrain
It’s hard to call a U.S. ally a dictatorship, but while half their bicameral legislature features elected officials, the other half is appointed by the King who can rule by decree. When the late King of Pop fled there in 2005 after being acquitted of child molestation charges, the Khalifa family provided for him in exchange for a private show and a recorded album.
While the singer took the money from the dictator, he never made good on the promise of a performance or a recorded album, so maybe Jackson was performing a service by swindling the monarch.
5. Sting – Karimov’s Uzbekistan
In 2009, Sting performed for a man who’s best known for boiling his enemies alive. Islam Karimov’s rule was celebrated via a festival funded and planned by his daughter, Gulnara Karimova, the “Uzbek Princess.”
The Uzbek regime is the dictatorship likened closest to North Korea. Karimov is so power mad, he sees his daughter’s popularity as a threat, jailing her and her family in her home. Sting accepted a $2 million payment for his performance. Sting refused to apologize, saying he believed that boycotts only isolate dictator-ruled countries. Karimov banned Sting’s music shortly afterward because the Police alum called him a dictator.
6. Lionel Richie – Qaddafi’s Libya. Again.
Richie was the first to perform for the dictator’s family inside Libyan borders, though it was a celebration of Qaddafi surviving a U.S. attack on his compound in Tripoli, in front of the bombed-out compound which Qaddafi never rebuilt. The singer has never spoken about the performance.
7. James Brown, B.B. King, Bill Withers – Mobutu Sese Seko’s Zaire
Sese Seko put on a festival celebrating his rule in what he called Zaire (now called the Democratic Republic of the Congo) in 1974. The dictator, who would go on to embezzle $5 billion, put up the cost of the Zaire 74 Festival, which was promoted by famed boxing promoter Don King as part of the build up to the Mohammed ali-George Foreman fight (dubbed the “Rumble in the Jungle”).
8. Kanye West – Nazarbayev’s Kazakhstan
The rapper was hired to perform at the wedding of Kazakh dictator Nursultan Nazarbayev’s grandson. The former Russian Soviet Republic is sharply criticized by human rights organizations for its serious violations and deteriorating situation.
Yeezy was paid a reported $3 million for his appearance, which was recorded on Twitter and Instagram. Kanye West was able to express himself at the mic, unlike the rest of Kazakhstan, a nation suffering a harsh and unprecedented crackdown on freedom of expression and political plurality with the imprisonment of outspoken opposition and civil society activists.
9. Mariah Carey – José Eduardo dos Santos’ Angola
Yeah, same dictator, same place. Carey performed in Angola in 2013 at the behest of her manager, Jermaine Dupri, whom she would fire the next year.
This wasn’t the first time Carey performed for a dictator. In 2010, she publicly apologized for a 2008 New Year’s celebration performance, which is a nice segue to . . .
10. Mariah Carey – Qaddafi’s Libya
She was paid an undisclosed sum for performing for the Qaddafi family at a private residence in St. Barth’s. As part of her penance, she reminded everyone how much money she regularly gives to charity even as she pocketed her payment and released a statement:
“I was naive and unaware of who I was booked to perform for, I feel horrible and embarrassed to have participated in this mess. Going forward, this is a lesson for all artists to learn from. We need to be more aware and take more responsibility regardless of who books our shows. Ultimately we as artists are to be held accountable.”
With the long-awaited “Top Gun” sequel now delayed until the world is finished contending with the coronavirus, we’re left with no alternative but to revisit the 1986 classic for the millionth time, and as may come as no surprise to you, it still holds up. The story of Pete “Maverick” Mitchel has all the hallmarks of a modern blockbuster: fantastic action sequences, cheesy moments that make you smile despite yourself, and of course, topless volleyball.
There are, however, a few burning questions that set in as you watch Tom Cruise’s Maverick demonstrate very clearly that he should be immediately pulled from flight duty for the umpteenth time. The first is… Just who exactly are they fighting? The movie never clearly indicates whether the enemy fighters are Russian, Chinese, North Korean, or otherwise. As Brad Howard at Task & Purpose points out, even the red star on the tail of the enemy fighters doesn’t quite match any national Air Force… but it does match the color scheme utilized by the VFC-13 Aggressor Squadron. In other words, the terrifying enemy fighters may have been rocking aggressor colors because that’s exactly the role they fill in real life, just as they do in the movies.
With that mystery effectively solved, the next one to creep into your mind is… Wait a minute, are MiG-28s real?
