There’s a special place in our hearts for zombie films. It’s a fun little escape to the smokepit conversations every troop has while deployed, like, “who would your zombie apocalypse team be?” And, “where would you go looting first?” Obviously, the only correct answers are your squadmates and the nearest gunshop, respectively, but I digress.
Zombie films have a strange place in the cinematic landscape. The ones that embrace the campiness of the genre tend to be more successful financially and the lower the budget of a zombie film, the more fun (or funny) it’ll probably be. This is part of what made the veteran-made Range 15 so enjoyable to other veterans who enjoy that special, corny magic typical of zombie films.
It was recently announced that J.J. Abrams is set to produce the upcoming film Overlord. From the looks of things, it’s going to be a zombie film set during the events of the Battle of Normandy — also known as Operation Overlord.
Kind of like the Norwegian film ‘Dead Snow.’
There is a bit of historical precedent for the film. The Nazis never created zombies (obviously), but their fascination with the occult and fringe sciences has been well documented. Hitler, in addition to being a mass-murdering f*ckhead, was obsessed with everything occult in trying to get an edge. This ranged from having officers study Nordic runes to sending troops into Tibet in search of Shangri-la and all sorts of messed-up stuff to create their so-called “übermensch.”
There is no historical record of the Nazis ever trying to reanimate the dead in any Frankensteinian or Lovecraftian manner, but it isn’t too far of a stretch to play on Hitler’s “thousand year army” dream to include “thousand year soldiers.”
The biggest homage has got to be given to the 1985 film, ‘Re-Animator.’
(Empire International Pictures)
Judging by the trailers, this film seems like it’s going to be an homage to both the war and zombie genres of film. Of course, fans have been quick to point out the similarities between it and Call of Duty‘s Nazi Zombie mode or Return to Castle Wolfenstein, if you want to actually want to get your gaming history right. In the film’s defense, it’s actually making far more references to the mutated Nazi monsters and transformation scenes in An American Werewolf in London.
It’s also interesting to note that this is the first rated-R film for both Bad Robot and J.J Abrams. It’s been said numerous times by Abrams himself that the film is not going to be a part of the Cloverfield franchise. While he’s known for his misdirection, it seems like he’s telling the truth, you know, since the Cloverfield alien was from space and this film is set in Nazi-occupied France.
The film also has plenty of great actors attached who have an impressive action-feature resume. Jovan Adepo of The Leftovers, Jacob Anderson of Game of Thrones, Bokeem Woodbine of The Rock and Riddick, and Wyatt Russell from the Black Mirror episode ‘Playtest’ are all co-leads against Pilou Asbæk’s (Euron Greyjoy from Game of Thrones) evil Nazi scientist character.
Overlord is going to be directed by Julius Avery, the director of the Australian indie film, Son of a Gun. Billy Ray, the writer of Captain Phillips, and Mark L. Smith, screenplay writer for The Revenant, co-wrote the script.
The film is scheduled for release on November 9th, 2018, but you can watch the trailer below right now.
As the Red Army pressed into Finland, their progress was continuously slowed. Their soldiers were being harassed by Finnish infiltrators before they could reach the frontline. Even the Soviet commando teams dispatched to hunt the evasive Finns were being cut down. The havoc that these raiders created led the Soviets to place a bounty on the unit’s leader – 3,000,000 Finnish Marks for the head of Lauri Allan Törni.
Born in Finland on May 28, 1919, Törni started his career of service early, serving in the Civil Guard (a volunteer militia) as a teenager. In 1938, he entered military service and joined the 4th Independent Jäger Infantry Battalion, a unit that specialized in sabotage, guerilla warfare, and long-range reconnaissance. When the Soviet Union carried out a surprise attack on Finland the next year and started the Winter War, Törni’s battalion was quickly brought to the frontline.
Törni after graduating cadet school in 1940 (Finnish public domain)
At Lake Lagoda, a body of water previously shared by Finland and the USSR, the Soviets attacked the Finns with superior numbers of infantry and armor. During their defense, the Finnish troops lost contact with their headquarters. Without hesitation or orders, Törni stealthily skied through the Soviet lines to re-establish communications. Upon his return to the Finnish lines, he took command of a Swedish-speaking unit of demoralized troops. Though he didn’t speak their language, Törni organized the troops with a series of gestures, shouts, and punches. For his bravery during this engagement, Törni was promoted to 2nd Lt. However, despite some Finnish victories and high Soviet casualties, the Winter War soon ended with a Soviet victory and Finland was forced to concede 11% of its territory.
