Vietnam was in full swing, peace and love abounded, and the Beatles were the biggest thing known to man — this is the 1960s in a nutshell. It’s also a time where war movies took a main stage, depicting the current battle in Vietnam, as well as throwback era films from wars past.
For filmmakers and military buffs alike, these movies were a chance to peek behind the curtain of how things used to be. And when it comes to wars and battles, the history factor only compounds. Because who doesn’t love a good time piece? It’s a chance to jump back in time and get a glimpse of how things were back in the good ‘ol days — even the times that were actually the not so good ‘ole days.
Join us in giving a big nod of appreciation to some of the best military movies — current or throwbacks — that were made in the 1960s.
The Alamo, 1960
Still an important war film today, The Alamo depicted the 1863 battle of the same name. John Wayne directed and starred in the film as Davy Crocket.
2. Lawrence of Arabia, 1962
Winning seven of its ten Academy Award nominations, Lawrence of Arabia is one of the most decorated war films to date. It covers guerrilla warfare in the Middle East in the 1930s. The film was directed by David Lean and is based off of the life of T.E. Lawrence, a British officer and diplomat.
3. The Manchurian Candidate, 1962
The Manchurian Candidate is a neo-noir psychological thriller movie that covers the subject of the cold war and its spies. Released during the height of the Cold War, it starred Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury. John Frankenheimer directed the film, based on the novel of the same name by Richard Condon.
4. The Great Escape, 1963
This film is most widely remembered for its motorcycle chase scene; its jump segment is listed as one of the best stunts in a movie. The plot covers a mass escape by British Commonwealth prisoners of war from a German POW camp. It covers real and fictionalized events. Steve McQueen starred, and this film was also a spin-off from a popular book, a non-fiction title by Paul Brickhill.
5. Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, 1964
This 1960s classic was directed and co-written by Stanley Kubrick. The film took a black comedy and satirical approach to the Cold War, creating a plot that was full of tension between the U.S. and Soviet Union. It’s loosely based on the 1958 novel, a thriller genre titled Red Alert.
6. The Train, 1964
This American-French war film takes place post WWII, featuring a storyline of artwork that was looted from museums and private collectors during the war. The 1964 movie was directed by John Frankenheimer and written by Franklin Coen, Frank Davis, and Walter Bernstein. It’s loosely based off the non-fiction book, Le front de l’art that was written by Rose Valland.
7. Zulu, 1964
A British film, Zulu is an epic war story that tells the Battle of Rorke’s Drift, a real-life battle between the British Army and the Zulus in 1879. In the battle, 150 British soldiers won against 4,000 Zulus. It was directed by Cy Endfield, an American, and released on the 85th anniversary of the battle.
8. Chimes at Midnight, or Falstaff, 1965
Directed by and starring Orson Welles, Chimes at Midnight is considered a modern-day classic. The film combines various Shakespeare scenes, including a mega battle lasting for 10 minutes of the film. The Battle of Shrewsbury has been listed as the “first great battle scene of the modern era.” In addition, Welles himself called the film his best work.
9. The Dirty Dozen, 1967
This classic war film takes place days before D-Day, behind enemy lines. Including many actors who were real-life veterans, its screenplay was based on E.M Nathanson’s best-selling book. The story to both were inspired by real-life events within the 101st Airborne Division’s “Filthy Thirteen” and their demolition specialists.
The decade of the 1960s certainly produced some classic war films that are still recognized today. It was an era that brought magical war moments to life on the big screen and beyond.
Historically, actresses playing military wives come off as hollow, very flat, one-dimensional. In short, something is always missing. As a movie goer, we tend to let it go because we are used to whatever it is that is missing, being missing for the entire movie. We can’t name it, we can’t place it, we don’t have a box for it. But, it’s still there. “American Sniper” is different. I believe Sienna Miller as Taya Kyle, wife of the legendary sniper, Chris Kyle.
I believe her with my whole body in nearly every single circumstance. I don’t want to know how or why she was able to pull it off because I think that’ll ruin it for me.
So here are the 5 ways Sienna Miller got it right:
1. Where she is so over him at the bar
How many of military spouses started off with a military guy wearing the “there is no way, no how I’m hooking up with a military guy” hat? More than most. The way Sienna pulled that off in the bar was amazing. Just the right amount of being able to see through Bradley Cooper’s BS balanced with “Ok, he’s hot, but still” attitude. We knew it was going to happen, but damn if she didn’t make us believe it wouldn’t.
2. When they are dancing at their wedding and Sienna puts her hand right there on his chest
That moment was perfect because it signified all that was coming. We’ve all had our hand in that very same place over and over. It always means the same thing: Something is coming and it probably isn’t good. But, I’m going to stand by you no matter what. Somehow, Sienna captured that — all with the touch of her hand.
3. When Sienna puts the crib together
Alone. While on the phone with her husband overseas somewhere. I believed that moment completely. We’ve all been there, doing something that was meant for two, by ourselves. In that moment? Sienna was well on her way to being a military spouse.
4. Outside the hospital
You remember? When she was on the phone with him, and she heard gunfire? She yelled and screamed for him, falling to her knees and crying. That moment was about as real as it will ever get. That moment was it. The worst fear, the moment we dread and the moment that to me was probably the most believable . . . except for one.
5. When he’s leaving and Sienna obviously knows something is “off”
When Sienna watches Bradley leave their home for the last time, something obviously didn’t feel right to her. She captures that essence, that sense of death looming so perfectly. We’ve all been there when we sense something is off, but we can’t put our fingers on it and can’t wrap our hands around its neck to keep it from happening.
It’s easy to laugh at Hollywood when filmmakers use a basic blueprint to create one-dimensional “war hero” characters who are clearly clobbered together using stereotypes. But that got us thinking: What if Hollywood sees something in our military and veteran community that we’re too close to see for ourselves?
We talk so much about the disconnect between being a member of the military or being a civilian. It’s easy to see the differences and spotlight them – from language to attitude to what we choose to wear, a veteran always knows another veteran. But can a civilian spot one, too? Or is our community reduced to what film portrays us to see?
To help answer these questions, we turned to some of our favorite war movies and took a critical look at the main characters. We explored how they were presented – either as the hero, the anti-hero, the wildcard, or the leader, and then tried to distill what Hollywood is saying about us. What we discovered was pretty surprising. It turns out that Hollywood might just be onto something when they give us characters like Lt. Aldo Raine in Inglorious Basterds.
Here are the 5 most common archetypes we found in film.
Goose’s character in Top Gun did a lot to create this sort of irreverent service member who always has something quippy to add to briefs. Of course, we all know this person in real life, but the military is all about doing what we’re told to do, so when we see these jokester characters, it doesn’t totally ring true.
Ask civilians, and they’ll tell you that everyone in the military is just like Rambo … or at least, wants and tries to be as Rambo-esque as possible. We all know the type: a gym bro who spends all his extra hours building tree trunk thighs and a thick neck. Unfortunately, when we get characters like this in film, they’re all too trigger happy to be authentic. They’re so far from what real service members would consider a “superman” that the trope falls flat.
