'CHiPs' gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.

CHiPs star Larry Wilcox was a Marine artilleryman who served in Vietnam.

(USMC)
CHiPs star Larry Wilcox was a Marine artilleryman who served in Vietnam.
(USMC)

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
Wilcox starred in the series ‘CHiPs’ for five seasons and in a 1999 TV reunion movie.
(NBC Television)

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.

www.youtube.com

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

Top 5 holiday movies, according to a veteran

‘Tis the season for yuletide carols, family, gifts, entirely too much food, and, of course, some much-needed downtime. Somewhere between “I swear to defend….” and getting that sacred DD-214, many of us developed quite the affinity for film and television.

So, it’s only natural that we spend our downtime getting together on the nostalgia train to binge watch a few of our favorites. Christmas might be over, but there’s still time to enjoy these must-see holiday films. So, grab your spiked eggnog, a warm blanket, and snuggle up for a day’s worth of cinema magic as you pretend the break isn’t rapidly coming to an end.


‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Tim Allen is comedic greatness in this role.

(Walt Disney Pictures)

‘The Santa Clause’

The greatness of this film lies in two words: Tim Allen. His comedic timing is great here, and it really serves the premise of the movie: a dad kills Santa Claus and is forced to become Santa himself.

I mean, it’s a completely impossible narrative (Santa Claus is immortal, duh), but it’s fun all the way through.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

This one is for all the dads

(20th Century Fox)

‘Jingle All The Way’

This one’s another movie about a dad and holiday hijinks. Arnold Schwarzenegger is on the search for a near-impossible-to-find toy in a quest to buy the affections of his son. In a lot of ways, this movie from the ’90’s has proven to be prophetic for its time. Much of the shenanigans that Schwarzenegger’s character experiences have become the standard holiday shopping experience.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

No holiday season is complete without Kevin.

(20th Century Fox)

‘Home Alone’

By now, you’ve probably noticed that parental neglect and aloofness is a bit of theme among the items on this list — but Home Alone cranks it up to full blast.

Kevin McCallister, as played by the immortal Macaulay Culkin, became the iconic ’90s smartass that indirectly shaped a generation. In the film, Kevin proves to be more than capable when he defends his family home against would-be invaders using nothing but wit and a closet full of toys.

It’s sheer conjecture, but we’re sure Kevin McCallister grew up and served — that resourcefulness says “veteran.”

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Yippee ki yay, MF.

(Silver Pictures)

‘Die Hard’

John. Mc. Clane.

Die Hard is definitely the most non-holiday movie on this list but, make no mistake, it is absolutely a holiday flick! It’s got a Christmas tree and a happy, warm and fuzzy ending.

Close enough for me!

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

It is, literally, a Christmas story.

(Metro-Godwyn-Mayer)

‘A Christmas Story’

“You’ll shoot your eye out!”

It’s one of the most iconic lines in cinema history, but it’s not even the best in the film. A Christmas Story is brilliantly written, fantastically acted, and features some of the best narration in film.

This one is to be viewed, preferably, on Christmas Day, but as long as there’s snow on the ground, it’s still good.

MIGHTY MOVIES

6 things military veterans will love about History’s ‘Six’

In season two of History’s Six, Olivia Munn joins the cast as CIA officer Gina Cline. Walton Goggins returns as Richard “Rip” Taggart, who was dramatically rescued in the last season. Led by Barry Sloans’ Joe “Bear” Graves, the team will hit Eastern Europe (even as far as Chechnya) this season to track down a terror network.

Veterans are hard to please when it comes to depicting military life and veterans onscreen. We demand accuracy. We demand realism. Most of the time, we find ourselves disappointed. History’s Six will not disappoint you.

Suspend your disbelief for a moment, fellow veterans. To be perfectly fair, there’s a lot to like and a lot to overlook when it comes to Six — just like any other show on television. Not everyone is going to be a fan. But there is so much more to like from Six. Even the most discerning veteran will find that Six is better than they expected.


1. The realism is relative — and that’s okay

This is something vets have a hard time getting over. Every veteran knows Hollywood gets a lot wrong about the military. There are some egregious examples out there. Some of those make it look like they don’t even try — looking at you, Basic. There are some in which the producers take a few too many liberties for dramatic license, like Jarhead. Despite solid source material, there were just a few things that would never happen in the Marine Corps.

 

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
If you’re an NCO who actually fired an M60-E3 in the air with your shirt off while surrounded by hundreds of Marines at a bonfire, I apologize.

