The 'Finest Hours' captures old school Semper Paratus - We Are The Mighty
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The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus

Disney’s “The Finest Hours” tells the story of a Coast Guard motorboat crew dispatched into an Atlantic storm after two 500-foot tankers break apart in 1952.


The crew is led by Boatswain’s Mate Bernard Webber, played by Chris Pine. Webber is second string, the junior ranking boatswain assigned to Chatham lifeboat station in Massachusetts.

The senior boatswain leads the rescue effort to the first tanker reported broken in the storm, the Fort Mercer. So when a Coast Guard plane spots the broken Pendleton, it falls to Webber and a few volunteers to attempt to rescue the 33 survivors in a small motorboat.

The movie does a good job of showing the perils of a rescue at sea in a severe winter storm. The waves crash onto a deadly sandbar with ominous booms, the boat is flipped in the waves, and the compass is ripped from the boat by a severe wave crash.

Crossing the sandbar was one of the most dangerous parts of the mission. Attempts to cross it could have easily destroyed the boat and left the crew drowning in the icy waters.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

These details and others come from the factual book the movie is based on, and they’re brought to life by Craig Gillespie, the film’s director who spent his young life near the ocean.

“I grew up on the water in Australia, and I have a lot of respect for the ocean,” Gillespie told We Are The Mighty. “I sailed, I grew up surfing.

“When there’s a huge swell, you can hear it a mile and a half from the ocean, and it’s scary,” he said.

While the movie depicts the events on the boat and the Pendleton largely right, it takes more liberties with the story of Webber’s girlfriend, Miriam. During the real rescue, Miriam and Bernard were already married and Miriam was too ill to comprehend when told of Bernard’s mission.

But the movie Miriam is healthy and attempts to aid Bernard from the shore. She first argues with his commanding officer. When that doesn’t help, she seeks ways of ensuring that Bernard, if he’s successful in the rescue, will be able to make it home without a compass or any visible stars to follow.

Actress Holliday Grainger shaped her portrayal of Miriam after speaking to the Webber family and spending time at Chatham lifeboat station that the Coast Guard still operates.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Photo: Youtube/Disney Movie Trailers

She said that Miriam’s journey in the movie is about learning what it takes to be a Coast Guard wife.

“He will always be in danger,” Grainger told We Are The Mighty when discussing Miriam’s attitude toward Bernard, “and if she wants to be with him, she has to live with that, because he does it for the greater good. He can’t always put their family first. He has to put others lives first.”

“The Finest Hours” deftly weaves Bernard and Miriam’s stories, breaking up the chaos at sea with the tension on the coast.

“The Finest Hours” opens in theaters nationwide on Jan. 29.

Articles

How some special operators are turning to illegal drugs to deal with deployment stress

They have achieved cult hero status for their exploits since 9/11, but their success on the battlefield is taking a personal toll on Navy SEALs and members of other US special operations elite forces.


Reports of rampant illicit drug abuse by special operators — while on deployment and at home — have prompted congressional lawmakers to call for an accountability review of the “culture” inside special operations units.

Drug and alcohol use by some members of special operations units is nothing new to the culture within the teams, who see such behavior as a coping mechanism in response to the unforgiving tasks these soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines have been asked to carry out.

“They are pretty much out there on a daily basis in very dangerous situations and working with [partners] who you don’t know if they are going to put a bullet in your back,” one former team member with knowledge of personnel issues told The Washington Times. “The level of stress these people are experiencing is off the charts,” he said, speaking on the condition of anonymity.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
USAF photo by Staff Sgt. Brian Ferguson

The unprecedented pace and tempo in which US special operations forces have been used in the post-9/11 global war on terrorism, beginning with al Qaeda and the Taliban and now encompassing Islamic State, Boko Haram, and other groups, has exacerbated those stress levels, leading to even riskier coping behaviors.

“Kill/capture” missions by US special operations units combined with clandestine drone strikes formed the backbone of the Obama administration’s counterterrorism doctrine. Six months into his term, President Trump has shown little sign of abandoning that strategy. Defense Secretary James Mattis said in May that the United States is entering an era of global conflict defined by protracted small wars with extremist militant groups.

“This is going to be a long fight,” Mr. Mattis said.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis. DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Tech. Sgt. Brigitte N. Brantley.

Aside from deploying hundreds of special operations military advisers to the front lines of the Islamic State fight in Syria and Iraq, the Trump administration has ordered the expansion of US Special Operations Command’s mission in Africa, battling the Somali-based terrorist group al-Shabab.

“You see our forces engaged in that from Africa to Asia. But, at the same time, this is going to be a long fight. And I don’t put timelines on fights,” Mr. Mattis told CBS News.

‘Something has to give’

The operational tempo for Navy SEALs, Army Special Forces and other “Tier One” US special operations forces units, which spend a majority of their time overseas on deployment, is a vicious cycle but a prerequisite for the job, the former team member said.

“We’re not talking about 18-, 19-year-old kids. You have to have a level of resilience to get where they are,” he said. But even with the most seasoned and battle-hardened veterans, “something has to give” from the relentless demands to deploy.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Photo credit Tanjila Ahmed

A pair of random, command-wide drug screenings conducted from November through February uncovered a total of 59 cases of illicit drug use among sailors serving in Naval Special Warfare Command.

Seven command members tested positive for illicit drug use from among more than 6,300 subjected to a sweep of random tests late last year, according to figures that command officials provided to The Times. The command also uncovered 52 cases of illegal drug use among 71,000 tests carried out since August 2014.

Of the 52 command members who tested positive for illegal drug use during the most recent round of tests across the Navy command, 10 were SEAL team members. Command officials could not confirm how many SEAL members were part of the seven positive drug tests found during a round of testing in November and December.

Drug abuse, domestic abuse, or other behaviors tied to the seemingly constant rotations to conflict zones are “endemic of what these people are going through,” the team member said. “These are your franchise players. They want to be the best of the best. It’s a quality you need but also makes it hard to disengage. A lot of it is just coping just the physical toll [the job] takes on you. You have to find an outlet.”

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
USAF photo illustration by Senior Airman Chad Strohmeyer

The problem of drug use within the special operations community gained unwanted attention in April when news leaked of a closed-door speech by Capt. Jamie Sands, head of all East Coast-based Navy SEAL teams. The captain warned all 900 Navy special operators in the command about cracking down on the use of illicit drugs — including cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, marijuana, and ecstasy — among the SEAL teams that went public.

One active-duty SEAL attached to the East Coast teams told CBS News at the time that a number of his team members had tested positive for illegal drugs multiple times but remained on active duty since the Navy was unable to monitor their drug usage on a regular basis. Their frequent, extended deployments overseas allowed team members to avoid regular drug screenings.

Capt. Sands said that would no longer be a loophole in the command.

“We’re going to test on the road,” the officer said. “We’re going to test on deployment. If you do drugs, if you decide to be that selfish individual, then you will be caught.”

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
DoD Photo by Maj. Will Cox

Accountability review

Rep. Jackie Speier, California Democrat, in June pushed for legislation requiring US special operations command and the head of the Pentagon’s special operations directorate to conduct an accountability review of the military’s elite units amid reports of heavy drug abuse within the teams.