We’re really looking for a superman character who cares about those they lead, someone whose loyalty is unflinching and unwavering. A person who can take charge when needed and who possesses that rare confluence of confidence and competency. Sort of like Staff Sgt. Sykes in Jarhead. Sykes is funny, cares about his job, and those in his unit, traits that, by our count, make him a superman.
The strong, reserved and humble leader
Strong, humble leaders should be the cornerstone to our military, just like Morgan Freeman’s portrayal of Sgt. Maj. John Rawlins in Glory. Rawlins’ insight helps him gain the trust of his command, which leads him to promotion. But even as he gets his stripes, Rawlins is still questioning his ability to lead well. That’s a big distinction here since most films show us leaders who are so overly confident and never do any self-assessments. We’d much rather see more Rawlins-type characters than leaders who lead their units into peril.
Lifers are only golden for a few years in the middle of their careers – somewhere between years eight and twelve when they have enough experience to see things differently and still have enough relevance to make change happen. At least, that’s the way we see it on film. Just take a close look at Heartbreak Ridge. Gunnery Sgt. Tom Highway is all Marine, all the time. But as his years stack up and his influence begins to lessen, the lifer ultimately comes to a crossroads where reinvention is required in order to keep on living.
Here’s the thing: yes, many lifers have this experience, but many don’t. We all know plenty of people who have done their 20, gotten out, and started new and successful careers in civilian sectors. What we need to see more of is the way that the military helps shape second careers and how the lessons learned in uniform translate to what happens once the boots come off.
What’s not to love in a mentor character? Well, of course it’s all about recognizing talent early on and honing it. Pushing younger military members further than they think they can go is a big part of mentorship. Getting down in the weeds and explaining to younger members of a unit just what life is like is the only way to pass on lessons learned. Except all too often, we see mentors use this platform to their own advantage and to advance their agendas. Hollywood does a decent job of this – we’re thinking about Maverick and Viper in Top Gun.
Explaining the military culture to outsiders can be tough, especially if all they know about us is by watching war movies. What people seem to understand is that there are certain archetypes. Now it’s up to scriptwriters and Hollywood to make sure we get a clearer and more accurate picture of life in the military.
In the wake of the Vietnam War, Hollywood didn’t give vets of the controversial conflict a good depiction. The Oscars went to movies like Deer Hunter or Platoon, which did a great job of showcasing the horrors of war, but often made troops appear to be ruthless, cold killers.
On the small screen, however, things were different. Famously, Tom Selleck’s portrayal of Thomas Magnum, a private investigator and former Navy officer, in Magnum, P.I. helped others see vets as tough and virtuous. But a show about motorcycle cops also helped showcase the good side of vets three years before Selleck assumed his iconic role.
CHiPs featured two California Highway Patrol officers, Jon Baker and Francis Llewellyn “Ponch” Poncherello, as played by Larry Wilcox and Erik Estrada, respectively. Wilcox got into acting after serving in the Marine Corps for three years, reaching the rank of sergeant and serving for 13 months in Vietnam as an artilleryman. Estrada previously played a small role as the pilot of a F4F Wildcat in the movie Midway.
Throughout the show, Baker would occasionally mention his service in Vietnam, including during a third-season episode where he and Ponch had to skydive in order to catch drug smugglers in the act. Wilcox’s portrayal of Baker stands out — because he didn’t play a PTSD-riddled derelict (a popular trend in movies at the time), but instead a productive member of society. In fact, Baker often ended up being more by-the-books in comparison to the flamboyant Ponch.
The show lasted for six seasons on NBC, with Wilcox playing Baker for five of those. Most of the cast returned for a reunion movie in 1999. By then, Baker had been promoted to captain. Baker, incidentally, was not the only character to portray a Vietnam-era vet. Robert Pine (the father of Chris Pine) played Joe Getraer, the long-suffering sergeant and Navy veteran. Arthur Grossman was also a service vet.
After CHiPs, Wilcox became a producer and continued to act. Today, you can stream CHiPs for free on Amazon Prime.
If you want to take a quick stroll down memory lane, watch the opening and closing credits below.
A group of terrorists huddle in a house in an al-Shabab controlled area of Kenya. Among them are high-value individuals who perpetuate terror attacks throughout East Africa. They pray and then rig their suicide vests. Drones overhead beam the scene to allied forces, but time is running out and there is potential for collateral damage and civilian casualties.
The new movie “Eye In The Sky” tackles this scenario. The allied mission commander, British Army Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren), orders a U.S. military drone strike on al-Shabab terrorist organizers and would-be suicide bombers, but her call is made more complicated by the fact that a little Kenyan girl (Aisha Takow) will likely be killed in the strike.
The film, which premiered last year at the Toronto Film Festival, shows a unique vision of how calls are made in the heat of battle. From Col. Powell and the drone pilot, 2nd Lt. Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) to the highest rungs of the British and American governments, those watching the camera feeds decide the fates of the terrorists and the innocent bystander. They each make their own arguments in turn as the situation evolves.
The film shows a number of thought-provoking moral questions in the microcosm of this one drone strike. It weighs morality against the tactics of modern warfare. The characters try to minimize the damage done by drone strikes while suicide bombers prepare to kill as many people as possible. The film also questions the value of targeted killings over real human intelligence in the war on terror. But the moral calculus has to be figured out in a hurry. The clock is ticking on this potential strike. A decision must be reached before the terrorists are allowed to disappear into the sprawling city to carry out their suicide missions.
“Eye in the Sky” depicts the divide between civilian leaders and the men and women who conduct targeted operations. Civilian leaders want to achieve political goals but dislike the means by which they have to achieve them. The warfighters have to educate elected leaders on weighing the risks of collateral damage while the civilians have to remind the them about the propaganda value of targeted killings for the enemy. Neither side comes away clean as they argue over the fate of civilians who are otherwise going about their daily lives while this international debate unfolds.
The film’s final scene features the late Alan Rickman in his final onscreen role as British Lt. Gen. Frank Benson. In one of his finest moments as an actor, he delivers a harsh rebuke to a civilian Member of Parliament: “Never tell a soldier he does not know the cost of war.”
“Eye In the Sky” is a thrilling nail-biter that also asks questions about the ethics of fighting a high-tech war.
Left: Bob Gunton. Right: Bob in Vietnam as an RTO. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
Bob Gunton is a prolific stage actor known for his roles in Evita and Sweeney Todd on Broadway where his most well-known film role is as Warden Norton in The Shawshank Redemption. He served with distinction in the Vietnam War in the last great multi-unit battle of the conflict, The Siege of Firebase Ripcord. This is his story.
Special Note: “Bob Gunton has just completed a memoir entitled “…OR AM I BEING OBTUSE?…”
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
My mom and dad met at a USO dance on Santa Monica pier and within two weeks they were married. I am the oldest of six children, three boys and three girls. My parents were from the coal country; my father being from Pennsylvania (Anthracite-hard coal) and my mother being from the coal country of Montana (Bituminous-soft coal), so I have the hard and soft coal running through my blood.