A lot of the screen gems that veterans love are, in some way, dramatized or unrealistic. Full Metal Jacket is an anti-war movie, but vets embraced it as their own, whether they supported the Vietnam War or not. Heartbreak Ridge has little to do with the realistic Marine Corps, beyond the depiction of U.S. forces dialing in artillery support on Grenada using a credit card. So lighten up, Francis.

2. “Ripped from the headlines” stories

Last season, the show took on Boko Haram, the Sub-Saharan terror organization that was behind the Chibok School Girls Kidnapping (of “Bring Back Our Girls” infamy). The group continues its kidnapping and terror reign in the country to this day. One the show, the SEAL team’s leader was kidnapped by Boko Haram and they spent the season dealing with the aftermath and rescue of Walton Goggins’ character “Rip.”

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
You might learn something.

This season takes the team to Eastern Europe to track a clandestine jihadist cell led by a mysterious figure known as “Michael.” If you haven’t been paying attention to the news, Eastern Europe is the front line to a new Cold War, where Russian and American intelligence agencies work to take down terrorist organizations like ISIS and a resurgent al-Qaeda. Russian security services have been fighting this battle for years. It was only a matter of time before American special operators got involved.

3. Olivia Munn’s character is a great addition

Look, I actually heard someone say, “SEAL Teams don’t have women.” And they don’t. Not yet. History isn’t depicting a female SEAL — she’s a CIA operative and there are many, many female CIA operatives in the real world. History’s SEAL Team Six is getting their “Maya.”

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
That’s a Zero Dark Thirty reference, y’all. And If you didn’t know, the real-life ‘Maya’ is so hardcore she makes you look squeamish. All of you.

4. The cast were trained by SEALs

Remember that realism thing we were talking about? You are guaranteed to see some outstanding trigger discipline in the cast of Six. Actors Barry Sloane, Kyle Schmid, Edwin Hodge, Juan Pablo Raba, and the rest of the cast went through their own boot camp run by actual Navy SEALs.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
In case you didn’t know, this is what a Navy SEAL looks like (but we don’t know if it was Jocko Willink who trained them).

The cast of Saving Private Ryan had to go through Capt. Dale Dye’s bootcamp just once, so you might think the cast of Six would only have to do it once, too. Nope. They’re going for every freaking season.

5. It’s about family

Most shows, at their cores, are about some kind of family. But what Six does well is that infuses the family drama that comes with being in a tight-knit family unit. Some media outlet somewhere said it was like a “soap opera,” but anyone who’s ever been in a large family — or a large military workcenterknows that routinely going to work with people you live with is a soap opera in itself.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
Imagine all the stupid fights you had with a sibling. Now imagine deploying with them. See what I mean?

6. Action shows are awesome – when done well

I love a good action movie or TV show. I hate a bad one. There’s nothing worse than watching bad lines being read by some marginal actor only to be rewarded by thirty seconds of action maybe every twenty minutes (if you’re lucky). Go watch a recent Steven Seagal movie on Netflix and tell me I’m wrong.

The action in Six is really well-executed, the cast is pretty great, and the visuals are well-done, too.

Season two just started. You have plenty of time to catch up.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The ‘Mercury Seven’ astronauts series teased by NatGeo & Disney+ at Comic-Con

Disney+ launched a Comic-Con@Home 2020 panel for their new scripted series The Right Stuff, which will explore the early days of the U.S. space program through the “Mercury Seven” — the military pilots who became the first NASA astronauts during the space race of the Cold War. “Competing to be the first in space, these ordinary men achieve the extraordinary, inspiring America to turn toward a new horizon of ambition and hope,” boasted Comic-Con International.

The first original scripted series from National Geographic for Disney+ promises to take a “clear-eyed look” at the newly-formed NASA. Set to release in late 2020, the series debuted a first look in a panel moderated by Former NASA Astronaut Dr. Mae Jemison.

Yes, that Dr. Mae Jemison.


Jemison was not only the first African American woman selected for the NASA astronaut program — she was the first woman of color in the world to go into space. Watch the full panel right here:

Blast Off with Disney+’s “The Right Stuff” | Comic-Con@Home 2020

www.youtube.com

The panel revealed the first official clip of the series, introducing Alan Shepard to the uninitiated. Shepard, of course, went on to become the first American to travel to space and he remains on the short list of men who have walked on the moon.

Also read: Mercury 13: The first female astronaut candidates that time forgot

“You gentlemen are accustomed to testing dangerous, unproven aircraft and yet somehow you’ve made it this far in one piece. Most of you have families. You have careers. You have lives. That could all come to an abrupt halt if you sign on to this endeavor. We want to take thirty-two of you to Lovelace Clinic for medical evaluations, but only seven of you will have what it takes. And those seven will be the Mercury Astronauts,” intone the recruiters in the clip.