In the months following the Winter War, Nazi Germany became a strong Finnish ally, and in June 1941, Törni went to Austria for seven weeks to train with the Waffen SS. During this training, Törni wore an SS uniform and swore an oath of loyalty to the Nazi party, both of which would haunt him for the rest of his life. Following the German invasion of the Soviet Union with Operation Barbarossa, Finland made a push to retake the land they had lost to the Soviets in what became known as the Continuation War.
Törni in an SS uniform (Finnish public domain)
At the onset of the Continuation War, Törni was given command of a Finnish armored unit, employing captured Soviet tanks and armored cars. On March 23, 1942, Törni was skiing behind enemy lines to capture Soviet prisoners when he skied over a friendly mine. He recovered from his injuries, immediately went AWOL from the hospital and returned to the front. Törni’s unit was tasked with hunting Soviet commandos that had infiltrated Finnish lines, and eventually infiltrated Soviet lines themselves to attack headquarters and communication sites. Impressed with his ruthlessness and efficiency on the battlefield, Törni’s commanders allowed him to create a hand-picked, deep-strike infantry unit that became known as Detachment Törni.
Törni and his raiders conducted sabotage and ambush missions deep behind Soviet lines. Operating separately from the rest of the Finnish Army, Detachment Törni equipped themselves with Soviet weapons which both confused their enemy and made ammunition plentiful for the raiders. Their engagements often led to close-range, hand-to-hand combat in which they brutalized Soviet troops. Their reputation on the battlefield spread and resulted in the Soviet bounty on Törni’s head. For his leadership and bravery, Törni was awarded the Mannerheim Cross, Finland’s highest military honor, on July 9, 1944.
Despite Törni’s efforts and other Finnish victories, the sheer size of the Red Army could not be matched and the Continuation War ended in a Soviet victory in September 1944. Finland was forced to concede more territory, pay reparations, and demobilize most of their military, including Detachment Törni. Unhappy with this result, Törni joined the Finnish Resistance and went to Germany for training in 1945.
Törni went to Germany with the intention to return to Finland, train resistance fighters and free Finland from the Soviet Union. In order to conceal his involvement with the Nazis, Törni assumed the alias Lauri Lane. During his training, the Red Army had taken over all of Germany’s eastern ports. With no way to return to Finland, Törni joined a German Army unit and was given command as a captain. Though he spoke poor German, Törni used the same ruthless tactics he employed against the Soviets in Finland and gained a reputation for bravery, quickly earning the respect and loyalty of his soldiers.
Törni (center) as Finnish Army Lieutenant (Finnish public domain)
By March 1945, the German Army was all but defeated. To avoid capture or death at the hands of the Soviets, Törni and his men made their way to the Western Front where they surrendered to British troops. Imprisoned in a POW camp in Lübeck, Germany, Törni feared that the British would turn him over to the Soviets or discover his past connection to the SS and try him for war crimes. To avoid either fate, Törni escaped the camp and made his way back to Finland. While trying to locate his family, Törni was caught and imprisoned by the Finnish State Police. He escaped, but was imprisoned again in April 1946. Törni was tried for treason, having joined the German Army after Finland signed a peace treaty with the Soviet Union, and was sentenced to six years in prison.
During his time in prison, Törni made several escape attempts. Though all of them failed, he was released in December 1948 after Finnish President Juho Paasikivi granted him a pardon. Törni made his way to Sweden where he became engaged to a Swedish Finn named Marja Kops. Hoping to establish a career before settling down, Törni adopted a Swedish alias and sailed to Caracas, Venezuela as a crewman aboard a cargo ship. From Caracas, Törni joined the crew of a Swedish cargo ship bound for the United States in 1950.
While off the coast of Mobile, Alabama, Törni jumped overboard and swam to shore. He made his way up the east coast to New York City where he found work in Brooklyn’s Sunset Park “Finntown” as a carpenter and cleaner. In 1953, he was granted a residence permit and joined the U.S. Army in 1954 under the Lodge-Philbin Act which allowed the recruiting of foreign nationals into the armed forces.