The review was included in the House draft version of the Pentagon’s spending plan for the upcoming fiscal year, which sets aside $696 billion for military programs and operations. The full House overwhelmingly approved the defense spending package this month.

The measure would require Mark Mitchell, acting assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, as well as top brass from Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida, “to provide a briefing regarding culture and accountability in [special operations forces].”

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
USAF photo by Airman 1st Class Ashley Gardner

Critics say the Pentagon’s policies do not properly address the problem of illicit drug use among special operators, a claim US Special Operations Command officials vehemently deny.

“No one has turned a blind eye to the challenges special operations forces face after a decade and a half of continuous combat operations,” command spokesman Kenneth McGraw said in a statement to The Times.

Command officials and their counterparts in the services’ special operations directorates formed a task force to address issues such as drug use and other symptoms related to prolonged deployments of the elite US troops. The task force takes a “takes a holistic, integrated approach” to post-deployment issues unique to Special Forces units “designed to maximize access to treatment and minimize any stigma associated with seeking help,” Mr. McGraw said.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
USAF photo by Tech. Sgt. Nadine Barclay

Despite the command’s task force and other associated efforts, lawmakers are pressing command officials on the problem of drug use inside the teams.

Ms. Speier’s office declined repeated requests for comment on the legislation and the level of cooperation House members are receiving from command officials and the Pentagon. But her characterization of the need for accountability within the special operations teams to address drug use is the wrong way to view the problem, the former team member said.

“I do not know if this is an accountability issue. It is not just about bad people. I think a lot of it is just what they have been through,” he said. “You have to realize you are not going to eradicate this [problem]. You cannot eradicate those experiences” of war.

Articles

A Belgian soldier has gone rogue in a real-life ‘Rambo’ incident

In the 1982 film “First Blood,” a disaffected Special Forces veteran who served in Vietnam is harassed and detained by local authorities. After giving him flashbacks to his captivity by the Viet Cong, he fights his way out of the sheriff’s office and flees into the woods. 

The cops give chase, and it doesn’t go well for them. John Rambo systematically takes them down, one by one. Now, there may be a real-world Rambo hiding in a European park in Belgium at this very moment.

This time, the enemy isn’t the treatment of Vietnam veterans, it’s COVID-19 and the restrictions placed on people to control the virus. 

Jurgen Conings is a 46-year old Belgian air force special operations commando who served in Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He went missing in a national park near Belgium’s border with the Netherlands on May 18, 2021. He is alleged to have stolen a cache of weapons that he is presumed to still be carrying. 

Before he went missing, Conings penned a letter that threatened a number of government officials, especially those associated with the state’s coronavirus response.The Belgian was already on a government watch list for his far-right political views. 

Authorities were alerted to the disappearance and weapons theft after Conings girlfriend hounda letter that stated he “ could no longer live in a society where politicians and virologists have taken everything away from us.”

No matter what his political views or threats, there appears to be a large vocal voice of support for Conings on the internet, a voice that Belgian officials call “disturbing.” 

Conings was still serving the Belgian military as a weapons instructor when he went missing in the national park. So far the only trace authorities have managed to find of the soldier is an abandoned campsite and his abandoned car, which carried four rocket launchers inside it – and was booby-trapped with a grenade. 

Before becoming the target of the manhunt, Conings is believed to have reconnoitered the town and home of one of Belgium’s top virologists, a man Conings seems to hold responsible for the country’s continued coronavirus restrictions.  

Special police search units from four countries have joined the hunt for Conings, using everything from helicopters to armored cars. The search team includes 400 soldiers along with German and Dutch Special Forces units with thermal cameras. 

He is known to be armed with at least a FN P90 machine gun and a sidearm. Shots were heard ringing throughout the wooded park, but no one could confirm its source or what type of weapon was fired. It’s not known what other weapons he may have. 

Conings also stated that he “would join the resistance and would not surrender.” He has two children from a previous relationship and his girlfriend has a daughter of her own. She said that she just wanted Conings to return, calling him a “loving father.” She also said she had no indication of his anti-lockdown beliefs or that he would take the beliefs this far. 

If Conings is using John Rambo in “First Blood” as a model, it would do everyone involved some good to remember that Rambo didn’t directly kill anyone in the film and the only death came after an overzealous police officer fell from a helicopter. 

Articles

7 life lessons we learned from the grunts in ‘Platoon’

With so many war movies out there to choose from, not many come from the direct perspective of a man who personally lived through the hell that was Vietnam.


Critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) took audiences into the highly political time in American history where the war efforts of our service men and women were predominantly overlooked as they returned home.

The son of a successful stockbroker, Stone dropped out of Yale in the 60s and joined the Army, becoming one of the first American troops to arrive in Vietnam.

Related: 7 life lessons we learned from watching ‘Full Metal Jacket’

Here’s what he taught us:

1. Respect is only earned, never issued.

Chris Taylor, played by Charlie Sheen, just landed in the “Nam” with a fresh shave and a stainless uniform. Before saying a word to anyone, he was automatically picked apart by war-harden soldiers passing by.

In war and in life, it doesn’t matter how you start the game — it’s how you finish it.

“Welcome to the suck, boot.” (Image via Giphy)

2. You have to keep up

Being in the infantry is one of the toughest and most dangerous jobs ever. You don’t have to be the strongest or the fastest, but you need to pull your own weight…literally.

Move it! Move it!  Move it! (Image via Giphy)

3. Staying positive

In the eyes of a “newbie,” the world can seem and feel like one big sh*t show — especially if you’re burning a barrel of sh*t with diesel fuel.

Finding new ways to approach a bad situation can boost morale — especially when you have a lot of time left in the bush.

Negativity can get you hurt, positivity can get you through it. (Image via Giphy)

4. We’re all the same

Regardless of what your race, religion, or education level — when it comes down to being a soldier in a dangerous combat zone, none of those aspects means a thing.

Preach! (image via Giphy)

5. Never quit

Sgt. Elias, by played Willem Dafoe, was intentionally left behind by Sgt. Barnes (Tom Berenger) with the hope the V.C. would kill him off.

Although Elias struggled to stay in the fight, after taking several AK-47’s rounds, he showed the world he’s truly a warrior.

His back must have been killing him. (Image via Giphy)

6. War changes a man

The bright-eyed bushy-tailed boy that showed up in the beginning isn’t the thousand yard staring man who stands in front of you now.

Kill! (image via Giphy)

Also Read: 7 life lessons we learned from Gunny Highway in ‘Heartbreak Ridge’

7. Brotherhood

When you break into the circle of brotherhood, there’s no better feeling.

Safe travels. (Image via Giphy)To all of our Vietnam war veterans, everyone at We Are The Mighty salutes you.

Articles

Former Marine Corps captain is new Navy Secretary nominee

President Donald Trump says he’s found a new candidate for the civilian post of Navy secretary.

His name is Richard Spencer, and he’s a former financial industry executive. Spencer is also a former Marine Corps captain.


The White House says Spencer most recently was managing partner of Fall Creek Management, a privately held management consulting company in Wyoming. Spencer also was vice chairman and chief financial officer for Intercontinental Exchange Inc., a financial market company, and president of Crossroads Group, a venture capital firm that was bought by Lehman Brothers in 2003.