Warning of the Russian advances, the clip sets the stage for America’s acceleration in space.

“Our very way of life is at stake.”

Watch the exclusive clip:

Official Clip | The Right Stuff | Disney+

www.youtube.com

The original seven astronauts who flew for Project Mercury were Scott Carpenter, Gordon Cooper, John Glenn, Gus Grissom, Wally Schirra, Deke Slayton, and of course, Alan Shepard. Also known as the Original Seven and Astronaut Group 1, they were among America’s finest military pilots. Each of the trailblazers is now deceased, but their legacy lives on.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why the new ‘John Wick 3’ trailer has us pumped

It’s rare for a film franchise to come out of nowhere and blow everyone away to the magnitude of Summit Entertainment’s John Wick. It’s a masterclass in storytelling through a character’s actions as opposed to pointless, exposition-heavy dialogue. The beautiful cinematography and the use of color to tell a story is, frankly, mind-blowing. But all of those elements pale in comparison to the breathtaking action sequences that make up the bulk of the series.

Today, the first trailer for the third installment dropped and it looks like it’s going to be an insane ride from the very beginning. In true John Wick fashion, the trailer doesn’t outright tell you what’s happening, but if you know what you’re looking for, you can piece together everything.


‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Even the poster basically tells you everything about the film if you’ve paid enough attention.

(Lionsgate)

We last saw Keanu Reeves’ John Wick running away from the Bethesda Terrace in New York City’s Central Park. He had a -million bounty on his head after being forced into a hit-job he didn’t want to take. Eventually, Wick kills his mark, but does so in the Continental Hotel, a place designed to be a safe space for assassins. Suddenly, that -million bounty on his head doubled in value.

Now, he’s got to outrun every hitman looking to score a cool million and he no longer has access to any of the amenities offered by the Continental Hotel. The final film will take place moments after he was given a one-hour head start. In this hour, John Wick has to bandage up his wounds and get ready to fight (almost literally) everyone in the underworld.

In the freshly released trailer, John Wick is seen talking to Anjelica Huston’s character, simply known as The Director, who holds a presumably important position on the High Table (basically the UN for crime bosses). Wick asks for safe passage and is, of course, denied. The important detail to note here is that John is wearing the same outfit as he was when he was taking out every assassin in New York, so we can assume he’s still in the Big Apple, and he’s holding a rosary.

Next, we see him running into the New York Public Library and places that rosary along with his marker (a coin that can grant any desire, in the vein of asking a don on the day of his daughter’s wedding), several gold coins, and a photo of he and his wife inside a hollowed-out book. Wick knows he’s about to go to war, but this shows us he intends to return and claim his cache of prized possessions — and we all know that when Wick returns, he does so with a vengeance.

The clock strikes 6 P.M. and all hell breaks loose. The text, “If you want peace, prepare for war” flashes on screen between intense action shots and John Wick arrives in Morocco, where he meets Halle Berry’s character, Sophia, before the action rolls on.

To watch the trailer for yourself, check out the video below:

MIGHTY MOVIES

New John Wick trailer calls for ‘guns – lots of guns’

In the year of highly-anticipated sequels, there’s no franchise we’re more excited to see return to the big screen than John Wick, as the dog-loving former hitman is returning for a third round of ass-kicking with John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum. And based on the latest trailer for Chapter 3, it looks like Keanu Reeves may be borrowing a bit from his other leading role in a major action franchise: Neo from The Matrix.

While the trailer reveals a bit more about the plot and characters, including highlighting the tense relationship between Wick and Sofia (Halle Berry), the real takeaway is the several references made to The Matrix trilogy. Most notably, Wick visits Winston (Ian McShane), the evil owner of the Continental Hotel, and when Winston asks what he needs, Keanu redelivers one of the most iconic lines of his storied action career.


“Guns,” Wick tells Winston. “Lots of guns.”

Immediately following this interaction, the trailer seems to further acknowledge Keanu’s action roots by having Wick take on a bunch of faceless assassins in room that has green-tinted lighting that is unmistakably Matrix-esque. All that is missing is Wick declaring he knows Kung-Fu, though don’t be surprised if they’re saving that for the movie.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019 Movie) New Trailer – Keanu Reeves, Halle Berry

www.youtube.com

Besides the Matrix references, the trailer also features The Director giving Wick an ominous warning.

“There’s no escape for you,” She tells Wick. Later in the trailer, she also wonders why Wick is willing to go through all of this for just a puppy but Wick quickly lets her know Daisy “wasn’t just a puppy.”