Upon enlisting, Törni changed his name to Larry Thorne. He befriended a group of Finnish-American officers who, along with his impressive skill set and combat experience, helped him join the elite U.S. Army Special Forces. As a Green Beret, Thorne taught skiing, survival, mountaineering, and guerilla tactics. After attending OCS in 1957, he was commissioned as a 1st Lt. and was eventually promoted to Captain in 1960. In 1962, while assigned to the 10th Special Forces Group in West Germany, Thorne served as second-in-command of a high risk mission in the Iranian Zagros Mountains. The team searched for, located, and destroyed Top Secret material aboard a crashed U.S. plane. Thorne’s performance during the mission earned him a positive reputation in the Special Force community.
Thorne’s official Army photo (U.S. Army photo)
In November 1963, Thorne deployed to Vietnam with Special Forces Detachment A-734 as an adviser to ARVN forces. During an attack on their camp at Tịnh Biên, Viet Cong forces managed to breach the outer perimeter and nearly overran the U.S. and South Vietnamese troops stationed there. All members of the Special Forces detachment were wounded during the attack, including Thorne who was awarded two Purple Hearts and a Bronze Star for valor. The character Captain Steve “Sven” Kornie in Robin Moore’s book, The Green Berets, is based on Thorne and his courageous actions at Tinh Biên.
A U.S. Army H-34 Choctaw similar to the one that carried Thorne on his final mission. (U.S. Army photo)
Thorne volunteered for a second tour in Vietnam and was put in command of a MACV-SOG unit. On October 18, 1965, Thorne led a clandestine mission to locate Viet Cong turnaround points on the Ho Chi Minh trail and destroy them with airstrikes as part of Operation Shining Brass. The mission was the first of its kind and the team was composed of Republic of Vietnam and U.S. forces. During the mission, the U.S. Air Force O-1 Bird Dog observation plane and the Republic of Vietnam Air Force H-34 Choctaw helicopter carrying Thorne went missing and rescue teams were unable to locate either crash site. After his disappearance, Thorne was presumed dead, posthumously promoted to the rank of Major and awarded the Legion of Merit and Distinguished Flying Cross.
It was not until 1999 that Thorne’s remains were found by a Finnish and Joint POW/MIA Accounting Team. It was concluded that Thorne’s Choctaw had crashed into the side of a mountain while flying nap-of-the-earth. His remains were repatriated and formally identified in 2003. He was buried at Arlington National Cemetery on June 26, 2003 with full honors along with the remains of the RVNAF casualties from the crash. Thorne is the only former member of the SS to be interred at Arlington.
Though he was engaged at one point, Thorne spent most of his life committed to fighting communist forces. He left behind no wife and no children. His ex-fiancée would go on to marry another man. Instead, Thorne’s legacy is one of a warrior who ruled the battlefield. He was a scourge on the Soviets in Europe and a deadly threat to Viet Cong in Vietnam. His service and commitment to both his home country of Finland and adopted country of the United States stand as models for anyone willing to take up the profession of arms.
They range from small attack submarines used for naval and anti-submarine warfare to large ballistic-style submarines armed with nuclear weapons that could wipe out entire nations.
Launched in 1988, the Ohio-class USS Pennsylvania (SSBN-735) is currently the largest vessel in the U.S. Navy’s arsenal. It is 560-feet long and berths 165 sailors, according to the National Geographic video below.
This video shows the ship’s incredible fire power, tactics and what life is like for the crew that man it.
Russia’s stealthy new Su-70 Okhotnik-B heavy combat drone has taken flight for the first time, the Russian defense ministry revealed.
The first flight, which occurred at a military airfield over the weekend, lasted 20 minutes, TASS, a Russian state-run media outlet, reported, citing a defense ministry press statement. “The aerial vehicle flown by the operator made several circles around the airfield at an altitude of 600 meters and then successfully landed,” the ministry said.
It is unclear where the testing occurred, but satellite images from May 2019 showed the drone sitting along the flight line when Russian President Vladimir Putin visited the 929th Chkalov State Flight-Test Center in the Astrakhan region on May 14, 2019.
Russian state media announced plans for the aircraft’s maiden flight back in May 2019, revealing that it would occur sometime in July or August 2019. A source in the aircraft manufacturing industry told TASS that the first flight would take place at the Novosibirsk Aircraft Plant.