I had been influenced by many folk singers in high school where I was affected by the ethos of folk music through such acts as The Kingston Trio, The Limeliters, The Brothers Four, Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan. I put together a trio called The Deacons. We went around to coffee houses to perform, like the Mon Ami in Orange, CA. Around the same time as we performed at Mon Ami, Steve Martin was on the marquee as well since he grew up in Orange County.
I went to the seminary of Paulist Fathers — St. Peter’s College in Baltimore, Maryland for a few years from 1963 to 1966. I had started out as a supporter of the Vietnam War in 1963. I’d even made a speech at my high school for a Toastmasters Speech Contest about the “domino theory,” but then my views changed rather dramatically after the seminary. My opinion shifted especially after Senator Eugene McCarthy and Senator Robert F. Kennedy moved away from the Democratic party line supporting the Vietnam War.
A friend and fellow seminarian classmate arranged for me to audition for his father, Paul Crabtree, who was a successful Broadway actor, writer and director. He’d written a musical called TENNESSEE, USA! for the new theatre he had founded — The Cumberland County Playhouse — in Crossville, Tennessee. It was going to run during the summer between seminary and Novitiate. I had done a couple of operettas in high school. when my thoughts were of making a difference as a priest. After that wonderful summer I recognized that I was gifted far more in music, acting and performing than in what was required to be a good priest. I left the seminary and had gone to UC Irvine to study theater when I dropped out for a semester to do Carousel in Tennessee. I knew I was chancing being. drafted. And when I returned to California, I was.
When I was called up, I had to spend some time thinking if I was a Conscientious Objector (CO). My father had been in the Marine Corps during WWII in the Pacific and I had grown up steeped in WWII history. My father’s six brothers were all WWII veterans as well. By that time, I was opposed to The Vietnam War. I probably could have gotten a CO because of my divinity school experience. But although I was opposed to the Vietnam War, I was not opposed then to a just war in general. I didn’t feel I had the right to be a CO because of my political beliefs. I also had to ask myself if I could measure up to my father, he was a supporter of the war. My father and I had lots of very agitated and loud arguments about the war.
After my time in Vietnam and I had come home I discovered that my father had grown long hair, sideburns and had himself had come to oppose the war. My willingness to go fight may have affected him in some way. While I was in Nam I had been given the Bronze Star with a V (for Valor.) Our local paper had run a story on it. Many years later, when my father passed as the eldest son, I had to clean out his belongings etc. I found in his wallet a folded-up piece of plastic covered newspaper clipping about my Bronze Star award. He had carried it in his wallet for many years. All of this brought us much closer together than in the first twenty years of my life. I had earned his respect and we could speak to each other as not just father and son, but as survivors of conflict.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
Hmm…It’s a memory shared with me after Dad had died. While he was alive my father’s Marine Corps buddy, Robert Newtbaar, had borrowed my father’s dress blues and wanted to return them. When I came to pick them up, he told me a story about my father. When my father and he were on a troop ship heading to Hawaii, then on to the South Pacific, Newtbaar had become very depressed and anxious about what might happen to him. He decided he was going to jump overboard. Newtbaar made a move and was on his way over the rail, when my father dashed over and pulled him back onto ship amid a volley of curses. Newtbaar said very tearfully that my father had saved his life.
After they got back and were mustered out of the Corps, Newtbar, who was from a fairly wealthy family, came to my father with ,000. He loved to hear my father sing, especially Frankie Lane’s hit songs. like “Georgia,” “Jezebel” and “The Flying Dutchman.” Newtbaar told my father he had the most beautiful voice he had ever heard. He wanted my father to go to Hollywood and be a singer.
However, my father already had a wife and two kids and was working in a grocery store. He was in no position to give up his responsibilities for his family in order to pursue a singing career. He’d actually had to rejoin the USMC at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro just to find housing for our family. A few years later Dad suffered an injury in a grocery store in Santa Monica which resulted in a case of amnesia. He eventually recovered from his injury; however, he lost a lot of memories of WWII and the early post war period. We had some pictures from his time in the service. I also learned from his friends some of what my father had experienced. It was touching for Newtbar to share these stories with me and they impacted my life.
My family would occasionally in the summer and drive up to Montana to visit my grandmother and uncle on my mother’s side. Part of the journey up there was along a stretch of highway which was called the Grapevine which is now the I-5, which was full of steep switchbacks and rapid changes of elevation. My father was agoraphobic which I learned through my childhood. As an adult I took my parents NYC and then to Windows on the World, which was a restaurant overlooking the city in the North Tower of the World Trade Center on floors 106 and 107. My father stood at the back of the elevator once the doors opened to the restaurant, saw the tip-tops of skyscrapers. He barely was able to inch his way around with his back against the center walls. It was the most vulnerable I had ever seen him.
The WTC memory makes me flash back to those trips to Montana where my father would look out the window over the rocks and chasms below. After looking he would get anxious and sweaty. My mother would reach out and touch his shoulder. She’d start singing “Whispering Hope”, which is a gospel song, but also popular at the time. As she began singing, my father would join in. All of a sudden, we kids in the back seat, comforted by the sound of their soothing harmony. For us, their duet signified their love for us and their shared history together.
The grapevine highway. Photo credit SVC History.
A view from Windows on the World in the WTC’s North Tower. Photo credit Literary Hub.
WATM: What values were stressed at home?
Our Catholic Faith; our blue-collar status; my parents’ Depression-Era values, sense of responsibility. All of us had to pitch in. My father was self-taught and a great reader but was educated only through the seventh grade. My mother had been a schoolteacher in a one room schoolhouse in Montana. There was a strong expectation that all of us would work hard in school and be a good person. Basic, decent 1950’s values.
Norman Rockwell’s Freedom from Want painting. Photo credit artsy.com.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I was drafted. Basic and Advanced Infantry training were tough physically in many ways since I was not particularly athletic. I was appointed cadence caller for our early morning five-mile runs probably because of my loud voice. One of my cadences calls was, “…we are the mighty, mighty mighty Charlie, everywhere we go people want to know who we are, so we tell them, we are Charlie, mighty mighty Charlie…” Classic. Although I sometimes ad libbed a couple, including: “If you got a half a buck….Call someone who gives a (bleep.)” I was sent to Nam near the end of the war during Vietnamization and was put into an S-1 shop for the 101st Airborne in Bien Hoa. What a relief! My thoughts were of a dry hooch, spit-shined boots, pressed combat fatigues, and weekends in Saigon. I lasted at the S-1 just one week. Because American grunts were being phased out of the war, the Division Commander wanted all soldiers with a combat MOS to be sent out into the field to get the ARVN up to speed. I was an 11B-20 –infantry, boonie rat, ground pounder — so off I went to “the bush.”