John Wick has become perhaps the most beloved action franchise of the last decade, with the first and second films both being a hit with audiences and critics alike. And it looks like the third chapter is kicking the action up a notch, with the trailer showing Wick kicking ass while riding a motorcycle and a horse.

John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum comes to theaters on May 17, 2019.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

This new movie pits a diabolical sniper against Army special operators

We’re always on the look out for new military flicks, and this one caught our eye.


A new sniper movie featuring WWE superstar John Cena and Aaron Taylor Johnson — the nerdy hero in Kick-Ass and Kick-Ass 2 — is hitting theaters in March 2017.

The movie studio describes the film as a deadly psychological thriller that follows two soldiers pinned down by an Iraqi sniper with nothing but a wall between them.

From the looks of the trailer, the bad guy is a psychopath who likes to play with his targets before he takes the killing shot.

It leaves you wondering how in the heck they’ll make it out alive. Here’s the trailer for “The Wall”:

Amazon Studios, YouTube
MIGHTY MOVIES

Revered film and stage actor Bob Gunton has a great story to tell about his service in the Army during Vietnam

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

The grapevine highway. Photo credit SVC History.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.”

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Mr. Gunton as Warden Samuel Norton of Shawshank State Prison. Photo credit to IMDB.com

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.
‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

“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.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Livi with her father. Photo credit Bob Gunton.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Veterans team up in zombie comedy ‘The Dead Don’t Die’

Marine veteran Adam Driver and Navy veteran Sturgill Simpson are joined by a host of stars in director Jim Jarmusch’s zombie comedy “The Dead Don’t Die,” out now on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital.

Jarmusch is an arthouse director best known for underground hits like “Mystery Train,” “Stranger Than Paradise,” “Broken Flowers” and the recent vampire satire “Only Lovers Left Alive.” Actors love working with him, and he’s managed to also cast Bill Murray, Tilda Swinton, Tom Waits, Chloë Sevigny, Danny Glover, RZA from Wu-Tang Clan, Iggy Pop, teen star Selena Gomez and up-and-comer Austin Butler (who shined this summer in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood” and will next play Army veteran Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann’s upcoming biopic).


That’s a lot of star power for an incredibly dry and low-key comedy about how small-town cops deal with a zombie invasion. The script beats its jokes into the ground, and how funny you find the movie is 100% dependent on how much you like that kind of humor.

YouTube

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There’s no one better than Driver to deliver a deadpan joke, and he’s hilarious as the dim deputy who works for Murray’s police chief. Not much happens in Centerville (“A Nice Place to Live,” promises the sign on the edge of town) and Driver’s Officer Ronnie Peterson has obviously had plenty of time to read up on the particulars of zombie invasions.

Driver previously worked with Jarmusch on “Paterson,” a character study about a New Jersey bus driver. It focused on the small details of his life and is a celebration of working-class life. It’s slow but beautiful. And it’s the best performance of Driver’s career to date. (You can stream it if you’ve got Amazon Prime.)

The former Marine is having a huge year. He was Oscar-nominated for his outstanding performance in Spike Lee’s 2018 movie “BlackKklansman.” Driver is again on Oscar watch lists as he stars in “The Report,” an upcoming film in which his character leads an investigation into the CIA’s post-9/11 Detention and Interrogation Program. Finally, he repeats his role as Kylo Ren in this December’s “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker,” the long-promised end to the original nine-movie Star Wars saga.

Sturgill Simpson – The Dead Don’t Die [Official Video]

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Simpson wrote and recorded the theme song for “The Dead Don’t Die.” It’s a hard-core honky-tonk country song, and it’s constantly playing in the background during the movie, either on the radio or from a bootleg CD purchased from the town’s comic book shop. One of the movie’s running jokes is that one of the characters mentions the song and artist every time it’s heard in the movie. “Sturgill Simpson’s ‘The Dead Don’t Die'” is most definitely the phrase heard most often in the movie. Simpson also appears briefly as a guitar-dragging zombie.

Ironically, “The Dead Don’t Die” sounds like the throwback country hit that fans of his breakthrough 2014 album “Metamodern Sounds in Country Music” have long wanted to hear. Simpson won a Grammy for Best Country Album and was nominated for Best Album with the 2016 followup “A Sailor’s Guide to Earth.”

SOUND & FURY (OFFICIAL TRAILER)

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Simspon resumes his music career this Friday with the release of “Sound Fury,” an unapologetic rock album that leaves country music behind, possibly for good. A huge weekend profile in The New York Times suggests that Simpson became disillusioned with Nashville and unhappy with his own country material.