The drone, a Sukhoi Design Bureau product with a flying wing shape, is quite large, but it has a low radar signature, according to Russian state media. “The drone is equipped with equipment for optical-electronic, radio engineering and other types of reconnaissance activities,” TASS reports.
Some observers have expressed doubts about the Russian drone’s stealth capabilities, suggesting that while its shape offers some advantages, the aircraft might be detectable from behind due to its exposed engine nozzle, perhaps a prototype flaw that will be corrected as Russia moves forward with this project. Russia reportedly lags the US in stealth technology, including coated materials designed to reduce an aircraft’s radar returns.
The first photos of the Okhotnik, also known as the Hunter, appeared online in January, when pictures emerged showing the unmanned combat aerial vehicle being towed at what The War Zone suspects was likely Sukhoi’s Novosibirsk Aircraft Production Plant.
The flight line photos that emerged in May 2019 led observers to conclude that the Okhotnik has a wingspan of about 50 feet, making it about as large as China’s Tian Ying drone or America’s experimental X-47B drone, The National Interest reports.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Solo, the origin story of everyone’s favorite space smuggler, blasts into theaters May 2018. To celebrate the film’s impending arrival, one die-hard Star Wars fan re-enacted the movie’s trailer with Legos. The remade stop-motion trailer features the audio from the film’s actual one-minute spot but all of the actors have been replaced with Legos new minifigs and ships. And it’s pretty freaking amazing.
What’s most impressive about the trailer is its dead-on accuracy. YouTuber Huxley Berg Studios clearly put in a lot of time and effort to meticulously recapture the best moments from the trailer, and his hard work absolutely paid off. It’s impossible not to get caught up in the moment when Lando tosses Han a blaster, even if they are both technically tiny pieces of plastic.
Star Wars and Lego have a long and beloved partnership so seeing Lego Han, Lego Chewie, and Lego Lando head off on some wild space adventure just feels right. And while the trailer might only be a minute, there are more than enough iconic moments captured to make any fan want to rewatch it. For now, the trailer only has a few thousand views but don’t be surprised if it ends up going viral, as there are few things people love more in the world than Legos and Han Solo.
This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.
The Air Force Research Laboratory Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator Advanced Technology Demonstration Program successfully completed a major program milestone with the successful surrogate laser weapon system shoot down of multiple air launched missiles in flight, April 23, 2019.
The SHiELD program is developing a directed energy laser system on an aircraft pod that will serve to demonstrate self-defense of aircraft against surface-to-air and air-to-air missiles.
“This critical demonstration shows that our directed energy systems are on track to be a game changer for our warfighters,” said Dr. Kelly Hammett, AFRL’s Directed Energy Directorate director.
During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the SHiELD system, was able to engage and shoot down several air launched missiles in flight.
During the series of tests at the High Energy Laser System Test Facility at White Sands Missile Range, N.M., April 23, 2019, the Demonstrator Laser Weapon System, acting as a ground-based test surrogate for the Self-Protect High Energy Laser Demonstrator system, was able to engage and shoot down several air-launched missiles in flight.
(Air Force Research Laboratory)
The demonstration is an important step of the SHiELD system development, by validating laser effectiveness against the target missiles. The final SHiELD system, however, will be much smaller and lighter, as well as ruggedized for an airborne environment.
“The successful test is a big step ahead for directed energy systems and protection against adversarial threats,” said Maj. Gen. William Cooley, AFRL commander. “The ability to shoot down missiles with speed-of-light technology will enable air operation in denied environments. I am proud of the AFRL team advancing our Air Force’s directed energy capability.”
High Energy Laser technology has made significant gains in performance and maturity due to continued research and development by AFRL and others in the science and technology ecosystem. It is considered to be a game changing technology that will bring new capabilities to the warfighter.
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter has earned eight platinum records in a music career that started in the 1960s, and he has received numerous security clearances and contracting jobs since the 1980s as a self-taught expert on missile-defense and counterterrorism.
Baxter was one of many luminaries at the White House on Oct. 11, 2018, to watch President Donald Trump sign the Music Modernization Act, which reforms copyright laws.
Baxter dropped out of college in Boston in 1969 to join a short-lived psychedelic-rock band. After that, he moved to California and become one of the original six members of Steely Dan, which he left in 1974 to join the Doobie Brothers, which he left in 1979.
Baxter has said he “fell into his second profession almost by accident.”