I was sent up to I Corps in Quang Tri province, in I Corps. I reported to the 2nd of the 501st Battalion Headquarters and then to their Charlie Company, Third Platoon. The platoon leader, SGT Yonashiru, took a look at me — being six feet tall and husky. the PL asked, “who’s the (effing) cherry?” He scoped me out. Given my height and apparent strength he ordered me to take the “gun” or the “radio”. The “gun” was the .50 caliber machine gun. I chose the radio, which seemed kind of “show business” to me. Apparently, some of the grunts initially thought I might be a Criminal Investigation Division (CID) narc because I showed up by myself to the unit with spit shined boots, crisp fatigues. I was also a few years older than the rest of the platoon. I was warned by a fellow soldier about being viewed as a narc and warned me about “fragging.” Fragging described when someone rolls a grenade under another soldier’s hooch to get rid of a “problem”. For the first time in Vietnam I was really scared.
I went into the company area and went up to a soul brother and asked for a doobie. I’d never smoked grass in my life. He handed me a joint. I stood there in the company area and toked up so anyone watching would see. I then went back to my hooch and passed out for like twelve hours. From then on, I was one of the guys and no longer a target of fragging. I was now “in” in the outfit.
Bob in a UH-1N high above Thua Thien Province, Vietnam 1970. Photo credit Bob Gunton
They made me the platoon, eventually company, and then battalion Radio Telephone Operator (RTO). Near the end of my year there in July 1970 our battalion was Op-Con to the 3rd Brigade of the 101st. They were seeking to take over a hilltop above the A Shau Valley where the US had been driven out a few years earlier during the “Hamburger Hill” period. Fire Support Base Ripcord was going to be emplaced during this two-brigade assault operation. At this time, I was just given the battalion RTO job and would be with the battalion CO, XO and the like on Ripcord itself. At the same time, my guys with Charlie company 2nd of the 501st were going to assault the area around FSB Ripcord with fellow companies of the 3rd Brigade. Bn Intel determined that thousands of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) were going to assault the FSB. A day or two after the Brigade-sized assault on the AO, my former unit was caught in a command detonated ambush followed by an early morning assault by the NVA. All during this time I had been talking on the radio to my guys, handling supply and normal stuff.
One of my best friends there was fellow soldier Joe Patterson, a funny guy and great audience for my shenanigans. The night before they were hit, we were talking on the Delta One radio which was scrambled so the enemy could not intercept our transmissions. He told me, “Gunton, I have a really bad feeling about this one.” There had been no contact yet, but he still felt bad about the operation. Sure enough when the unit was hit, Joey was gravely wounded. I called in the MEDEVAC for him and for our company commander. We had one KIA from Charlie’s Headquarters Company where this soldier had had to go out to replace someone’s weapon and had to stay overnight and was killed during the assault. It was a terribly fraught and frightening time.
Bob along the Song Bo River. Photo credit Bob Gunton.
There were many major encounters around Ripcord which turned out to be the biggest, final, multi-unit battle in Vietnam. There have been books and films about it. We went on like that for about a week or longer. In the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) we had three RTOs. The intel suggested that the firebase itself would soon be under attack. At one point the NVA got really lucky when they shot down a Chinook over the ammo dump as it was unloading ammo. All of the crew survived the crash, but the entire ammo dump started cooking off: phosphorus, artillery, HE and CS rounds. All of that CS gas started infiltrating into the bunkers where none of us had gas masks, so we had to take our t-shirts and wet them to put over our face so as not to be forced out of our bunkers.
At one point I had to urinate really badly. With the rounds cooking off and NVA mortars coming in, I wasn’t about to saunter outside to one of the “Piss tubes.” The bunkers were well constructed and had screen doors. I got to the door and decided I would open the door, step out halfway or so and then take a whiz. I was just about to finish when I heard, “TROOP!” right behind me. It was the brigade commander whose call sign was Black Spade. I stood to attention and zipped up. Other soldiers were in that part of the bunker when the Brigade Commander told me with cold anger:, “if you have to go take a piss, go find a piss tube. We are NOT animals in here.” It was a very embarrassing moment. I felt lower than snake shit. A few days later the Brigade Commander was evaluating positions outside when a mortar round landed directly on him. He and a fellow officer were killed immediately. The terrible irony of that sequence of events rocked me for a while.
Companies then started being extracted from around Ripcord and then it was our HQ’s time to leave. We knew Ripcord was going to be abandoned and the Army would blow up what they could, then carpet bomb it with B-52 strikes. We got back to LZ Sally and all of us in HQ company gets called together. A member of the battalion staff informed us about how two Delta One radios had been left behind in our TOC on Ripcord. The NVA could potentially use those radios against us. They needed two “volunteers” to go back and get them, which really meant the two who were least “short” would go. I was pretty damn short — but not short enough. I went with another younger RTO on a slick (Huey helicopter) to head back up there. On the way out, one of the pilots turned around in the chopper and made a hand dunking motion. Ripcord was taking incoming fire. We had to jump off the helicopter at about five or six feet off the ground as he was not going to land because of the incoming.
We found a hole to jump in and then found the Delta One radios. There were a lot of wounded soldiers that needed to be taken off the fire base before anyone else could go. We knew that no one could head back to base until all the wounded had been evacuated. So me and the other RTO jumped in and helped load the wounded onto slicks while the mortars and rockets continued falling. Just before the sun set over Laos we were able to get on a chopper to head back. I don’t think any of that involved any kind of valor much less heroism, but the battalion commander put us in for Bronze Stars, particularly for the MEDEVAC loading.
The questions of what is cowardice, what is heroism, what is self-preservation have been with me all my life. I’ve even used them in my acting. Everything is shades of gray, especially when it comes to combat and moral decisions that we make. Was I wrong not to go the piss tube with the self-preservation involved and the death of Black Spade as he followed his own advice and left the 3rd Brigade without leadership for a while. These experiences have definitely shaped my moral view of the universe. I have to accept that even the worst situations, the best remedies are going to be mixed. How we are trained, our wisdom, and education play their parts in our decisions and choices. But we are human, have mixed emotions, and inner conflicts. I have applied these in my life successfully and unsuccessfully.
MEDEVACs are miles ahead of what we had in Vietnam. There was an instance where a soldier from our recon platoon left the wire at night to take a crap. One of his buddies mistakenly set off a claymore on him and killed him. When the chopper came in to evac the body there were huge winds in the AO and they could not get a jungle penetrator through the triple canopy jungle to get the body out so they threw the soldiers a body bag. The soldiers then had to hump the corpse out for three or four days to get to a place where the chopper could get in.
I helped prevent a mutiny earlier that year where a loach (OH-6 Cayuse helicopter) had been shot down where I was a company RTO then. Our company was tasked to go down into this valley area to find the chopper to see if the pilot had survived. Our company commander was against the war and did all he could to stay out of it. He was one of the only officers I had met like that. The company commander wouldn’t lead down and the battalion commander call sign Driver had to fly out. The company commander was ordered to go down after being chewed out by the battalion CO and I told him, “we got a lawful order to go down and we needed to go otherwise this is bad stuff.” We did end up following orders to go down where we found the loach with the pilot dead. The pilot’s body was able to be sent back to Graves and Registration for eventual burial. I was against the war but found myself on the other side of the argument with the company commander. It was gray even then and was not cut and dried. Our mission was, for most of us, to save each other and our buddies got back.