When I was a kid, I knew the names of a handful of fighter jets, but practically nothing of the Mikoyan MiG production line. At the time, those little black MiG-28s just looked more acrobatic than the larger F-14 Tomcat, really emphasizing the idea in my mind that American pilots needed to be better than the competition in order to come out on top. It didn’t occur to me that Paramount Pictures probably didn’t get the Kremlin’s permission to borrow a few of their intercept fighters for what could arguably be called an American propaganda film.
The truth is, the MiG-28 that Maverick and Goose can’t tell you about (it’s classified) is not a real aircraft at all… it was made up specifically for the purposes of the movie.
Okay, so that’s not technically true: The aircraft you see depicted at the MiG-28 in “Top Gun” is a real aircraft, it’s just not a MiG. Heck, it’s not even Russian. It’s actually another fighter in the U.S. arsenal called the Northrop F-5 Tiger II.
The MiG-28 is supposed to be a twin-engine fighter that’s slightly slower than the F-14 Tomcat but considered to be far more maneuverable. In that regard, these fake MiGs are probably intended to stand in for the very real and similarly twin-engine Soviet MiG-29, which is indeed a bit slower than the F-14, but boasts a better thrust-to-weight ratio and is seen as more acrobatic. In video games based on the movie, the fictional MiG-28 is actually replaced by the real Mig-29, seemingly confirming its role as a stand in for the real jet.
On-screen, the small Northrop F-5 just looks more nimble than the larger F-14s, and with good reason. The F-5 measures up at just over 48 feet long, eight feet shorter than a real MiG-29, and more than 14 feet shorter than the F-14 Tomcat. Wingspan tells a similar story, with the F-5 (MiG-28) coming in at just under 27 feet, the MiG-29 at more than 37 feet, and the swing-wing F-14 measuring more than 64 feet. The decision to use the F-5 as a stand-in as the fictional MiG-28 definitely does the premise justice, making the MiG-28 and F-14 feel like two fighters with very different strengths on screen.
The F-5 may fit the aesthetic bill of a smaller and more maneuverable fighter, but when compared to its real-life counterpart in the MiG-29, the F-5 doesn’t quite keep pace. The MiG-29’s top speed is Mach 2.5, whereas the designer imposter F-5 can only reach a still respectable Mach 1.63. The Mi-29 can also cover far more ground, with a range of 890 miles compared to the F-5’s 554.
In terms of armament, the real MiG-29 isn’t that far off from its fictional cousin. The F-5 boasts the same number of hardpoints (seven) and carries, among other weapons, the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile for air-to-air engagements. According to the movie, the MiG-28 carries Vympel K-13 (NATO reporting name “AA-2 Atoll”) missiles, which are real Soviet missiles developed by reverse-engineering the America’s Sidewinder. Instead of a single 30mm cannon, however, the F-5/MiG-28 utilizes two 20mm M39A2 Revolver cannons.
It wasn’t just filmmakers who saw the Northrop F-5 as a worthy stand-in for Soviet aircraft. Throughout the 1970s and 80s, F-5s served in multiple aggressor squadrons, including the 64th and 65th aggressor squadrons out of Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. Although, it’s worth noting that the F-5 was chosen not because of its similarities to the MiG-29, but rather because it was seen as a suitable stand-in for the older MiG-21. The U.S. Navy and Marine Corps also both operated the F-5 at one point or another.
This is a Hollywood military fail. Jake Lacy and the costume designer from 2015’s “Love the Coopers”should put out a YouTube video where a drill instructor smokes both of them for the popped collar he wears the whole time.
4. The cast of Enlisted (minus Keith David)
Look at this. Look at this. Keith David is military movie royalty (“Platoon,” hello?), so it’s little surprise that he knows how to wear an Army uniform. But if he were really the sergeant major he was supposed to be, this photo would feature him tearing new a**holes into the other four for the thousands of problems here.
5. Amber Rose
Shitty job rolling those BDU sleeves, but at least she tried to crease them. Nails probably not reg, but the only person who would really care is Kanye West.
6. Jeremy Renner
Jeremy Renner has ruined everything from “The Avengers” to Jason Bourne, and here he is ruining the Army Combat Uniform. Forget for a moment that the ACU didn’t exist when “The Hurt Locker”was supposed to be taking place (realism!), ACU sleeves are rolled approximately never and if they were, they sure as hell wouldn’t have the sea service roll. Also, unless he runs into a fight backwards, pretty sure that U.S. flag is as ass backward as that movie.
7. Samuel L. Jackson
It’s easy to make fun of “Basic.” The most prominent reason is because of Samuel L. Jackson’s standard-issue cape. A goddam cape. There is no better example of what a civilian thinks the military would wear than giving someone a cape. The worst (best?) part of “Basic” is that it implies basic training, the one place where we all learned this.