While living in California in the 1970s, Baxter helped a neighbor dig out their house after a mudslide.
“Afterward, he invited me into his study and I saw all these pictures of airplanes and missiles on the wall — it turned out he was one of the guys who had invented the Sidewinder missile,” Baxter said in a 2013 interview. “As a gift for helping him clean out his house he gave me a subscription to Aviation Week and to Jane’s Defense. It was amazing.”
Baxter found the technical aspects of music and of defense, particularly missile defense, coincided.
“Technology is really neutral. It’s just a question of application,” he told MTV in 2001. “For instance, if TRW came up with a new data compression algorithms for their spy satellites, I could use that same information and apply it for a musical instrument or a hard disc recording unit. So it was just a natural progression.”
He immersed himself in technical journals and defense publications during the 1980s.
“The good news is that I live in America and am something of a, I guess the term is an “autodidact,” he said in 2013, when asked about his formal education. “There’s so much information available. The opportunity for self-education in this country is enormous.”
The big shift came in 1994.
Inspired by a friend’s work on an op-ed about NATO, Baxter sat down and punched out a five-page paper on the Aegis ship-based antiaircraft missile system, arguing it could be converted to a missile-defense system.
“One day, I don’t know what happened. I sat down at my Tandy 200 and wrote this paper about how to convert the Aegis weapon system,” he said in a 2016 speech. “I have no idea. I just did it.”
Baxter, who had recently retired as a reserve police officer in Los Angeles, was already in touch with California Republican Rep. Dana Rohrabacher as an adviser. Baxter gave his paper to Rohrabacher.
“Skunk really blew my mind with that report,” Rohrabacher told The Wall Street Journal in 2005. “He was talking over my head half the time, and the fact that he was a rock star who had basically learned it all on his own was mind-boggling.”
Rohrabacher gave the paper to Pennsylvania Rep. Curt Weldon, a Republican and member of the House Armed Services Committee, who asked, “Is this guy from Raytheon or Boeing?” according to Baxter.
Rohrabacher replied, “No, he’s a guitar player for the Doobie Brothers.”
Like Rohrabacher, Weldon was struck by Baxter’s prowess. In 1995, he nominated Baxter to chair the Civilian Advisory Board for Ballistic Missile Defense, a congressional panel.
Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Hopper, equipped with the Aegis integrated weapons system, launches a missile during an exercise in the Pacific Ocean, July 30, 2009.
(Department of Defense Photo)
“The next thing I knew, I was up to my teeth in national security, mostly in missile defense, but because the pointy end of the missile sometimes is not just nuclear, but chemical, biological or volumetric, I got involved in the terrorism side of things,” Baxter told MTV in 2001.
The appointment to the panel “sort of opened up a door for me to end up working in the Strategic Defense Initiative Organization (SDIO), which then morphed into the Ballistic Missile Defense Organization (BMDO), which then morphed into the Missile Defense Agency (MDA),” Baxter said in 2013.
He’s also worked with the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency and contractors like Northrup Grumman.
“We did some pretty cool stuff,” Baxter said in 2016 of his work on SDI, which President Ronald Reagan first proposed in 1983. “Reagan’s plan was a bit much. It was a plan to drive the Russians nuts, and it worked. They believed what we were doing was real and spent lots of money trying to counter it.”
He was also a hit at the Pentagon.
“Some of these people who are generals now were listening to my music when they were lieutenant colonels or lieutenant commanders, so there was a bond there,” Baxter said in 2001. “But what they realized is that they’re looking for people who think out of the box, who approach a problem with a very different point of view because we’re talking about asymmetrical warfare here.”
Military leaders brought him in to consult, regularly asking him to play the role of the enemy during war games.
“I’m told I make a very good bad guy,” Baxter said in 2005. People who worked with him also told The Journal he could be a self-promoter.
Baxter has kept up his musical work. He became a sought-after session guitarist, working with acts like Dolly Parton, Rod Stewart, and Eric Clapton.
In 2004 he flew 230,000 miles to reach all his gigs. That year he also made more money from his defense work than from music.
For his part, Baxter has pointed to his creativity as his biggest asset.
“We thought turntables were for playing records until rappers began to use them as instruments, and we thought airplanes were for carrying passengers until terrorists realized they could be used as missiles,” he said in 2005.