Charlie company had its 50th reunion, almost 50 years to the day many were injured including Joey Patterson at the FSB Ripcord battle. Due to Covid-19 I was not able to fly out to Pennsylvania. However, I did do a Zoom call and got see them all and meet their wives. Joey and I caught up as well. It was a great virtual reunion due to the COVID pandemic. Keeping the threads of your life together along the way can give you a better sense of where you are from and going.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into acting and film?
When filming a movie, you are all in it together where everyone has their own duty. The expectation is that everyone knows exactly what they have to do and to do it as quickly and gracefully as they can. It includes keeping spirits up when waiting out a rainstorm to restart filming and when moving locations and loading up the trucks is like heading to another combat assault. So, I must have my shit together and know my lines cold. There is a lot that carries over from being in the military to working on a film production. You depend on each other and don’t want a weak link and sure as hell don’t want to be that weak link.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling stage and/or film role you have done?
Warden Norton from The Shawshank Redemption without a doubt is the best role I have ever had. It is the best movie I have ever been in. I have been back to many reunions and celebrations at the prison. People go to visit the prison and stay overnight. They even have a Shawshank trail where people get to see all the outside filming locations and then take a tour of the prison where it has artifacts from the movie. I have been to every continent except Antarctica and everywhere I go people come up to me to speak about The Shawshank Redemption. People come up to me in Europe, South America, Australia where to be a part of a movie that is such high quality and well-known across the board is truly a blessing.
I was invited to Akron for a special day celebrating Shawshank Redemption and by the local AA Akron baseball team the Rubber Ducks to throw out the first pitch. They also ordered from China a thousand bobble head Warden Nortons. The first thousand people to come in would get one where I would sign them. I have one for myself and have given a few away too.
*He shares some of the best quotes people request when he signs autographs from the film are, “Put your trust in the Lord; your ass belongs to me,” “Lord, it’s a miracle! The man up and vanished like a fart in the wind,” and “…or am I being obtuse.”
Mr. Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton of Shawshank State Prison. Photo credit to IMDB.com
Mr. Gunton in Akron with the Warden Norton bobble head. Photo credit Lake Highlands Advocate.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such theatrical talents as Hal Prince, Patti LuPone, Theodore Mann, Susan H. Schulman, Beth Fowler and then with such film talents such as Oliver Stone, Tim Robbins, Frank Darabont, Clint Eastwood, Sly Stallone, Sandra Bullock and the like?
Hal Prince was a key person in my career and am grateful to him. Oliver Stone was interesting and challenging — a brilliant man. I enjoyed working with Robin Williams perhaps more than anyone else. Jim Carrey is a deep thinker as well as being very charming, well-read and generous. Jim was extremely funny as well. I have liked most everyone I have worked with.
I got to play a chaplain in a film with Stacey Keach named Mission of the Shark: The Saga of the USS Indianapolis. I enjoy playing priests and military personnel because I feel I can put a little spin on the ball and make them more interesting and factual. My chaplain character got eaten by a shark. I had to do some tricky timing with holding my breath for the scenes of being eaten by the shark. Two divers were holding my feet where they start shaking me and then pull me down really fast. If my timing wasn’t spot on in taking in breath, then having to hold it while they release a blood bag, to show his guy is really gone it can be problematic. It was tricky to film, but nothing like the crew from the Indianapolis though. Floating on a funky, tiny life-raft, off the coast of the Bahamas, with Stacy Keach and I laughing our butts off, was not a hardship assignment.
Working with Clint Eastwood was good. He has a fantastic crew. He was a gentlemen and one of the quietest directors I have ever worked for. He got that from doing so many Westerns where a director would yell “action” and people would get thrown off their horse when it bolted from the shouting. Instead of “action” Clint would just quietly say, “go ahead.”
I have maintained close ties with the Paulist Fathers even done work for Paulist Productions as well. In the film Judas shot in Morocco in 2004, on a huge set representing The Temple in Jerusalem, I played the High Priest Caiphas. Hotter than blazes in very authentic robes etc. But I really enjoyed it.
Morgan Freeman, Bob Gunton and Clancy Brown in The Shawshank Redemption.
WATM: What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
After my service I went to NY hoping for a career in Theater. Many of my peers had gone to Yale or Julliard or Northwestern and other great schools. I had a bit of a chip on my shoulder. It wasn’t about their not serving in the war, it was because I felt they had a two- or three-year head start on their careers. Establishing a career in theater means doing low paying jobs, children’s theater and dinner theater etc. out in the boondocks. Then, if you are fortunate you work your way up to Broadway. These guys had already networked with people from their professional schools and had jumped ahead of me. I felt I had missed out on that networking.
While on Broadway after finishing “Evita” my agent told me about a play I should look at doing off-off Broadway, with no pay. Having just come from a big Broadway musical hit it didn’t sound that appetizing it was entitled “How I Got That Story”. It was about Vietnam. There were only two actors. One of the roles was a journalist and the other role was every person in Vietnam that the journalist runs into while trying to get the story of why we were in Vietnam and what it all meant. 22 different characters! Because I had been there and seen and heard and lived with a wide range of people, both genders and three races, I knew who these people were, how they spoke, walked and behaved. The roster of characters included: a Madame Nhu character, a nun, a crazy photographer, a Viet Cong officer and, most surprisingly, a 16-year-old Vietnamese bar girl. The man who wrote this play had served as a CO medic in Vietnam. I told my agent: “I don’t care if I don’t get paid, I have to do this.”
We performed in a tiny rooftop theater behind the building where John Lennon had been killed. The play got excellent reviews and was covered by many journalists who’d gotten their start serving in Vietnam as reporters. It got a lot of ink in all the newspapers, especially in the New York Times. We eventually transferred to an actual Off-Broadway theater in the theater district and we ran for nine months or so. The main thing is everyone in town saw that show including casting directors, fellow actors, movie directors including Alan Pakula (To Kill a Mockingbird, All the President’s Men, Sophie’s Choice). Alan came backstage after a performance. He said he wanted me to play an Arab in the film Rollover. He asked to meet a couple of days later where we talked mostly about Vietnam and the movie. I never auditioned. I knew he was going to have me do it and he did! It was the largest salary I had ever had for acting up to that point and opened a myriad of doors for me.
“How I Got That Story” really kicked off my career as a dramatic actor and not just a song and dance guy. At the Opening Night Party we had among others, the founders of Vietnam Veterans Against the War. Also Ed Murphy, my seminarian buddy, who had served in Vietnam as well. This entire chapter was like karma where nothing is ever wasted; that there is always something that even terrible experiences can feed your soul or change your life. In a good way. If, of course, you survive it.