Trump’s first choice for Navy secretary, businessman Philip Bilden, withdrew from consideration in February. Bilden cited privacy concerns and the difficulty of separating from his business interests.

The Senate must approve of Spencer’s nomination.

Articles

The Army is using this FPS video game to help design its weapons of the future

The Army is currently seeking soldiers to provide feedback through online gameplay in order to contribute to the development of the future force.


Operation Overmatch is a gaming environment within the Early Synthetic Prototyping effort. Its purpose is to connect soldiers to inform concept and capability developers, scientists and engineers across the Army.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
(Photo from U.S. Army)

“What we want is two-way communication, and what better medium to use than video games,” said Army Lt. Col. Brian Vogt, ESP project lead with U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command’s Army Capabilities Integration Center.

Through a collaborative effort between TRADOC, U.S. Army Research and Development Command and Army Game Studio, Operation Overmatch was created to encourage soldier innovation through crowd-sourcing ideas within a synthetic environment.

“Soldiers have the advantage of understanding how equipment, doctrine and organization will be used in the field — the strengths and weaknesses,” said Michael Barnett, chief engineer at the Army Game Studio and project lead for Operation Overmatch. “And they have immediate ideas about what to use, what to change and what to abandon — how to adapt quickly.”

Within Operation Overmatch, soldiers will be able to play eight versus eight against other soldiers, where they will fight advanced enemies with emerging capabilities in realistic scenarios.

Players will also be able to experiment with weapons, vehicles, tactics and team organization. Game analytics and soldier feedback will be collected and used to evaluate new ideas and to inform areas for further study.

Currently, the game is in early development, Vogt said.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
A screenshot of the Army’s video game Operation Overmatch. (US Army photo)

One of the benefits of collecting feedback through the gaming environment within ESP is the ability to explore hundreds — if not thousands — of variations, or prototypes, of vehicles and weapons at a fraction of what it would cost to build the capability at full scale, Vogt explained. A vehicle or weapons system that might take years of engineering to physically build can be changed or adapted within minutes in the game.

“In a game environment, we can change the parameters or the abilities of a vehicle by keystrokes,” he said. “We can change the engine in a game environment and it could accelerate faster, consume more fuel or carry more fuel. All these things are options within the game — we just select it, and that capability will be available for use. Of course, Army engineers will determine if the change is plausible before we put it in the scenarios.”

The game currently models a few future vehicles to include variants of manned armored vehicles, robotic vehicles and unmanned aerial vehicles. The scenarios are centered on manned/unmanned teaming at the squad and platoon level in an urban environment. Through game play, soldiers will provide insights about platform capabilities and employment.

Articles

Navy develops laser weapon prototypes for destroyers & cruisers

The Navy plans to arm its destroyers and other ships with high-tech, low-cost ship-board laser weapons engineered to quickly incinerate enemy drones, small boats, aircraft, ships and missiles, service officials told Scout Warrior.


The Office of Naval Research is working on 12-month, $53-million deal with Northrop Grumman to develop a Laser Weapon System Demonstrator through three phases; the phases include an initial design phase, ground-testing phase and then weapons testing at sea aboard a Navy Self Defense test ship, a Northrop statement said.

“The company will design, produce, integrate, and support the shipboard testing of a 150-kilowatt-class solid state (electric) laser weapon system,” the Northrop statement added. “The contract could grow to a total value of $91 million over 34 months if ONR exercises all of its contract options.”

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Northrop Grumman image

Office of Naval Research officials told Scout Warrior an aim of the developmental program is to engineer a prototype weapons for further analysis.

“This system employs multi-spectral target detection and track capabilities as well as an advanced off-axis beam director with improved fiber laser technologies to provide extended target engagement ranges. Improvements of high power fiber lasers used to form the laser beam enable the increased power levels and extended range capabilities. Lessons learned, operating procedures, updated hardware and software derived from previous systems will be incorporated in this demonstration,” Dr. Tom Beutner, director of the Air Warfare and Weapons branch, Office of Naval Research, told Scout Warrior in a written statement a few months ago.

“The possibilities can become integrated prototypes — and the prototypes become reality when they become acquisition programs,” an ONR official said.

It is not yet clear when this weapon might be operational but the intention seems to be to arm surface ships such as destroyers, cruisers and possibly even carriers or an LCS with inexpensive offensive or defensive laser weapons technology.

“It is way too early to determine if this system will ever become operational. Northrop Grumman has been funded to set-up a demo to “demonstrate” the capabilities to senior leadership, who will then determine whether it is an asset worth further funding and turning into a program of record,” a Navy official told Scout Warrior.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
The Afloat Forward Staging Base USS Ponce conducts an operational demonstration of the  Laser Weapon System (LaWS) while deployed to the Arabian Gulf.| U.S. Navy photo by John F. Williams

Both Navy and Northrop Grumman officials often talk about the cost advantages of firing laser weapons to incinerate incoming enemy attacks or destroy enemy targets without having to expend an interceptor missile worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Navy officials describe this as getting ahead of the cost curve.

“For about the price of a gallon of diesel fuel per shot, we’re offering the Navy a high-precision defensive approach that will protect not only its sailors, but also its wallet,” said Guy Renard, director and program manager, directed energy, Northrop Grumman Aerospace Systems.

Meanwhile, the Navy has already deployed one laser system, called the Laser Weapons System, or LaWS, which has been operational for months.

Articles

How this letter from a genius pacifist inspired the US to build the most powerful weapon known to man

A month before World War II, German-born genius Albert Einstein wrote a two-page letter that launched the US into a nuclear arms race against the Nazis.


In the 1939 letter, Einstein warned President Franklin D. Roosevelt that a massive nuclear chain reaction involving uranium could lead to the construction of “extremely powerful bombs of a new type” — the atomic bomb.

Einstein, a pacifist who fled Nazi Germany, learned that three chemists in Berlin were on the brink of perfecting a game-changing weapon after they used nuclear fission to successfully split the uranium atom. The reaction released an unprecedented amount of energy, capable of powering a massive bomb.

“A single bomb of this type, carried by boat and exploded in a port, might very well destroy the whole port together with some of the surrounding territory,” Einstein wrote to Roosevelt.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Photo: US National Archives

Two years later, and after multiple letters from Einstein, the US created the “Manhattan Project,” America’s plan to design and build the most devastating weapons ever produced up to that time.

Because he did not have a security clearance, Einstein didn’t work on the Manhattan Project. But his simple, eloquent formula E=mc2 appeared in physicist Henry DeWolf Smyth’s report, the first official account of the development of the atomic bomb in 1945.

Einstein’s letters played more of a role in the construction of the bomb than his equation. His formula showed that atomic bombs were theoretically possible, but the equation was irrelevant in the actual creation of a bomb.

Here is the letter that launched America’s A-bomb research:

And here’s President Roosevelt’s response to Einstein:

On August 6, 1945, the US dropped a 5-ton atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. The blast killed 80,000 people immediately and leveled four square miles of the city.

Three days later, the US dropped another bomb on Japan’s Nagasaki, killing about 40,000 people instantly; thousands more would die of radiation poisoning.