He served in Japan during his Navy stint and developed a love for the country’s manga (comics) and anime (animated films). He completed “Sound Fury” a couple of years ago and decided that he wanted anime films to go along with each song. Simpson enlisted top Japanese artists and sold the finished film to Netflix, where it will premiere Sept. 27, 2019, alongside the LP’s release.

Simpson is obviously both a restless soul and an ornery cuss. Will his country music fans follow him down this new path? It’s a huge and daring risk, one that doesn’t really have a parallel in country, rock, RB or pop music history.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

He also filmed a part in the satirical action movie “The Hunt,” which was also scheduled for theatrical release this weekend before the studio freaked out about recent mass shootings and pulled the movie from release. Will we ever see “The Hunt”? It seems likely that it’ll go straight to home video sometime next year, after everyone forgets the controversy.

Sept. 27, 2019’s still a big day for Sturgill with the album and Netflix film. In the meantime, fans of his earlier music should check out “The Dead Don’t Die” to hear those sweet country western sounds that made him famous.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

How the Navy helped make ‘Hunter Killer’

The submarine thriller “Hunter Killer” (out now on 4K UHD, Blu-ray, DVD and Digital) had a long and complicated journey from book to screen.

Based on the novel “Firing Point” by Navy veteran George Wallace and Don Keith, the Gerard Butler movie was days away from beginning production when Relativity Studios shut down.

After a delay, new director Donovan Marsh joined the project. They regrouped with Summit and made a movie with extensive support from the Pentagon, which envisioned the film as a “Top Gun” for submariners.


Gerard plays Capt. Joe Glass, a maverick who is given command of a sub even though he didn’t go to Annapolis. The Russian president gets kidnapped, and Glass must break the rules to save the world.

Hunter Killer (2018 Movie) Final Trailer – Gerard Butler, Gary Oldman, Common

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“Hunter Killer” features an impressive cast that includes Gary Oldman, Common, Linda Cardellini, Toby Stephens and Michael Nyqvist from the original Swedish Lisbeth Salander/Millennium movies

Marsh made the well-regarded South African crime thriller “Avenged,” but “Hunter Killer” is his first big Hollywood movie. He told us about working with the Pentagon, how much of the movie was shot on real submarines, and how you make an action movie on a submarine.

You’re from South Africa, a country not known for its Navy. Did you have an interest in military movies or history growing up?

South Africa has two diesel submarines, but only crew for one. One is in dry dock, and they can’t afford to take the other one out. So if I couldn’t love my own Navy, I could love the navies of the movies. Enter “Das Boot,” “Crimson Tide” and “Hunt for Red October.” Three of my favorite films of all time.

Gerard Butler worked on this movie as a producer for many years before it got made. Tell us how you came on board as the director.

The film had a different director and was months from shooting with Relativity. When Relativity came apart, the film was looking for a new home and a new director. I pitched and won the job. When I came on board, Gerard, Oldman and Common were already part of the project.

The Pentagon has been unusually supportive of your “Hunter Killer,” even hosting a press conference with Gerard Butler. What was it like working with the Navy on the movie? Did they have input into the filming since they gave your production so much access to Navy subs?

The Navy was incredible. They welcomed us in Pearl Harbor, sent myself and Gerry out on a real nuclear sub for three days, and showed us behind the scenes in the way that few civilians ever get to see. They gave us access to Navy experts, captains and admirals every step of the way, many of whom were present during filming and who made sure we stayed as realistic as was dramatically possible (and without giving away anything classified!).

The submariners want to know. How much filming did you get to do on real submarines and how much did you recreate on sets?

I had one day in the USS Texas with the real crew They were amazing; I challenge you to pick them out from the actors. I had one afternoon with the Texas at sea for helicopter shots. We nearly crashed the chopper (metal in the transmission!), had to return the next morning to shoot the emergency blow. I had one take and only knew the point they were going to surface within 100 hundred meters. They surfaced in the edge of shot and I quickly reframed!

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Michael Nyqvist and Gerard Butler star in “Hunter Killer.”

(Summit Pictures)

What roles did practical and CGI effects play in your production?

We had 900+ visual effects shots that took over a year to complete. It was the biggest challenge of my life, and I still feel they could have been much better. To simulate reality is very difficult, and only the most skilled VFX teams with months and months of time can do it.

A submarine commander once told me, “The Army plays rugby. I play chess.” How do you approach a battle movie when you’ve got to depend more on suspense than brute action?

I just flat out prefer suspense to brute action. It’s more interesting. It’s delicious. It’s dramatic. During brute action scenes, I always end up looking at my watch. I wanted HK to create as much tension and suspense as the audience could bear and then release that with action that was quick, sharp and believable.