Vietnam was tough, sad, and frightening, although we also often laughed our asses off with our morbid humor in part to expel our anxiety. Vietnam served an important role in my character development as well as my work in theater and in films.
On a side note, Afghanistan is one of the few wars I can say, “yeah we belong there.” We need to be there to keep them from doing anything like what happened on 9/11 ever again. I’d sign up, but I don’t think that they would have me.
“How I Got That Story” featured in the NYT from the Feb 18th, 1982 paper. Photo credit nytimes.com.
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood and stage arena?
We need to encourage veterans who have a story to tell them. We have had some good recent movies like American Sniper and The Hurt Locker. Most people who don’t have military experience hear our stories finding them exotic and dramatic. It is life and death with a cast of interesting characters. As an Army draftee I saw the full spectrum of humanity which makes for a lot of interesting stories.
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Being a father to my daughter, Olivia. And happily married to a former high school classmate, Carey. Career-wise Shawshank and my last Broadway show, “Sweeney Todd”, which is the toughest stage role I had ever attempted and was well received. It felt like climbing Mount Everest to do it. It was my “swan song” to Broadway and am glad to have gone out on top. I am proud of my friendships from the seminary, Vietnam, theater and fellow film actors. I am also proud to have made it to this age and to still be working.
Imagine a Michigan student spending a semester at Ohio State. Or a UT student going to Oklahoma University. Getting sent to a rival should would be intense – and that’s exactly what Army and Navy have been doing for decades.
Every year, juniors at West Point and the Naval Academy switch places, spending an entire semester in enemy territory. Before they go back to their respective institutions, they go through the “prisoner exchange” at the annual Army-Navy Game.
Rivalries exist between all branches of the military – and college students are no different. The Army-Navy rivalry is so intense because it’s so old, but like all those other rivalries, it’s all in good fun. At the end of the day, the Cadets and Mids are still U.S. troops and we all fight on the same team.
That doesn’t mean they don’t get to have fun. The “Prisoner Exchange” is a time-honored tradition – one of many.
As for the differences between the academies, Cadet Tyrus Jones said it’s all about academy culture.
“Life is different because everything is centered around the Navy,” Jones told Army Public Affairs. “It’s a little bit of a different lifestyle and culture between the two services. It has to do with our history and how it’s evolved over the years.”
It may take a few years, but the Rock might punch Superman in the face on the big screen. When Dwayne Johnson slips into the suit of DC superhero/supervillain Black Adam, there’s a chance he could brawl with Henry Cavill’s version of the Man of Steel. It happened in the comics, and, right now, the people making the movie with the Rock aren’t ruling out a Black Adam/Superman grudge match.
Speaking to ComicBook.com, the producer of Black Adam, Hiram Garcia, basically said that the idea of bringing in Superman to fight the Rock is totally on the table.
“I think the DC Universe is a wonderful universe and we’re open to everything,” Garcia said. “We have big aspirations for it[Black Adam]. We’re friends with Henry. [The Rock and Henry are friends, it’s a huge comic book brand as well. And I always just loved the idea. Who knows?”
Though the Rock has been confirmed to play Black Adam for a while, the Rock recently confirmed the release date of the film — Dec. 22, 2021 — alongside concept art of him as Black Adam. Technically speaking, Black Adam is a misunderstood supervillain within the DC Universe, sometimes the nemesis of Shazam. Now, because the film version of Shazam featured a Superman-cameo, it’s reasonable to assume that some version of Superman could show up in Black Adam.
But, if even Superman did appear in Black Adam and throw down with the Rock, it wouldn’t necessarily be Henry Cavill playing him. Basically, other than the upcoming film The Batman, the future the DC comics movies is somewhat in flux. So, if Black Adam did feature Superman, it could be a brand new actor playing the part, or perhaps, someone we’ve already seen like Herny Cavill.
In the meantime, if you’re jonesing for Superman, three different versions of Superman are crashing the CW’s mega-crossover event in just a couple weeks, including Tom Welling from Smallville and Brandon Routh from Superman Returns.
So, you’re a high-speed, low-drag new trooper who wants to have a successful and rewarding military career. The only problem is that you’re lazy.
Not “I can’t get out of bed without a personal pep talk from Richard Simmons” lazy, but more, “I’m not going to make my bed because I’m just going to ruin it tonight” lazy.
In the civilian world, that’s fine. But in the military, you can actually get demoted for not making your bed. So how do you get ahead in Uncle Sam’s Rifle Club with minimum effort? Easy. You learn to sham (or if you joined the sea services, “skate”).
Shamming and skating are the fine arts of doing little to no work while avoiding friction and punishments from command.
The trick is to pace yourself throughout the day, doing work only when necessary but also giving the perception of constant activity.
A top-shelf sham day starts with not doing physical training. The most obvious way to get out of this is a pass from the medics. WATM does not encourage this…but here’s our guide. If you can get a full-day pass to stay in the barracks, your shamming is now in easy mode.
But sick call slips and chits are rationed, and remaining on quarters for too long can get you kicked out for “malingering.” If you want to get promoted, you’ll have to get more creative.
First, always know who is instructing PT in the morning and what the planned activity is. If Spc. McMuffin is leading the platoon on a slow jog down the main strip, just bite the bullet and do PT. But if Sgt. Creatine is leading a ruck-run and circuit-training Crossfit extravaganza, then you need to volunteer for a work detail.
But wait, wait, wait! I thought you said I wasn’t going to have to actually work?
Sure, volunteering for work may seem counterproductive. But pulling a 12-hour guard shift on some ammo in a field while you’re playing the newest Candy Crush level and taking turns napping with the other guard is way better than playing log throw with Capt. America and then spending all day at a desk.
Speaking of desk work, there are ways to sham through that if you get stuck in it. If you permanently work in an office, the best thing you can do is create the impression that you’re always working way too hard to be interrupted.
This can be achieved with multiple little green notebooks, legal pads, and an endless number of browser windows. Spread the legal pads and notebooks around the desk and fill the open pages with illegible writing. Draw lots of arrows between areas of text.
If anyone asks what you’re doing, start talking a lot about guidance from headquarters and how it affects 3rd quarter mandatory training. There’s not an NCO in the world that will stick around.
When you’re only working the office for the day, the best thing you can do is offer to shred things and take the trash out. No one is timing these tasks, so there’s plenty of time to joke around with buddies or check your phone. You should take the trash out at least three or four times in a regular duty day.
And, once you volunteer to take the trash out enough times or to run other errands, people will start thinking that you must be doing said errands when they can’t see you.
Now you’re in business. Once they stop checking up on you, start adding a 20-minute nap to each errand and trash run that you do.
Another place you can work constant naps into the day is the motor pool. Avoid emptying and reloading connexes by volunteering to PMCI vehicles. At each vehicle, open the front doors and raise the hood, then rack out in the back seat for a few minutes. Finally, declare the vehicle ready to go, close everything up, and move on to the next one.
At the end of the day, there’s always the risk that a pleased platoon or first sergeant will want to inspect the room of such a squared-away individual.