Eight days later, Japan informally surrendered to the Allied forces, effectively ending World War II.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Photos: US Army Air Force

More from Business Insider:

This article originally appeared at Business Insider Defense. Copyright 2015. Follow BI Defense on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The 9 best Civil War movies

It’s been more than 150 years since Confederate General Robert E. Lee surrendered to Union Army Commander Ulysses S. Grant at Wilmer McLean’s Appomattox home, but the legacy of the Civil War still lingers.

From the recent controversies over Confederate memorials to the tens of thousands of hobbyists who dress in grey and blue every summer to reenact key battles, Americans continue to wrestle with the causes and ramifications of the War Between the States.

These nine films, which cover the conflict from the hallways of Congress to the scorched earth of Bleeding Kansas, are packed with insights and (usually) authentic historical details. Just as importantly, they’re guaranteed to entertain.


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1. Gone with the Wind

Widely considered one of the greatest films of all time, this four-hour epic won 10 Academy Awards, broke box office records, and introduced the myth of the Lost Cause to generations of moviegoers. For the role of Scarlett O’Hara, producer David O. Selznick considered nearly every leading lady in Hollywood–from Katharine Hepburn to Tallulah Bankhead to Lana Turner–before settling on Vivien Leigh, a relatively unknown English actress. Her iconic performance immortalized the character of the spoiled, strong-willed Southern belle.

To cast Clark Gable as Rhett Butler, Selznick had to delay production and give away half his profits. In return, Gable got the most famous exit line in movie history: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Hewing closely to Margaret Mitchell’s bestselling novel, the screenplay features insightful period details (Confederate blockade runners, Carpetbaggers bribing freed slaves for their votes, etc.) and an epic recreation of the burning of Atlanta. While Gone with the Wind has been rightly criticized for misleading viewers about the horrors of slavery, its emotional impact and sweeping scale make it a must-see for anyone interested in the legacy of the Civil War.

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2. Glory

Denzel Washington won his first Academy Award for his portrayal of a runaway slave turned soldier in this captivating drama about the 54th Massachusetts Voluntary Infantry, the first all-black regiment in the history of the US Army. Matthew Broderick stars as Robert Gould Shaw, the white officer who commanded the 54th.

The Confederate Army had recently announced that any captured black Union soldier would be enslaved or killed alongside his white officers, and Shaw had doubts about the unit’s chances for success. But he was impressed by the soldiers’ grit and determination in the face of relentless discrimination and eventually joined their protest to be paid the same as white soldiers.

Tasked with the impossible mission to take Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, Shaw and the men of the 54th fought with incredible courage. Their sacrifice is memorialized in a bronze statue in Boston Common, which inspired screenwriter Kevin Jarre to pay tribute to their story.

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3. Lincoln

Daniel Day-Lewis spent a full year researching Abraham Lincoln’s life in preparation for his Oscar-winning turn as the 16th president of the United States. The result is a tender, lived-in portrayal of the man behind the myth–from his slumped shoulders and high-pitched Illinois twang to his unwavering sense of conviction.

Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tony Kushner draws on Doris Kearns Goodwin’s biography Team of Rivals to dramatize the political machinations involved in the passage of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution. Lincoln knew that the permanent abolition of slavery was necessary to the nation’s survival but had to race against the clock to get the bill passed before the South could negotiate peace.

By revealing the drama and intrigue behind one of Congress’s most significant pieces of legislation, director Steven Spielberg offers a civics lesson as thrilling as it is necessary.

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4. Gettysburg

Originally planned as a TV miniseries, this four-hour epic based on Michael Shaara’s Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Killer Angels stars Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, and Martin Sheen. Director James Maxwell convinced the National Park Service to allow him to film on the actual Gettysburg battlefield, and thousands of Civil War reenactors came from all over the country to recreate crucial moments in the three-day campaign, including the assault on Devil’s Den and Pickett’s Charge.

The film, like the novel, focuses on the decisions and actions of key players including General Robert E. Lee (Sheen), Lieutenant General James Longstreet (Berenger), and Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain (Daniels). Daniels, in particular, delivers a rousing performance as the commander of 20th Maine Volunteer Infantry Regiment, whose stout defense of Little Round Top against repeated Confederate assaults helped to turn the tide of the battle and the war. With its massive scale, brilliant cinematography, and rigorous attention to historical detail, Gettysburg does justice to the deadliest battle in US history.

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5. The Civil War

When it was first broadcast on five consecutive nights in September 1990, this documentary miniseries drew an average of 14 million viewers per night–the largest audience in the history of PBS. Over the course of nine episodes, director Ken Burns and his team of researchers, video editors, historians, and actors unspooled the full story of the Civil War, from John Brown’s uprising at Harper’s Ferry to Lincoln’s assassination and the capture of John Wilkes Booth.

Inspired by Matthew Brady’s photographs of the conflict, Burns used a panning and zooming technique (thereafter known as the “Ken Burns effect”) to bring to life roughly 16,000 still images. Excerpts from the letters and diaries of Robert E. Lee, Walt Whitman, Frederick Douglass, and less-known historical figures such as Mary Chestnut and George Templeton Strong provide an intimate perspective on large-scale events like the Battle of Gettysburg and Sherman’s March to the Sea.

The Civil War reignited popular interest in America’s bloodiest conflict and helped to pave the way for bingeable TV documentaries such as The Jinx and OJ: Made in America.

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6. Cold Mountain

Based on Charles Frazier’s blockbuster novel of the same name, this Anthony Minghella-directed epic is the story of W.P. Inman (Jude Law), a Confederate deserter trying to make his way home to North Carolina in the final months of the Civil War. Gravely wounded in the Battle of the Crater and recovering in a field hospital, Inman decides to leave the war when he reads a letter from his beloved, Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman), imploring him to do just that.

While Inman and the other Cold Mountain men have been off fighting, Ada has been struggling to work her deceased father’s farm. Eventually she’s helped in her efforts by Ruby Thewes (Renée Zellweger in an Oscar-winning performance), an unlettered woman well-versed in the hardscrabble life of a subsistence farmer.

The film brilliantly interweaves Inman’s encounters with all manner of desperate characters–from ribald preachers to villainous Confederate Home Guards –and scenes of Ada and Ruby learning to fend for themselves. Natalie Portman, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Brendan Gleeson, Donald Sutherland, and Jack White round out the all-star cast of this story of war-torn country and lovers.

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7. Ride with the Devil

Starring Tobey Maguire, Skeet Ulrich, Jewel, and Jeffrey Wright, this underrated film is based on Daniel Woodrell’s novel Woe to Live On. Maguire stars as young Missouri farmer Jake Roedel, who joins the Bushwhackers, a pro-Confederate guerrilla force, when his German immigrant father is killed by pro-Union Jayhawkers from Kansas.

Alongside his best friend Jack Bull Chiles (Ulrich), Roedel roams the border between Kansas and Missouri, skirmishing with Union regulars and irregulars. But when the Bushwhackers, led by militiaman William Quantrill (John Ales), raid Lawrence, Kansas and massacre 150 unarmed men and boys, Roedel must ask himself where his loyalties truly lie.