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals

Gary Oldman, Linda Cardellini and Common in “Hunter Killer.”

(Summit Pictures)

Even though the movie portrays American and Russian presidents who are nothing like the real leaders, “Hunter Killer” portrays a contentious relationship between the two countries that didn’t exist even five years ago. Did rising tensions between the U.S. and Russia help you get this movie made?

Tensions between the U.S. and Russian escalated leading up to this film, significantly adding to its relevance. A Russian MiG buzzed a destroyer, and Russian sub activity in American waters and vice versa was on the rise. This played in wonderfully to the plot of the film, which starts with two subs getting into it under the ice.

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

MIGHTY MOVIES

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part II)

The movie “12 Strong” arrives in theaters this Friday, and tells the harrowing story of the first U.S. special forces mission in Afghanistan following the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The following is the second part of an Army.mil exclusive three-part feature recounts the events of the Green Berets’ first mission in Afghanistan, as they sought to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in that country.


ON THE GROUND

Special operations forces have a famously tight bond. As the Green Berets stepped off the SOAR’s highly modified MH-47 Chinooks into Afghanistan, they stepped back in time, to a time of dirt roads and horses. They stepped into another world, one of arid deserts and towering peaks, of “rugged, isolated, beautiful, different colored stones and geographical formations, different shades of red in the morning as the sun came up,” said Maj. Mark Nutsch, then the commander of ODA 595, one of the first two 12-man teams to arrive in Afghanistan. The world was one of all-but-impassable trails, of “a canyon with very dominating, several-hundred-feet cliffs.” It was a world of freezing nights, where intelligence was slim, women were invisible, and friend and foe looked the same.

They arrived in the middle of the night, of course, to the sort of pitch blackness that can only be found miles from electricity and civilization, at the mercy of the men waiting for them. “We weren’t sure how friendly the link up was going to be,” said Nutsch. “We were prepared for a possible hot insertion. … We were surrounded by — on the LZ there were armed militia factions. … We had just set a helicopter down in that. … It was tense, but … the link up went smoothly.”

HORSEMEN

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

The various special forces teams that were in Afghanistan split into smaller three-man and six-man cells to cover more ground. Some of them quickly found themselves on borrowed horses, in saddles meant for Afghans who were much lighter and shorter than American Green Berets. Most of the Soldiers had never ridden before, and they learned by immediately riding for hours, forced to keep up with skilled Afghan horsemen, on steeds that constantly wanted to fight each other.

But that’s what Green Berets do: they adapt and overcome. “The guys did a phenomenal job learning how to ride that rugged terrain,” said Nutsch, who worked on a cattle ranch and participated in rodeos in college. Even so, riding requires muscles most Americans don’t use every day, and after a long day in the saddle, the Soldiers were in excruciating pain, especially as the stirrups were far too short. They had to start jerry-rigging the stirrups with parachute cord.

“Initially you had a different horse for every move … and you’d have a different one, different gait or just willingness to follow the commands of the rider,” Nutsch remembered. “A lot of them didn’t have a bit or it was a very crude bit. The guys had to work through all of that and use less than optimal gear. … Eventually we got the same pool of horses we were using regularly.”

Also Read: ’12 Strong’ showcases the best of America’s fighting spirit

Nutsch had always been a history buff, and he had carefully studied Civil War cavalry charges and tactics, but he had never expected to ride horses into battle. In fact, it was the first time American Soldiers rode to war on horseback since World War II, and this ancient form of warfare was now considered unconventional.

“We’re blending, basically, 19th-century tactics with 20th-century weapons and 21st-century technology in the form of GPS, satellite communications, American air power,” Nutsch pointed out.

AUDACITY

And there were military tactics involved. Even the timing of the attacks was crucial. Nutsch remembers wondering why the Northern Alliance wanted to go after the Taliban midafternoon instead of in the morning, but it accounted for their slower speed on horseback, while still leaving time to consolidate any gains before darkness fell. (They didn’t have night vision goggles.)