“My big thing is to look at existing technologies and try to see other ways they can be used, which happens in music all the time and happens to be what terrorists are incredibly good at.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
America’s longest-serving bomber recently demonstrated the ability to lay down a devastating minefield at sea without putting itself and its crew in harm’s way, a game-changing capability should the US suddenly find itself in conflict with another naval power.
A US Air Force B-52H Stratofortress heavy long-range bomber out of Andersen Air Force Base on Guam dropped what appear to be new 2,000-pound derivatives of the Quickstrike-ER (extended range) sea mine during the Valiant Shield exercises in the Pacific, The Drive first reported Sept. 19, 2018, noting that the mine is powerful enough to bring down even the largest of naval vessels.
The weapons used during the drills were, in fact, new one-ton Quickstrike-ER naval mines, Lt. Cmdr. Darin Russell, the Valiant Shield Joint Information Bureau director, confirmed to Business Insider, and the test Sept. 17, 2018, was the first tactical test of the previously-unseen configuration. Valiant Shield is an exercise designed to strengthen interoperability and communication between the service branches, making it an ideal opportunity to test an asset like the Quickstrike mine, which is deployed from the air for use at sea.
The B-52 carried a total of four Quickstrike mines into testing and fired three, Russell revealed, identifying the fourth one as a spare. He indicated that the testing was successful.
The iconic bomber can lay down an entire minefield in a single pass without putting itself in the firing range of certain enemy anti-aircraft systems. The mines, general purpose bombs modified to serve as sea mines, are launched from great distances and typically deployed to relatively shallow waters where they could be used to render strategic waterways and ports impassable or inaccessible, as well as prevent amphibious assaults.
Using aircraft to lay mines is a concept that dates back to World War II, but at that time it was difficult to create adequate minefields with any real accuracy at high-altitudes. During Vietnam and the Gulf War, mines were dropped into position from lower altitudes with reduce airspeeds, putting aircrews at risk.
The first tactical test of a precision, standoff air-dropped mine occured during an iteration of the Valiant Shield exercise in September 2014, when a B-52H dropped a Quickstrike-ER, a sea mine variation of the 500-pound Joint Direct Attack Munition Extended Range (JDAM-ER). Known as Flounders, these mines can be put down by aircraft operating more than 40 miles away, an ability made possible by the extended range wing kit, the Diplomat introduced in 2017.
In 2016, the weapon was test-fired from an F/A-18 during that year’s iteration of Valiant Shield.
There is another short-range variant called the Skipjack which packs more explosive punch. The 2,000-pound Quickstrike-J can be deployed by any aircraft capable of carrying a JDAM. While it was first tested on a B-52, testing has continued with B-1 bombers and F/A-18 fighters, according to Defense One.
Whereas the older generation Quickstrike mines required aircraft to fly at lower altitudes and lower speeds over the target area, putting US aircraft in danger, the newer generation systems can be deployed by planes flying at the same tactical airspeeds and altitudes as those required for the JDAMs.
A 2,000-pound variant of the Quickstrike-ER offers the same explosive power of the Slipjack combined with the range of the Flounder. While the mine is being tested on the B-52, the weapon could presumably be deployed on any aicraft able to carry a JDAM, including the stealth B-2 Spirit bomber. US air assets could penetrate strategic areas and seal off shipping lanes and blockade ports with fewer mines.
American B-52 crews have actually practiced dropping older versions of the Quickstrike mines in Russia’s backyard, most recently in 2015 during the Baltops exercises in the Baltic Sea.
The ability to lay powerful mines from a distance would likely come in handy in a number of flashpoint areas, such as the contested South China Sea, where China is fortifying man-made islands. In recent months, US Air Force B-52s have made regular flights through the region, sending an unmistakable message to a rival.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Most members of the military will be familiar with the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers, which follows the story of the men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division in WWII. Produced by Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks after their 1998 success, Saving Private Ryan, the miniseries has been praised for its drama and storytelling.
Using leftover props and costumes from Saving Private Ryan, and with the consulting help of surviving Easy Company veterans, Hanks and Spielberg strove to bring the stories of Easy Company to life. However, Band of Brothers did take some artistic license for the sake of storytelling and presented some glaring historical inaccuracies as a result.