Jeffrey Wright delivers a stellar performance as a freed slave who fights for the South, and director Ang Lee brings deep sensitivity and impressive historical accuracy to this searing portrayal of a largely forgotten chapter of the Civil War.

www.youtube.com

8. The Horse Soldiers

This John Ford-directed Civil War Western is loosely based on the real story of Grierson’s Raid, a daring Union cavalry incursion some six hundred miles into hostile territory that set the stage for the siege of Vicksburg, Mississippi.

John Wayne stars as Colonel John Marlowe, a railroad construction engineer who leads his men on a mission to destroy a railroad and supply depot in Newton’s Station, Mississippi. When a Southern belle overhears the brigade’s plans, Marlowe is forced to take her and her slave, Lukey, captive. Legendary tennis ace Althea Gibson, the first black woman to win a Grand Slam title, was cast as Lukey but objected to the character’s scripted stereotypical “Negro” dialect. Ford had the dialogue changed at her request.

With Ford’s dynamic visual style and a well-matched rivalry between Wayne’s colonel and William Holden as a regimental surgeon haunted by the horrors of warfare, The Horse Soldiers captures the drama and audacity of one of the war’s most brilliant campaigns.

www.youtube.com

9. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

Inspired by real-life rumors of lost Confederate gold, this epic spaghetti Western follows three gunslingers across a southwestern landscape ravaged by the Civil War. Clint Eastwood is Blondie (The Good), a lone-wolf bounty hunter with a sense of justice; Lee van Cleef is Angel Eyes (The Bad), a cold-blooded mercenary who never lets a contract killing go unfulfilled; and Eli Wallach is Tuco (The Ugly), a voluble Mexican bandit wanted for a long list of crimes.

As these drifters cross and double-cross each other in pursuit of 0,000 in buried treasure, Union and Confederate forces clash for control of the New Mexico Territory. In director Sergio Leone’s vision of the Civil War, neither side fights with honor. Greed, violence, and stupidity rule the day. With brilliant cinematography and an iconic score by Ennio Morricone, The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly is one of the 20th century’s most unique and influential films.

This article originally appeared on Explore The Archive. Follow @explore_archive on Twitter.

Articles

Photos from the US military’s major training exercise with Australia and New Zealand

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
An Australian Army soldier from 5th Battalion, Royal Australian Regiment, moves across the ‘battlefield’ in the early hours of the morning during Exercise Hamel 2016, in Cultana training area, South Australia, on 6 July 2016. | Commonwealth of Australia


It’s summer and it seems like the perfect season for nations to begin training their troops with major operations. Australia is no exception as it launches its annual Army training, Exercise Hamel.

Named after The Battle of Hamel at France in 1918, the exercise takes its roots from its successful attack on German positions by Australian forces in conjunction with American units — paving the way for an allied victory of World War I.

Keeping up with this spirit, the Australians will host over 8,000 troops during its trilateral exercise in South Australia — including US Marines and soldiers, and the New Zealand Army.

Check out the photos of what went down down-under.

US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
US Marines move to their first objective point during Exercise Hamel at Cultana Training Area, South Australia, Australia. Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

An Australian Army soldier moves across the mock battlefield in the early hours of the morning.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

A platoon sergeant looks at a map of Cultana Training Area in order to complete his objective.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marine officers pass information by radio.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

Marines press forward for patrol.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

Troops found themselves moving in and out of rocky trenches.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A rifleman scans the area outside of the objective.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A US anti-tank missileman looks for activity from the trenches.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
An infantry unit leader sights in to look for enemy forces across the cliff.Cpl. Mandaline Hatch/US Marine Corps

US Marines clear trenches in the harsh terrain of South Australia.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

A New Zealand Army soldier drags a “wounded” enemy soldier to safety during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia, as part of Exercise Hamel.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

A New Zealand Army infantry soldier patrols the perimeter of an internally displaced persons camp.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

A Combined Anti-Armor Team HMMWV moves into a screening position in the foliage.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

Australian Army soldiers identify mock enemy positions during the clearance of the township of Iron Knob, South Australia.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

Australian Army soldiers push forward through the town using cover.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

A United States Army soldier engages the enemy forces scattered throughout the town.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

An Australian Army Tiger armed reconnaissance helicopter takes off from the Battlegroup Griffin position at Port Pirie, South Australia.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Commonwealth of Australia

US Marines set a 360 degree security for a simulated aircraft wreck site.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Cpl. Carlos Cruz Jr./US Marine Corps

US Marines prepare for a possible attack in the cover of darkness.

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
Lance Cpl. Osvaldo L. Ortega III/US Marine Corps

MIGHTY MOVIES

10 Questions with Tom Skerritt: Hollywood icon and US Air Force veteran

You may know Tom Skerritt for his iconic roles (Viper in Top Gun, anyone?) or his tell-tale mustache. But did you know he is an Air Force veteran? WATM had the opportunity to sit down with this Hollywood legend to learn more about his childhood, his work ethic and his time in service. Here are 10 questions with the unbeatable Tom Skerritt: 

  1. Can you share about your family and your life growing up?

My parents suffered through the Depression and lost quite a bit through it. I was born toward the end of the Depression and we had hard times and lived in Detroit. Detroit was a depression ridden city; I didn’t know the differences as a kid. I thought it was how life is. My school had creative programs where we were in public schools growing up. We had dance, shop, painting and similar programs. One Saturday morning a month, a school bus would take us to creative venues and I remember getting off the bus in front of the Detroit Institute of Arts. The first thing I see is Rodin’s The Thinker in front of the museum. I was about 7 or 8 years old then and am thinking, “naked guy, sitting on the toilet without the sports section.” We go into the museum and see a bronze plaque with a Shakespeare phrase, “There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” It stands as a distinct memory because the teacher had us write these things down, so it sticks with me. I then remember seeing a painting at the museum by Diego Rivera that was just so powerful. I had not seen anything like that so full of opinion, feeling, talent and genius.

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The Detroit Institute of Arts with Rodin’s The Thinker in front. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
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Rodin’s The Thinker in front of the DIA. Photo credit dia.org.

The next time was a Saturday morning where they took us to a rehearsal for a concert to be done that night. We were setting in the hall and out comes this guest conductor. He was Arturo Toscanini, who was a great conductor of the 20th century. He was very old and physically in bad shape. He was dressed in white and his hair was shooting off in every direction like Albert Einstein. He looked like a white angel. He raised the baton and physically he became thirty years old. He straightened out and came alive like a ballerina conducting this orchestra. The sound of it was unbelievable and he was yelling at them in Italian throughout the rehearsal. These two moments compelled me by knowing there was another world out there beyond the common neighborhood I grew up in. It stayed with me — to know there is something more to this life than the Depression. 

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The Rivera Court at the Detroit Institute of Arts. Photo credit dia.org.
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Diego Rivera’s artwork Detroit Industry, South Wall in the Detroit Institute of the Arts. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
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Arturo Toscanini. Photo credit wikipedia.com.
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Toscanini conducting an orchestra. Photo credit gramophone.co.uk.
  1. What made you want to join the Air Force and what was your experience like?