8. Shia LeBeouf
Ah yes, America’s most famous Valor Thief. The backpack is actually common among civilians, but you’d be hard pressed to find someone wearing it with ACU pants. And even harder pressed to find someone wearing that combo bloused with Desert Combat Boots.
9. Steven Seagal
Watching this salute is almost as awkward as watching Seagal run.
10. Jessica Simpson
WATM’s Logan Nye says the collar is only authorized to be worn this way when a soldier is wearing body armor, but even then it makes you look like an a**hole. The fact that everyone in the unit is wearing it up makes the commander look like an a**hole.
Also, that hair is not authorized in uniform.
11. Channing Tatum
To the untrained (or Air Force) eye, Army uniforms always look like a random mishmash of metal and ribbon. Tatum is mostly okay but needs to decide if he’s infantry or special forces.
Imagine the two most ballsy but also kind of dimwitted members of your squad — the Pvt. Snuffys and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatellis of the world.
Now imagine them in civilian clothes with millions of dollars. Take it one step further and imagine that they have those millions of dollars because they’ve become international arms dealers who sell to the Department of Defense.
That’s what the Warner Bros. movie, “War Dogs” is like. It follows Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, two civilians who desperately want to be rich and live the good life. Diveroli is a stoner and the heir to a modest family business re-selling weapons bought at police auctions online. Packouz is his pothead buddy.
These two kids find a way to act as middlemen for the U.S. government when it purchases arms for Iraqi, Afghan and other allied militaries. They go on to fedbizopps.gov — a real website where the government lists available contracts — and try to outbid defense corporations for contracts to provide light bulbs, ammunition and any other supplies the military needs.
Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz, played by Jonah Hill and Miles Teller, party with Packouz’s wife at a company event to celebrate the arms dealers’ successes. (Photo: courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures)
As their business, AEY Inc., grows, they bid on larger and larger contracts. Without giving any of the movie’s big surprises away, the two gun runners get in over their heads the same way Pvt. Snuffy and Lance Cpl. Schmuckatelli would. The guy who directed The Hangover, Todd Phillips, also directed War Dogs — and it shows.
Diveroli and Packouz’s misadventures in international arms dealing are a lot of fun to watch as they alternate between partying, firing powerful weapons and getting caught in dangerous jams by their inexperience. In one memorable scene, they’re left racing through the Iraqi desert with a smuggler as insurgents attempt to kill them and steal their cargo — a literal truckload of Beretta pistols.
For obvious reasons, a movie about gun runners during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in the early 2000s spends a bit of time with the U.S. military. While the film doesn’t get everything exactly right, it does seem to capture the spirit of bored soldiers pretty well. A mounted patrol saves the gun runners at one point, but the first driver immediately flips the bird at the stupid civilians he just had to pull out of a jam.
The crux of the movie is a $300-million deal to arm the Afghan security forces for years, a real contract that AEY won in January 2007. That’s where the film gets tense as the bumbling dealers attempt to buy millions of rounds, thousands of missiles and grenades and tons of other equipment from former Soviet Bloc mobsters.
Despite the serious nature of arms dealing, Jonah Hill and Miles Teller are funny and enjoyable as Diveroli and Packouz. The movie provides an entertaining look at what goes on behind the scenes to arm both U.S. troops and allies around the world, and delves into the shady underbelly of that world while being fun instead of preachy. It’s available to watch on Amazon video if you need to kill some time!
Take off your tin-foil hats for a second, because sometimes an insane-sounding conspiracy theory actually turns out to be true. From the government making up an enemy attack to justify war to “mind control” experiments, some stories are hard to believe until declassified documents or investigations prove they actually happened.
Here are five of the wildest former conspiracy theories we found:
1. The US Navy fired on North Vietnamese torpedo boats that weren’t even there.
On the night of Aug. 4, 1965, the USS Maddox engaged against hostile North Vietnamese torpedo boats following an unprovoked attack. The only problem: there were no torpedo boats. Or attack. The Maddox fired at nothing, but the incident was used as a justification to further escalate the conflict in Vietnam.
Others who were present, including James Stockdale (a Navy pilot who would later receive the Medal of Honor), disputed the official account:
“I had the best seat in the house to watch that event, and our destroyers were just shooting at phantom targets — there were no PT boats there … There was nothing there but black water and American fire power.”
Even LBJ wasn’t convinced: “For all I know, our Navy was shooting at whales out there.”