Fear not — passing room inspections is easy. The trick is to get the barracks super clean one time. We’re talking perfection here. No dust anywhere, scrub the backs of the appliances, secure the bedspread with bungee cords and glue the hospital corners into place. Tie up your roommate and hide him in the woodline.
Place neatly organized study cards next to your computer, which should have exactly one browser window open to whatever your branch’s promotions and accessions guidance is.
The platoon and first sergeant will not believe their eyes. They’ll praise you in front of the formation and talk amongst themselves for days about how polished you are.
Then they’ll become complacent and they won’t inspect you anymore. They might come by for payday inspections and the company change of command, but that’s about it.
The rest of the year you can walk around in your room dripping marinara sauce onto the floor, and no one will know or care.
That barracks will become your palace of filth, and no one will be the wiser. In fact, they’ll be so impressed by that one inspection and all those guard details you volunteered for that they’ll promote you ahead of your peers until you get paid to move out of the barracks — you won’t even have to get a contract marriage to the first person you meet off-base.
Congrats, shammer. You have arrived.
(Also, maybe retrieve your roommate from the woodline at some point. He could legitimately die).
Mark Bowden is one of the greatest investigative reporters of our age.
“Black Hawk Down,” his exhaustive work on the experience of U.S. troops in Mogadishu, brought renewed attention to the oft-forgotten story. It also resulted in the film, which remains a favorite of the military-veteran community.
His most recent book, “Hué 1968: A Turning Point of the American War in Vietnam,” is just as exhaustive and compelling. The book is a master work, five years in the making.
The Battle of Hué was the longest and costliest fight of the entire Tet Offensive. On the morning of Jan. 31, 1968, a coordinated attack from 8,000 North Vietnamese Army Regulars, Viet Cong infiltrators, and Vietnamese civilians quickly captured much of the city in a single night.
American and South Vietnamese troops were woefully outnumbered in Hué. Facing the Communist forces there were the ARVN 1st Infantry Division and 200 of their American and Australian advisors at the MACV compound. By the time the sun came up that day, the Communists controlled the city south of the Huong River – except the MACV compound.
A view from a Marine machine gun position on the outer Citadel wall of Hué City during the 1968 Tet Offensive.
The Marines from MACV would have to go on the offensive, fighting their way across the river to rescue the brilliant and highly-respected ARVN General Ngô Quang Truong and what remained of his 1st Infantry. Then they had to expel the Communists from the area.
Hué would become a case study in urban combat, the first time since the Korean War the Marines would fight in a city like that. The battle lasted almost a month, turning 40 percent of the city’s buildings to rubble and costing the lives of 380 ARVN troops, 147 Marines, 74 U.S. Army soldiers, 8,000 Communists, and more than 5,800 civilians.
It was also the turning point in American popular support for the war.
Bowden’s book covers the history of the war until that point, especially from 30,000-foot view from the White House and General William Westmoreland’s MACV Headquarters. What’s truly unique and fascinating about Bowden’s style is the personal narratives that drive the history of the story.
“Hué 1968” is a gripping tapestry of nonfiction storytelling, with personal stories of people on the ground woven into the history and politics of the war. The enemy is no longer a nameless, faceless mass of targets; the NVA and VC are characters in the story of the war in Vietnam, with names, families, and lives. With these stories comes the understanding of why the McNamara doctrine of “limited warfare” would never have worked against the Vietnamese.
The book gives the eyewitness account of a young Vietnamese girl who turns on the southern regime and becomes a Viet Cong operative just as much as it follows the junior enlisted Marine radio operator Jim Coolican, who was stationed at the MACV compound. Personal narratives from every side of the conflict continue like this throughout the book.
Bowden traces the details of a young VC as he traverses the Ho Chi Minh trail and moves to infiltrate the city. He even painstakingly documents the “logistics miracle” – as one U.S. Navy captain called it – of the Tet Offensive’s movement of men and weapons into South Vietnam.
NVA and VC soldiers assault the city of Hué in South Vietnam, January 1968.
If you know the history of the Vietnam War, you know what’s coming in the Tet Offensive and it keeps you turning pages. No matter how familiar you are, you get to see the war from all sides – the NVA, the VC, ARVN leadership, American troops, American leadership, even Ho Chi Minh and North Vietnamese General Vo Nguyen Giap’s points of view are covered in remarkable detail.
The fall of Hué was the most successful attack of the entire Tet Offensive and even then the city was retaken by Feb. 24. Both sides bought into their own propaganda. The Communists believed that the South was ready to rise against the despotic Thieu regime and expel the Americans — they just needed a hand to get started.
Viet Cong forces climb on an abandoned U.S.-built Marine Armored Vehicle during the Battle of Hué.
The north came to depend on that uprising for the long-term success of the Offensive. The Americans and South Vietnamese were caught off guard because they thought the enemy was weak and could not launch an attack on that scale, let alone capture a city like Hué.
Until the Tet Offensive, a majority of Americans believed the war was going well and believed government officials who used statistics and body counts to insist that American involvement could soon come to an end. Body counts weren’t the metric used by the Communists. For the north, their success was defined by killing or wounding as many Americans as possible, destroying the ARVN, and inciting a popular uprising in the South.
Marines hold a Viet Cong flag they ripped down from the provincial headquarters in Hué.
The United States claimed a military victory in Hué but Hanoi would never be intimidated by a limited war. The prolonged violence and media bias against the war after the Tet Offensive eroded public support for it as well.
The U.S. began a strategic withdrawal from Vietnam the next year and left completely in 1973. South Vietnam fell to the Communists just two years later. Hué was just the beginning of the end.
Mark Bowden is an award-winning author and correspondent for The Atlantic. He is also a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. Filmmakers Michael Mann and Michael De Luca (who produced the 1995 heist movie “Heat”) purchased the rights to “Hué 1968” and plan to turn the book into a miniseries.
You let us tag along on your convoy. You let us raid a house in the stack. You watched our ass while our head was in a camera viewfinder. You even let us eat your food. So when you ask us for some of the footage of the unit in action we’re happy to oblige.
When you want us to make a music video of it, no problem, even though we know using copyrighted music is illegal. We want you to keep letting us roll with you…and for you to keep saving our asses.
But then one of your officers tells us to use one of these eight songs and it makes us die inside.
1. Drowning Pool — “Bodies”
This is by far the most overused song ever paired with combat camera footage (with “Soldiers” a close second). And it’s not just commanders asking combat camera to do this. Civilians do this ad nauseam.
That video has more than a million views. A MILLION. I don’t understand the enduring popularity of this song, but if there’s a better or more obvious song about killing a lot of people, I haven’t heard it.
2. Saliva — “Click Click Boom”
A full 20 percent of YouTube is probably the same video footage of the military with this Saliva song — this Saliva song about how great the lead singer’s childhood was and how totally awesome it is that he’s on the radio now.
I wish Beavis and Butthead were around to rip on this band. Still, it does make it pretty easy to edit a video fast, even if I feel like a complete hack afterward.