My father instructed me to get a trade after high school and nothing really registered to me, so I enlisted in the Air Force. I knew I needed direction and discipline. I needed something to accept as progress. I thought I could learn to fly… what did I know at 17? My older brother was a P-51 Mustang pilot in WWII so there was a dream there to do something bigger. I was very proud of my older brother where he was more like a father than my father could be. The Air Force gave me a purpose.  I learned so much about the country by just being in the Air Force. It is a wonderful frame of reference that informs my intelligence and how I look at life. 

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A P-51 Mustang utilized by US forces in WWII. Photo credit nationalinterest.org.

The Air Force was about me taking in where I was. My duty station was the Bergstrom Air Force Base, which is now closed. I got a lot out of living close to Austin, Texas. They offered me a promotion if I re-enlisted where I decided I needed an education and should use the GI Bill. The military made me feel like I needed to have that college education. I didn’t get to fly, but I sure tried. I didn’t know the math or anything towards flying. I didn’t have a frame of reference of what was required to be a pilot. 

After service for four years in the Air Force I used the GI Bill to go to UCLA. At that time UCLA was affordable where it was about $150 a year to study there. The GI Bill basically helped me pay the rent. I could go over to the West LA VA center for anything else I needed. LA in the 1960’s was laid back, easy and was nice then. I look back at LA with a great favor and what it gave me from going to school, learning to write, act and direct and the career I have. It makes me so damn appreciative of all it. The military was good for me and hope I was good for it.

I went to the university and studied English. The previous experiences with creative endeavors pushed more towards doing something creative. My other older brother used to play music for me as well when we were growing up, especially when our parents were out. My brother introduced me to classical music and jazz like Charlie Parker and Billie Holliday. The exuberance my brother exhibited when listening to the music and speaking of it left an indelible impression on me. I saw Citizen Kane growing up and was so impressed with it I decided I am going to write and direct that movie. I set the bar high.  

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Michael Ironside and Tom Skerritt in Top Gun. Photo credit fighterjetsworld.com.

I thought of having to understand writing and how it is to be an actor. So, I decided to take courses in acting and it would help me get through my shy phase. I was doing some local theater outside of UCLA to work with professional actors. Everything was about the challenge and going after it. After I got hired on a small film, I came out wanting to know how it was all put together, the sets, the actors and the writing. During this time, two people I became friends with were Robert Redford and Sydney Pollack.  

I found the quotes on leadership by John Wooden, a UCLA coach and professor at the time, to be so life giving, especially with how he influenced the players. He gave his guys a way of looking at things that they wouldn’t consider as athletes. I think the small things that your brain picks up across life sticks with you, which he taught the players. Wooden had a great philosophy approach to doing what you got to do. Whether it was passing a ball to another player where you just pass the damn thing or bigger in life. Wooden would instruct in such a way that was a lot more than just passing a ball. 

While at UCLA, I became friends with a neighbor who was a TV director where he hired me to do a couple acting jobs and TV work. I was mentored by him in film making, editing them and how he looked at the business. One day he calls up and says, ‘I have a movie to direct’. That movie turned out to be M*A*S*H and the director was Robert Altman. The studio initially hated the film where they weren’t going to release it. Altman got the critics to review it and they went berserk. Mentorship was a day to day thing from those in the industry where it was very important to me and my career. 

When I had completed M*A*S*H, an up and coming director named Hal Ashby connected with me. I started mentoring with him for about three years, so I was being mentored by Ashby and Altman at the same time. These guys invited me to see their work and wanted to be friends. I was then hired to do movies in Italy for over four years. 

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UCLA in the mid-20th century. Photo credit Amazon.com.
  1. What are you most proud of from your service in the USAF?

My service in the Air Force… I was a classification specialist at Bergstrom. If there was a motor vehicle airman in some air base in Italy, I would have to select them to be sent to Korea or wherever off the base. It was not what I wanted to have, but it was okay. 

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A Bergstrom AFB display of their aircraft. Photo credit fortwiki.com.
  1. What values have you carried over from the Air Force back into the civilian world? 

Focus and discipline with a better sense of who I was. 

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The Bergstrom AFB Twelfth Air Force HQ in the mid-1960s. Photo credit af12.acc.af.mil.
  1. What was one of the toughest lessons to learn coming from the service to Hollywood?

I don’t have one other than a lesson from childhood — an old man told us young kids to “just keep moving.” Every day I am writing, and people ask me why I work so hard. I am busy working on Triple Squirrels where we are collecting a lot of documentaries that have been on shelves for years. All of this stuff is still related to film. We are covering artists doing unique things in the Pacific North West from great fishing rivers from Idaho to the Pacific Ocean or some guy who claims he saw the sasquatch which is a legendary character in the forest. The man filmed it and it looks like a moose and not the sasquatch where the man was so serious about the event. Five guys up in Bellingham all had that common purpose, let’s put a motorcycle together that can break the land speed record. Unfortunately, the motor blew out on the motorcycle while running it at the salt flats before it could break the record. 

It is all wonderful, entertaining stuff such as glass workers like Dale Chihuly, one of the great glass artists in the world lives up here. It’s guys doing imaginative stuff. I keep going back to that and the imagination is such a gift to us human beings and sets us apart from all the other animals. It makes us curious and gives us the highs and lows that we have emotionally. It gives us the questions we have where it is all driven by our imaginative experience. The Air Force is the same thing with imagining to fly and being able to fly. I had a little bit of that experience in Top Gun, which made me feel like I was the real thing. 

All of these things of being an actor and writer and director where I look back on all of it and say, “Holy shit man, did you really cover some territory where you have some advantages that you could employ to give to other people?” There is one thing from the service such as having the back of the other person and you are looking out for them. That was one of the big things I loved about the military. In the military, you have the training to be aware of other people for their benefit and your own. Not always the same in the civilian world 

The ‘Finest Hours’ captures old school Semper Paratus
A screenshot of the Triple Squirrels website. Photo credit triplesquirrels.com.
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A picture of Dale Chihuly with his artwork The Sun in London Berkeley Square in 2014 . Photo credit news.artnet.com
  1. What are your most favorite projects to have worked on?

I was fortunate to have worked with Ashby, Altman and then into The Turning Point which starred Mikhail Baryshnikov, Anne Bancroft and Shirley MacLaine. All of these extraordinary people that I worked with where how could I pick out one favorite from M*A*S*H to Alien with Ridley Scott? Alton, Ashby and Ridley Scott were new when I worked with them. I met Tony Scott on the set of Alien, which led me to being involved in Top Gun. Being in films with just wonderful people from craft and how they approached life itself and how they applied it to the work they did. M*A*S*H was the best time I ever had in anything where I knew we had something and no one else did except, Altman and I. I just knew he was going to do something remarkable with all of the shooting he was doing. Alien was done about seven to eight years after M*A*S*H where those two films are in the top twenty-five films of the 20th century. So, I wanted to work to the level of Citizen Kane…*Tom laughs.

My getting close to Citizen Kane is being in two of the top films of the 20th century and then Top Gun and A River Runs Through It. All quite different with different approaches as an actor to each one of them. Doing interesting real people in every one of them where you had to make it real. It is hard to pick one out.