‘CHiPs’ gave us one of the first positive Vietnam-vet portrayals
U.S. Army special operators confer with Afghan chieftains and resistance fighters. Starting Oct. 19, 2001, 12-man Special Forces detachments from the U.S. Army Special Operations Command’s 5th Special Forces Group (Airborne) began arriving in Afghanistan in the middle of the night, transported by aviators from the 160th Special Operations Aviation Battalion (Airborne). They were the first ground Soldiers of the war on terrorism following 9-11 and their mission was to destroy the Taliban regime and deny Al-Qaida sanctuary in Afghanistan. They scouted bomb targets and teamed with local resistance groups. Some of the Green Berets found themselves riding horses, becoming the first American Soldiers to ride to war on horseback since World War II. (Photo courtesy of U.S. Army Special Operations Command)

Supported by the Green Berets, Northern Alliance fighters directly confronted the Taliban over and over again. Some factions, like Nutsch’s, relied on horses for that first month. Others had pickup trucks or other vehicles, but they usually charged into battle armed with little more than AK-47s, machine guns, grenades and a few handfuls of ammunition. Meanwhile, the Taliban had tanks and armored personnel carriers and antiaircraft guns they used as cannons, all left behind by the Soviets when they evacuated Afghanistan in the 1980s.

It took a lot of heart, a lot of courage. “We heard a loud roar coming from the west,” said Master Sgt. Keith Gamble, then a weapons sergeant on ODA 585, as he remembered one firefight. “We had no clue what it was until we saw about 500 to 1,000 NA soldiers charging up the ridge line. I called it a ‘Brave Heart’ charge. What the NA didn’t realize was that the route leading up the ridgeline was heavily mined. The NA did not fare too well, as they received numerous injuries and had to retreat. We continued to pound the ridge line with bombs until the NA took it that evening.”

“They weren’t suicidal,” Nutsch, who worked with different ethnic groups, agreed, “but they did have the courage to get up and quickly close that distance on those vehicles so they could eliminate that vehicle or that crew. We witnessed their bravery on several occasions where they charged down our flank (to attack) these armored vehicles or these air defense guns that are being used in a direct fire role, and kill the crew and capture that gun for our own use.”

Green Berets remember first mission in Afghanistan after 9/11 (Part I)

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why every veteran should watch Chernobyl

Chernobyl is a five-episode miniseries from HBO and Sky that dramatizes the story of the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident. The incompetence of Soviet leadership threatened the future of all of Europe. Although the Soviet Union was defeated, the remnants of that ideology are still strong in modern Russia. Chernobyl is an excellent case study about how far the Soviets are willing to go; sacrificing their own people in order to save face. However, the most impressive is the resolve of our enemy’s civilian population to do their duty.

This show is a compelling introduction to Chernobyl and is essential to reigniting interest at studying our enemy. The scariest thing about the show is not that they exaggerated events, it’s that most of them actually happened. Before we take a closer look at why every veteran should watch Chernobyl, I will not reveal anything about the plot. However, to be on the safe side: be advised, a spoiler alert is in effect.


Chernobyl (2019) | Official Trailer | HBO

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Chernobyl is absolutely entertaining

Chernobyl has a 96% certified fresh on Rotten Tomatoes at the time this article was written. Even the NY Times raves about the merits of the show and the accuracy in which they portray the events and government corruption. The main characters are dramatized because of Hollywood and are necessary to keep the narrative going, but a good show is a good show.

Inside RADIOACTIVE Basement Prypjat Hospital CHERNOBYL Firefighter Clothes

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It’s scary AF

Doses of 200 to 1,000 rads (a unit of absorbed radiation dose) will show serious signs of illness and will be lethal towards the end of the spectrum. While fighting the fires of the initial explosion, firefighters were exposed to the full force of radiation seeping out of reactor crater. It is unknown how much radiation was oozing out that night as all measuring devices maxed out upon being turned on. They were so irradiated that their clothes from that evening still produce hazardous levels of radiation 30 years later. All of the first 29 firefighters on the scene died shortly after from radiation poisoning.

In America, a respectable size of law enforcement and other first responders are prior military. Imagine being on call and thrown into a scenario such as this and no one has any idea how dangerous the situation is until it’s too late. It happened to the first responders at Chernobyl, and it happened to American first responders on 9/11.

Pripyat evacuation AUDIO with subtitle

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Worker families were affected too

The civilian population of Pripyat was not given any warning that radiation levels were dangerously high until 36 hours after the incident. People continued to live their lives as radiation invisibly snowed around them. The evacuation of Pripyat’s 43,000 residents took 3.5 hours, using 1,100 buses from Kiev. The residents of Pripyat were told they would be evacuated temporarily for only three days.

How prepared are our families living off base? They’re so near to what we actually do that it’s easy to forget how close they are to our on-going activities. Most of us won’t be in a situation where nuclear fallout will be the consequences of an accident, but them being in our lives adds an invisible risk. There is always the potential for an evacuation for reasons the government may not want us to know. We’ll have to uproot them at a moments notice if a situation ever gets bad enough and it is possible albeit not probable.