2. The FBI infiltrated, surveilled, and tried to discredit American political groups it deemed “subversive.”
When it wasn’t investigating crimes and trying to put people in jail, the Federal Bureau of Investigation under Director J. Edgar Hoover kept busy trying to suppress the spread of communism in the United States. Under a secret program called COINTELPRO (counter-intelligence program), the FBI harassed numerous political groups and turned many of its members completely paranoid.
Though they could never be sure, many activists suspected the FBI was watching them. And the Bureau was able to mess with groups it didn’t like and influence what they did.
Under COINTELPRO, FBI agents infiltrated political groups and spread rumors that loyal members were the real infiltrators. They tried to get targets fired from their jobs, and they tried to break up the targets’ marriages. They published deliberately inflammatory literature in the names of the organizations they wanted to discredit, and they drove wedges between groups that might otherwise be allied. In Baltimore, the FBI’s operatives in the Black Panther Party were instructed to denounce Students for a Democratic Society as “a cowardly, honky group” who wanted to exploit the Panthers by giving them all the violent, dangerous “dirty work.” The operation was apparently successful: In August 1969, just five months after the initial instructions went out, the Baltimore FBI reported that the local Panther branch had ordered its members not to associate with SDS members or attend any SDS events.
It wasn’t only communist or left-leaning organizations. The FBI’s list of targets included the Civil Rights movement, and public enemy number one was Dr. Martin Luther King. Agents bugged his hotel rooms, followed him, tried to break up his marriage, and at one point, even sent him an anonymous letter trying to get him to commit suicide.
It would’ve been just a whacky conspiracy theory from a bunch of paranoid leftists that no one would’ve believed. But the conspiracy theorists — a group of eight anti-war activists — broke into an FBI field office in 1971 and found a trove of documents that exposed the program.
3. U.S. military leaders had a plan to kill innocent people and blame it all on Cuba.
Sitting just 90 miles from the Florida coast and considered a serious threat during Cold War, communist Cuba under its leader Fidel Castro was a problem for the United States. The U.S. tried to oust Castro with the Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, but the operation failed. So the generals went back to the drawing board and came up with an unbelievable plan called Operation Northwoods.
The plans had the written approval of all of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and were presented to President Kennedy’s defense secretary, Robert McNamara, in March 1962. But they apparently were rejected by the civilian leadership and have gone undisclosed for nearly 40 years.
“These were Joint Chiefs of Staff documents. The reason these were held secret for so long is the Joint Chiefs never wanted to give these up because they were so embarrassing,” Bamford told ABCNEWS.com.
What were the “embarrassing” plans? Well, there were ideas for lobbing mortars into Guantanamo naval base, in addition to blowing up some of the aircraft or ammunition there. Then there was another idea floated to blow up a ship in its harbor. But these were rather timid compared to other plans that came later in a top secret paper:
“We could develop a Communist Cuba terror campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities and even in Washington … We could sink a boatload of Cubans enroute to Florida (real or simulated) … Exploding a few plastic bombs in carefully chosen spots, the arrest of Cuban agents and the release of prepared documents substantiating Cuban involvement also would be helpful in projecting the idea of an irresponsible government.”
The paper went on to describe in detail other plans for possibly hijacking or shooting down a “drone” airliner made to look like it was carrying civilian passengers, or faking a shoot-down of a U.S. Air Force jet over international waters to blame Cuba.
4. The CIA recruited top American journalists to spread propaganda in the media and gather intelligence.
Started in the 1950s amid the backdrop of the Cold War, the Central Intelligence Agency approached leading American journalists in an attempt to influence public opinion and gather intelligence. The program, called Operation Mockingbird, went on for nearly three decades.
Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit. There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.
The Church Committee exposed much of the program, with a full report from Congress stating: “The CIA currently maintains a network of several hundred foreign individuals around the world who provide intelligence for the CIA and at times attempt to influence opinion through the use of covert propaganda. These individuals provide the CIA with direct access to a large number of newspapers and periodicals, scores of press services and news agencies, radio and television stations, commercial book publishers, and other foreign media outlets.”
5. The CIA conducted “mind control” experiments on unwitting U.S. and Canadian citizens, some of which were lethal.
Perhaps one of the most shocking conspiracy theories that turned out to be true was a CIA program called MKUltra, which had the stated goal of developing biological and chemical weapons capability during the Cold War, according to Gizmodo. But it ballooned into a larger program that encompassed research (via Today I Found Out):
which will promote the intoxicating affect of alcohol;
which will render the induction of hypnosis easier or otherwise enhance its usefulness;
which will enhance the ability of individuals to withstand privation, torture and coercion during interrogation and so called “brain-washing;”
which will produce amnesia for events preceding and during their use;
[which will produce] shock and confusion over extended periods of time and capable of surreptitious use; and
which will produce physical disablement such as paralysis of the legs, acute anemia, etc.