You bring all your past experiences into the roles you do in the future. My whole sense about life itself its how much of the good and not so good that you ingest and reject. All of it is there. This goes back to the Shakespeare quote from earlier, “there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” The creative process I began and later on understood what that meant. You have to have thinking processes based on what your imagination has to draw upon. I understand this through writing and looking back. I understand that everything leads to the next day, everything I got from life, the military, which has given me this discipline to write every day, it has given me a sense that words have value. That is not something you are conscious of, it is just who you are and part of who you are.  

For me having been in a situation to the military and bringing it to a role, you’re damn right it is still with me. I appreciate it and still do. I still have my gig line and can remember my serial number 16401805!  Why would I remember these things if they didn’t have something meaningful for me? You know about your posture as well from the military. 

Doing “Picket Fences” in the 90s for four years and getting sixteen Emmys over four years for best show, actor, writer and that sort of stuff. To be in that environment, especially high end, you get spoiled in it and I admit that. It is an unusual career for a person that wants to be a writer and director. I did some directing on David E. Kelly’s TV shows such as “Picket Fences” and “Big Little Lies”. Kelley was another mentor of mine which he makes about the best TV can get. 

What I am trying to give people through Triple Squirrels is the enjoyment of their own imagination. I ought to try and fish, or try to mess around with some glass, or get some scrap metal and make a motorcycle. You feel better about yourself when you feel there is something you might be able to do that makes you feel good. Life is largely a stew with salt, pepper and onions where you come up with this extraordinary stew of life. 

I am trying to share a lot about life where I have been working with young filmmakers to get in touch with themselves. They want to make a movie like someone else where you make your own movie based on who you are and what comes out of that. 

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Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt and Donald Sutherland in MAS*H. Photo credit IMDB.com.
  1. Can you share about some of your experiences working on “Gunsmoke”, “The FBI”, “Bonanza”, “The Virginian”, “Combat!”, “12 O’Clock High”, “Pickett Fences” and then on M*A*S*H, Alien, The Dead Zone, Top Gun, A River Runs Through It, Tears of the Sun and the like?

A great sense of gratitude and appreciation and good fortune to be able to do all of that. I don’t think many people in the business I am in have not had that overreaching of two or three decades of extraordinary projects. Stage acting is quite different than TV and motion pictures. Each one has a different approach to it. TV is always geared for twelve-minute segments before going to commercial. You have an unreal behavioral pattern in TV more so than film or stage or real life. In TV you have to get the answers real quick, respond real quick and draw that gun and shoot a guy. In film you want to resolve the issue more without the shooting.  Let’s get down to see what we really want to work out here. On stage it becomes never getting around to shoot each other it is about getting to understand each other. Your honest engagement of that story in resolving our difference of opinion in theater, film is different and in TV you are working towards a commercial. TV lacks the grace of film and the courage stage has. 

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Skerritt in the tv show “Combat!”. Photo credit twitter.com.
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Tom in the tv show “12 O’Clock High”. Photo credit

For Top Gun I read the script where I didn’t know who the director was at the time. I thought it was really solid and then heard that Tony Scott was going to direct it. I heard about the film like having heard about Ridley doing Alien. I read the Alien script and thought it was solid where they had only been to me, so Ridley was not attached to it that early on. Top Gun was already going to be done with the budget and good producers. I knew nothing else and then found out Tony was going to direct. It came together and then met Tom Cruise in the office to meet with Tony and with the producers. Tom was out in the waiting area with me. I had seen Tom act in Risky Business and thought he was a good young actor. I said to him, “you are a pretty good actor, where did you come up with that juice?” Tom responded, “By watching guys like you, Sir.” I thought, “Wow, a young gentleman that appreciated his opportunity in Top Gun.” He was not egomaniacal the way some actors can be in the movie business where it is all about me. For me I am always learning so I never felt that way where Top Gun is that type of thing where Tony is teaching me as well. 

I get it from Ridley on Alien and then from Tony where they were both similar. They were both soccer players and believe in getting into rhythms as athletes and musicians do. All of these rhythms come into what we do. I felt very strong about Tony and for one of the few times really pushed to get into the film. Some of the producers felt I was too lethargic or casual and not military enough. I had been in the military so I could pull that one off going back with the gig line on and pack into that presence you had when you were in the service. 

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Tom with James Woods, Jodie Foster, and Geoffrey Blake in Contact. Photo credit Pinterest.

Once I got the role, I met the actual Top Gun commander. I used him as he was a thoughtful guy. I think the producers wanted someone who would be barking at the guys and getting on them all the time. I didn’t think the officer had to be someone shouting at other people. You just look them in the eye and say, “Why would do such a dumb thing as that? What accounts for that behavior you pulled off out there because you didn’t pull it off that’s why you are in this office right now?” 

The reality of our life informs us in how we perform and that’s really all I could do in getting that role. To work with Tony, that script and then Tom Cruise pulled it all together. I was very sure about that film being very successful before I got into it. The instincts come back to me from going back into the Air Force where they never leave you. It becomes all things if you are conscious of them or not. They do lead our behavior patterns and how we pursue our life we have to live. I am delighted to have the life I have even with all of the not so good. 

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Tom Cruise, Anthony Edwards, Michael Ironside and Tom Skerritt in Top Gun. Photo credit IMDB.com.
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Dylan McDermott, Julia Roberts and Tom Skerritt in Steel Magnolia. Photo credit Pinterest.com.
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Tom Skerritt with the cast from Alien. Photo credit IMBD.com.
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Craig Sheffer, Brad Pitt and Tom Skerritt in A River Runs Through It. Photo credit NY Times.
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Skerritt with the cast of “Picket Fences”. Photo credit imdb.com.
  1. What leadership lessons in life and from the USAF have helped you most in your career?

Self worth and the will to do more. I don’t feel all that I need to do and all that I can do. There is a lot to learn still. When you have that in your life it is a big purpose. 

When I started hearing about veterans coming home from the Middle East with severe PTSD during the 2000s, I felt responsibility for them. I was not in a position to do it for them when it pulled on me. I was able to level out through setting up a writing program for them. In some way this is all a gift where you just fully appreciate the best you can give. We, through the Red Badge Program, took veterans down to Ft. Lewis-McChord AFB to teach those guys coming back how to utilize PTSD experience in terms of telling a story. Usually the bad stuff of what happened took place when under extreme stress. We had teachers come in to teach them how to tell their story and the best way they possibly can. It has to do with these dealing with their own feelings and being able to express that. 

The best way for me to relate to veterans is from some of my own PTS experiences. During the 60s and 70s as a young father and husband I had to deal with some intense family issues, many times dealing with the safety of my children. I was on 24/7 surveillance and did not always know when and who to trust. It was a tough time for me personally, but a good time for me professionally where acting was this cathartic release for me. Things did get better for me and my family thankfully.

We had musicians come in to play music for them so they could write lyrics to the music. The veterans came out of their feeling so much better about themselves. I had veterans come up to me and tell me, “I was ready to do myself in. You saved my life.”  We had it for about seven or eight years where it was a hot news item with so many veterans committing suicide. We had to teach the veterans off base at the University of Washington-Tacoma branch because the military was not consistent with us since we were some soft, fluffy thing. The military was keeping veterans from coming at times, which stood in the way of what we were doing.  We were able to set up a community away from the military where they can feel comfortable in that environment without being evaluated. I gave the veterans my stories and they gave me theirs where we could trust each other. That’s really what they got. Most often they said, “I could trust myself; I got a trust of people and I felt like I could be true.” That sounds simple, but it’s not simple. 