Note: Turn on Closed Caption (CC) for English subtitles to the Pripyat evacuation audio.

Chernobyl. Helicopter crashes.

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Record everything, don’t be a scapegoat

The show got the helicopter crash right, even though it happened months after the initial reactor incident, the crash itself was shown exactly as it happened. When watching the series you will be able to see that the blades hit the crane cable like the file footage below. Civilian reviewers such as Watch Mojo claim that the show didn’t depict the helicopter crash as it happened — I call bullsh*t on Watch Mojo and here is the evidence. Fake News.

As veterans, you should keep a journal or at least some form of keeping a record of your personal experiences — a photo, a clip, or even a voice memo. Years later the truth will be distorted, and even your own eye witness testimony could be called into question by some pencil-neck Melvin who never served. “I was there” doesn’t get you as far as you think it does.

Also, it is not so wild of an idea to think that the leadership wouldn’t think twice about covering up their mistakes and making you a scapegoat to save their asses.

Chernobyl. Cleaning the roofs. Soldiers (reservists). 1986.

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Do not underestimate the enemy

The military was called to clean up the mess, and many lost their lives. Even with the equipment they were given, it was not enough. Many died during those months, others years later from radiation poisoning and cancer. The Russians are our enemy, yes, but the way they selflessly threw their lives away in the name of duty — that cannot be underestimated. This is an enemy that is the polar opposite of our ideology, yet their service members are as patriotic to their cause as we are to ours. The Russians and those of the former Soviet Union, are and always have been worthy adversaries.

Train, train hard, because the Russians are doing exactly that.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The top 007 Reasons why James Bond is the worst spy ever

James Bond has long been the most famous “secret agent” out there. Everyone knows James Bond, and it is rare to meet someone who hasn’t seen at least one of the films. Like with most films of that kind, there are a lot of issues with the character and story lines in general. Take for instance the fact that they call him a “secret agent” when he is in fact an Intelligence Officer. Add to that he doesn’t have a line manager, he somehow reports directly to the head of MI-6. Then there is the reality that a “license to kill” doesn’t really exist. Despite these tiny issues with details, the films are actually quite good. However, there are many reasons that James Bond truly is the worst spy ever, even if he is a fictional character. Here are the top 007 reasons:


He carries a gun on airplanes

He walks on and off commercial flights with a shoulder holster on and is never once stopped by security. He strolls through the airport fully armed and no one seems to notice or be bothered by the fact that an armed man in a suit is boarding a flight. Even if he has it in his bag instead, it is still never questioned. In reality, he probably would have received a weapon when he arrived at his destination, not carry it on an airplane with him.

He constantly destroys or loses his equipment

He is regularly issued with equipment, weapons and vehicles that are worth millions. However, he never returns any of it, at least not in the same condition he gets it. You would think when given the highest levels of technological advancements in “spy gear,” weapons, and cars, one would be inclined to take extra special care of it all.

He is always being captured and/or beaten up

Despite the fact that he is a highly trained intelligence officer, who is supposed to be aware of his surroundings at all times and the number one rule of intelligence is “never get caught,” Mr. Bond is constantly being captured by the baddies he is after. Even if he isn’t being captured, he is getting beaten up by any number of people associated with whichever villain he is chasing. Where is all that training he meant to have?

He never follows orders

The intelligence world does leave some wiggle room to think on your feet, but a big part of it is also following the orders you are given. James Bond never does that. It doesn’t matter what anyone says or tells him to do, he does the opposite. He always feels that he is in the right and he does his own thing at all times, no matter the consequences.

He travels under his own name

Anyone who knows anything about intelligence knows that they absolutely never travel using their own identity whilst on operations. That is part of the whole point of what they do. However, James Bond who is supposed to be one of the best, always travels under his own name and with his own documents.

He always draws attention to himself

One of the biggest parts of intelligence training is how to never get noticed. For someone who is supposed to be a spy or secret agent or intelligence officer, depending on what you like, he draws an awful lot of attention to himself. He drives expensive cars, wears ridiculously expensive suits and stays at five star hotels. Not to mention the fact that he is always blowing things up and firing his weapon in highly public places.

Everyone knows who he is 

The number one reason James Bond is the worst spy ever: Everyone knows exactly who he is. Every bad guy, every hotel receptionist, every bartender knows his name. He walks into a bar and is greeted with, “Good evening, Mr. Bond.” Plus, they know exactly what he drinks! Villains know his reputation and that he has a license to kill. They all know him on sight. To top it off they all know his 00 code number … His secret code number. The number of times an adversary uses 007 is absolutely astounding. This alone is enough to make James Bond the worst spy ever.

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