During the program, the CIA established front companies to work with more than 80 institutions, such as hospitals, prisons, and universities. With these partnerships in place, the agency then ran experiments on subjects using drugs, hypnosis, and verbal and physical abuse. At least two American deaths can be attributed to this program, according to the Church Committee.
Though the Church Committee uncovered much of this shocking program, many of the top secret files were ordered to be destroyed in 1973 by CIA Director Richard Helms.
Now that 2016 is coming to a close, we wanted to recap the year with the most shared articles. From the deaths of notable veterans to the weapon that shoots 1 million rounds per minute, here are the posts that flew around your social media feeds:
Raising the First Flag on Iwo Jima by SSgt. Louis R. Lowery, USMC, is the most widely circulated photograph of the first flag flown on Mt. Suribachi.Marine Corps Maj. John Keith Wells, who as a first lieutenant led the platoon that helped take Mt. Suribachi on Iwo Jima and which raised the first American flag from the mountain’s summit, died in February.
He was awarded the Navy Cross and the Purple Heart for his actions on Iwo Jima after he continued leading his men up the mountain despite grievous wounds.
What would happen if the militaries of the entire rest of the world attacked the U.S. all at once? Not just our enemies, but our traditional allies like France and Britain as well? We’d stomp them. Here’s how.
This weapon features rounds stacked inside dozens of barrels and electric charges can fire all the rounds stored in the weapon at once or in multiple volleys. At its maximum fire rate, this equates to 1 million rounds per minute.
Most general officers struggle with the deaths caused by their decisions in war, but all that came home like it never had before for Army Gen. Martin Dempsey when he met the then-four-year-old Lizzy Yaggy, the daughter of a Marine aviator lost in a plane crash.
The two became close friends and Dempsey even asked Yaggy to introduce him at his retirement ceremony.
As the world struggled with the rapid and surprising rise of the Islamic State, an old airplane was quietly pressed back into combat service, the OV-10 Bronco.
These small planes served in combat from Vietnam to Desert Storm with the U.S. Marines before they were retired in 1995. But the plane flew over 100 sorties against ISIS, including 120 combat missions.
More than 16 million Americans fought in World War II. When those brave veterans of the ‘Greatest Generation’ returned home, many of them refused to talk about it. Now, in a race against time, one veteran’s son took on the mission of making sure their stories are told.
Charley Valera’s father Giovanni “Gene” Valera was in the legendary 8th Army Air Force’s 93rd Bombardment Group in the European Theater. But Charley didn’t know anything about it until a full ten years after his father passed away.
Now, the younger Valera is trying to help families in a similar situation by interviewing and collecting the stories of WWII veterans from all ranks, all theaters, and all branches. With veterans recalling the stories they never did – or never could – tell their families, he hopes to devote equal time to every story he can capture forever. Stories like Santo DiSalvo’s (below), who was drafted into the Army on Mar. 5, 1943.
Now, having collected so many stories and interviews, Charley Valera has compiled them into a book, My Father’s War: Memories From Our Honored WWII Soldiers. His hope is that families can learn about their loved ones’ sacrifices and bravery in the biggest conflict ever fought by mankind.
“We all know someone who was there, fighting in WWII,” says Charley Valera. “We also know they didn’t talk about their war efforts. The simply say ‘I was just doing my job.'”
My Father’s War contains ten stories (and some very honorable mentions) from World War II veterans of many ranks and branches, in their own words. Included are personal photographs and letters from their time on the battlefields that detail what happened and how they felt about it – then and now.
The book is a fascinating compendium of personal narratives. You don’t have to jump in and read it cover to cover. It’s a book that is easily put down and picked back up so you can consume these stories and truly think about the fortitude and bravery it took to swallow your fear and do the job.
And then keep it all bottled up inside when you come back home.
Charley Valera’s mission is personally driven but his motivation is a beautiful and altruistic one. Consider that only 9 surviving Medal of Honor recipients from World War II and Korea are alive today — while those stories are firmly in the history books, imagine how many were never told and never seen, but still worthy of high praise.
Furthermore, this book details how men went from citizen to soldier, fighting the good fight, seemingly overnight. They aren’t just war stories, they’re personal stories from a generation that will soon be gone, enshrined forever.