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Skerritt speaking to a group of veterans about The Red Badge Project. Photo credit the Eastoregonian.com.
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Tom Skerritt supporting veteran hiring through The Red Badge Project. Photo credit Army.mil.
  1. How do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

The Hollywood arena has changed so much where I don’t know how it works anymore. Most of the films I was involved had a good story line. It was always about the story first. Hollywood has gotten so much into nine-digit budget films in the summer being a financial resource. Once you get to there its like saying, “I know it all.” They would make their own audience, age 17-39, from the early 90s on with every generation that came along they would replicate the same special effects, same story line just realigned to where they lost touch with the good stories they could tell. The screenplays became soft from then on and once they are soft there is nothing shocking about it. When you make films that have a lot to do with shooting and killing, some of it may be comedy, but it is the most influential of mediums, so you must be responsible. We have a responsibility to do the best we possibly can for the audience. It’s not the right approach to have aggressive, hostile and angry films like how to blow some up. Whatever it may be, and it does influence impressionable young minds. It does influence some kids in high schools killing other students. It does influence people. 

The concern with studios and blockbuster ran out about six summers ago. All of those films had a sense of darkness and fear in them. We are running downhill where people are not reacting the same way they used to be scared. It is the same in so many ways that you have seen before. Once the reaction is gone you don’t return to the movies where less tickets have been sold the last six summers. Studios realized how in debt they were and always relied on big blockbusters to bring revenue back to the studios. When the revenue falls out you still have a lot of bills to pay. We are in a pit now in the lion’s den with movies. Hollywood will make some crafty films but will not be making as many as before.

  1. What are you most proud of in life and your career?

I don’t think that way, where I am just grateful to have done so many projects. It has been extraordinary where working in Europe and Italy for three or four years and seeing ruins of great civilizations and the Renaissance buildings. Finding that only culture can come from conflict and resolution. We are in the deepest conflict here in America right now. We should be concerned about where we are going. What am I most proud of? I don’t know how to answer that because I have had a lot of good fortune. I am proud of what I can say to you and proud to have the capabilities and the wife I have and the children that I have. I know what they have had to go through with me, and they are still with me and we have that love. I have this wonderful woman, Julia where we have been together for 25 years. I have to tell you I appreciate her beyond words in a way that I could not if I hadn’t had all of these other life experiences, I related to you. That is the first time I ever said that. I have this woman I have now. I am also proud to have been in the US military. 

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Tom with Julie. Photo credit Pinterest.com.
Articles

These 7 recruiting ads from around the world just might get you to sign up (again)

The military recruiting playbook in the U.S. is pretty standard. The commercials show off the coolest gear while epic music plays. Maybe a Medal of Honor recipient makes an appearance.


Around the world, nations like Canada and Russia take a similar tack while Ukraine and others go with a quieter ad that focuses on the individual soldiers.

1. The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command

The Canadian Special Operations Forces Command keep it simple when making their commercial in 2013. It’s just a few simple, repeating music notes and a highlight reel of cool stuff they do, from rappelling out of planes to violently ending hostage standoffs.

2. The Swedish Military

Sweden wants you to know that their military may not dominate feature a lot of awesome special effects, but they have some great careers where you get to make a difference. It’s shockingly honest. Wanna bet Swedish soldiers still complain about their recruiters lying to them?

3. The Ukrainian Armed Forces

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p7mj8KGRgKI

Ukraine is recruiting soldiers while fighting a much larger and more powerful military. Their commercial reminds Ukrainians that troops come from all backgrounds but come together to defend their people from violence.

4. The Russian Navy

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IWK03XePbXk

The Russian Navy commercial is pretty high-speed, but features a few unexpected scenes like when the naval gun turns towards the camera at 1:50 with the barrel covered. Of course, the glimpses of sailors working out shirtless around the 2:00 mark were expected.

A Russian Army commercial from the same time is also good.

5. Finland Defence Forces

Sure, you can have a normal job instead, but Finland wants their potential recruits to know that they could have a range target as a resume, an armored vehicle for their drive to work, and have their trade secrets protected by thick steel doors. It’s a quiet but poignant ad.

6. Australian Army

The Australian Army commercial feels more like the opening to a new TV show than a military recruitment ad. It features photogenic troops in parades and hangars while zero people fire a weapon. It also mentions the surprisingly small number of troops they field, less than 45,000.

7. Japanese Army

The Japanese Army walks a fine line. Japan became a relatively un-military country after World War II (by design) but is expanding military programs in response to Chinese expansion and terrorist threats. Their recruiting ads reflect this fine line, using innocuous graphics and pink backgrounds right after showing troops on the march.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Mark Hamill confirms how Luke Skywalker returns in ‘The Rise of Skywalker’

Mark Hamill has just seemingly confirmed what every person who has ever seen a Star Wars movie or accidentally heard about Star Wars would have already assumed by just thinking about it for a second. Still, because figuring out the plots to Star Wars movies before they come out is more fun — and easier to do — than forecasting political elections, the following piece of information has to come with a massive warning. What Mark Hamill has said could be viewed as a spoiler that will ruin your enjoyment of Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker, which isn’t really even out for a half-a-year anyway. So, you’ve been warned, if you want to keep reading, this article contains some stuff that Mark Hamill said about how he’s appearing in The Rise of Skywalker. (But if you’ve ever read any kind of book or seen a movie, of any kind, you will have seen this coming by virtue of the fact that you are a person in the world.)


Ready? After Luke Skywalker faded away and joined the Force in The Last Jedi, he will reappear in The Rise of Skywalker as…a Force ghost! On June 20, 2019, the Associated Press posted a brief interview with Hamill in which he said he “hopes” that The Rise of Skywalker is his last Star Wars movie and detailed exactly how Luke will return in the film.

“The fact that I’m involved in any capacity is only because of that peculiar aspect of the Star Wars mythology where if you’re a Jedi, you get to come back and make a curtain call as a Force ghost.”

That’s right, Luke is doing exactly what everyone expected him to do, show up with a little blue aura around his body, and vaguely explain what he can’t and can’t do as a creepy spirit. Then again, who knows? Yoda was a ghost in The Last Jedi and that motherfucker was able to conjure a lightning bolt from the sky and burn down a tree, mostly just to pull a prank and make a complicated diss about Luke not being able to finish reading like six books that had been sitting on the planet for who knows how long.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IZRCIjMWRLg
Star Wars: The Last Jedi Yoda’s Force Ghost Scene [1080p HD]

www.youtube.com

So, will Luke be the kind of ghost who says ghostly things from the sidelines or the kind of ghost who takes Kylo Ren on a Dickensian adventure to show him the error of his ways? Either way, at this moment, we know Mark Hamill’s Luke isn’t the only ghost haunting the next Star Wars film; the long-dead Emperor Palpatine is back, too!

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

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