The only lyric the casual listener probably understands for most of the song is “Bombs Over Baghdad,” so when you send it to your mom, she gets the point of the video, and can’t really hear about the struggles of Andre 3000 and Big Boi’s pre-stardom struggle.
4. Chad Kroeger ft. Josey Scott — “Hero”
The singers from Nickelback AND Saliva. Enough said. Good lord this song was so big in 2002-2003. You’ll be just as proud of a video featuring you clearing houses to this song as you are your trucker hat collection and your flip phone.
This song was supposed to be an uplifting anthem for the first Spider-Man movie but it’s the most depressing song I’ve ever been asked to use in any video ever. I bet if you asked Kirsten Dunst what the low point of her career was, it would be that she didn’t have the choice to be excluded from this music video.
5. P.O.D. — “Boom”
Another band who sings about how they’re a band now. If you haven’t noticed the trend, guitar riffs and shouting “boom” were super popular in the early 2000s.
P.O.D. is the MySpace of metal. They’re still around but no one knows why.
6. Toby Keith — “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue”
This song is so cheesy, I’m actually surprised Chad Kroeger didn’t write it, but maybe there are some things even Pop Rock Jesus won’t do. Some of you might think this song is awesome but I doubt you’d play it at a party in front of all your friends.
Also Toby Keith got more awards and plaques from military units just for singing this song than some people got for actually enlisting after 9/11.
7. Godsmack — “I Stand Alone”
Forget for a moment that the frontman sounds like Adam Sandler’s impression of Eddie Vedder. This song’s lyrics read like they were translated from Nepali by Google Translate. Also, unless your unit is the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae (it isn’t), you definitely don’t stand alone.
8. AC/DC — “Thunderstruck”
Ok, this isn’t an awful song. I mean, I get why you might want six minutes of your squadron or platoon blowing things up to AC/DC. But, aside from the opening minute and a half or so, this is could be any AC/DC song. All AC/DC songs sound like this. That’s why we love them.
Nazareth — Hair of the Dog
To be honest, this request only happened once, but do you really think any young Marine is going to love watching themselves on a dismounted patrol to this song?
Why not just have me choose something from Chicago’s greatest hits? If I gave any grunt a music video of themselves with this song, they’d beat my Air Force ass so hard.
Now you can audition for America’s Got Talent, Season 16, right from the comfort of your own home. Auditions are going virtual this year, so this will be a brand-new experience for everyone, and for the first time ever, everyone’s favorite talent show is in collaboration with WATM readers. That’s right, casting producers will be taking a special look at your submission, submitted through a custom-built platform specifically for the military community, here.
We know that the military community has lots of talent and now is the time to showcase it. This unique opportunity means that for the first time ever, it doesn’t matter where in the world you call home – as long as you’re a U.S. citizen, you’re able to audition for America’s Got Talent. Find the complete eligibility requirements here.
Here’s how to get started.
If you’ve already registered for AGT, then click the sign-in option and select a Virtual Open Call Date on your Performer Profile Page. If you’re not registered, follow this custom link to sign up.
If you’re part of a group, make sure to follow safety guidelines first! We strongly encourage groups to submit an existing video instead of gathering in-person to create a new audition video. Uploading pre-existing recordings is easy. All you need to do is follow the ”Submit a Video Online option.”
Keep in mind if you already had an account with AGT from a previous session, your credentials have expired, so you’ll need to create a new Season 16 account.
After you’ve registered for an audition date and time, your spot is confirmed. You can double-check your details by signing into your Performer Profile page. Make sure to add firstname.lastname@example.org to your address book to prevent essential emails from going to your spam folder.
Auditions are free – all you need is an internet connection and a device with a camera and a microphone capable of running Zoom.
You’ll be given up to 90 seconds to audition, so make sure you come prepared and ready to wow the producers and judges!
You have the option to select a time for your appointment when you register. But that’s not your specific time — auditions happen on a first-come, first seen basis. It’s a good idea to come around the time that you select to help keep the process moving.
If you register for an audition date but can no longer make it, you can submit an online audition that will be reviewed by a producer or you can choose to audition on a different date.
After you perform, you might be asked some follow up questions by the AGT producers. Acts that are selected to move forward in the competition will be notified by the end of March.
Waging a war against insurgents and terrorists is hard. While America has tried to capture its struggles in movies like “Zero Dark Thirty” and “American Sniper,” filmmakers from other countries have made their own great films about fighting insurgencies.
Here are 9 of the best:
1. The Battle of Algiers
“The Battle of Algiers” was screened at the Pentagon during lessons on counter-insurgency warfare. The film was originally released in 1966 but was banned for five years in France. It depicts the atrocities on each side of the actual Battle of the Algiers in the 1950s where French paratroopers eventually put down an Algerian nationalistic uprising.
2. Waltz with Bashir
This animated movie follows an Israeli veteran of the 1982 Lebanon War when Israel invaded. The vet can’t remember anything from the war, and so begins interviewing his former comrades and others who took part in the conflict.
3. A War
“A War” is a new film from Danish filmmakers. An infantry commander is put on trial after a questionable airstrike kills women and children. Back home in Denmark, he must explain to his family why he ordered the strikes while defending himself from prosecution. This is a instant classic about fighting with rules of engagement designed to win hearts and mind more than battles.
“Timbuktu” is a city in Mali which was overtaken by by Islamic militants in 2012. The movie focuses on a community that lives in terror of the radical occupiers. Much like ISIS, the terrorists controlling the city use a perverted version of Sharia law and order executions for even minor offenses.
“Kandahar” was filmed and released before the Sept. 11 attacks and shows the horrible state that the Afghan people lived in beneath the Taliban. A Canadian-Afghan woman who escaped the country as a child has to return to try and prevent the suicide of her sister who is being crushed beneath the Taliban regime.
6. The Wind That Shakes the Barley
The Irish Republican Army’s struggle for independence from Britain turned into a civil war in 1921 when half of the resistance accepted a treaty with the United Kingdom that granted dominion but not full independence. “The Wind That Shakes the Barley” follows two brothers in the IRA from their years fighting together against Britain to the Irish Civil War where they wind up on opposite sides.
In post-war West Germany a group of students started the Red Army Faction, a terror group that sought to resist a government that they saw as falling back into the mold of Nazi Germany. “The Baader-Meinhof Complex” follows the rise and fall of these students in a thrilling, blood-soaked narrative.
8. Kilo Two Bravo
A group of British paratroopers in Afghanistan spend their days controlling a hilltop and conducting patrols until a fire team moving down the hill gets caught in the middle of a old Soviet minefield. “Kilo Two Bravo” does a great job of showing the dangers and complexities of operating in a land filled with mines and IEDs.
“Waar” is one of Pakistan’s top grossing films ever. It follows a former Pakistani Army officer who is roped back in for a counter-terrorism operation. It’s an interesting look at terrorism through the eyes of a country that lives with it in their backyard. (Heads up: some of the story and acting is over the top. Imagine a terror film set in Pakistan and directed by John Woo.)