A serious WWII history buff could point out dozens of small mistakes in Band of Brothers like the inaccuracies of a German Jagdpanther at Bloody Gulch, the wearing of the 101st Screaming Eagle patch during the Battle of the Bulge, or the anachronistic headset worn by a C-47 pilot taking off from England. However, this article will focus on 6 inaccuracies that actually changed important historical details or rewrote a person’s story.
A German Gebirgsjäger officer with his Edelweiss badge displayed on his headgear. (Photo posted by user SprogCollector via wehrmacht-awards.com)
Edelweiss – Part Three Carentan
During this episode, Private Albert Blithe is sent forward of Easy Company to re-establish contact with Fox Company during a night movement. Moving quietly through the darkness, he rounds a tree and is startled by a German soldier behind an MG42 machine gun. Lt. Dick Winters emerges from the darkness, further startling Blithe, and informs him that the German is dead. Lt. Lewis Nixon joins them and identifies the German as a Fallschirmjäger, a paratrooper. He further identifies a flower on the German’s uniform as Edelweiss, saying that it only grows high up in the Alps and is meant to be the mark of a true soldier.
Gebirgsjäger, German and Austrian mountain troops, wore Edelweiss badges, not flowers, on their uniforms as a symbol of pride in their mountaineering and soldiering skills. As such, it is highly unlikely that a paratrooper would adopt a symbol that held so much importance to mountain soldiers. It can be likened to U.S. paratroops taking great pride in their distinct bloused jump boots. Later in the 20th century, many a nose was broken at Fort Benning by paratroopers who caught a non-paratrooper wearing bloused jump boots.
Shooting POWs – Part Two Day of Days
This episode serves as the catalyst for the many rumors about Ronald Speirs shooting German POWs on D-Day. In it, Don Malarkey jogs away from a group of prisoners being watched over by Lt. Speirs and another Dog Company paratrooper when he hears automatic gunfire from behind him—the implication being that Speirs executed the prisoners. In later episodes, the rumors evolve from Speirs shooting a few prisoners, to shooting eight, shooting twenty, and even shooting a drunk sergeant for refusing to go out on patrol.
In a video interview, former Dog Company trooper Private Art Dimarzio recalled capturing three Germans on D-Day with Speirs and a sergeant. “The LT called us together in a bunch and he said, ‘…you take one,’ they were all laying in a ditch, ‘I’ll take this one, and sarge you take that one.’ And we paired off and we shot the three of them.” DiMarzio also noted that, a few hours later, they came upon another group of Germans, all of whom Speirs shot. This account is entirely plausible given the orders issued to the paratroopers by General Maxwell Taylor, commander of the 101st Airborne Division.
“Take no prisoners,” Malarkey recalls General Taylor telling them. “If you were to take prisoners, they’d handicap our ability to perform our mission.”
Hitler’s suicide – Part Nine Why We Fight
The episode opens stating that it is April 11, 1945 in Thalem, Germany. A string quartet of German civilians plays Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 14 in C-sharp Minor. Around them, other civilians clear up the rubble of their battered city under the supervision of U.S. soldiers while Easy Company soldiers look down from a damaged apartment building. The rest of the episode flashes back to Easy Company’s initial invasion of Germany before returning to the Thalem apartment where Captain Nixon informs the men that Hitler is dead.
Assuming the men have not been sitting in the same apartment listening to the same string quartet for nineteen days, this scene is anachronistic as Hitler committed suicide on April 30, 1945. It is unclear why this error was made or why it persisted from the HBO television release to the home video release, since a simple edit to the opening statement could make it April 30, 1945. This is an extreme oversight for such a big budget production.
Lt. Dike – Part Seven The Breaking Point
Part Seven focuses primarily on Easy Company First Sergeant Carwood Lipton as he works to maintain the unit’s morale and combat effectiveness during the Battle of the Bulge. However, his efforts are hindered by their new commander, Lt. Norman Dike. Dike is rarely seen around the men, leaving them to go on walks or make phone calls at Battalion HQ. His behavior earns him the nickname “Foxhole Norman”. During the attack on Foy, Dike becomes paralyzed by fear and panics under pressure, sending a single platoon exposed on a doomed flanking mission. His poor leadership results in the deaths of many Easy Company men before he is relieved by Lt. Speirs and is eventually killed during the attack.
Firsthand accounts show that Dike was not a well-liked officer during his command of Easy Company, but he was by no means the cowardly and ineffective officer that was portrayed on screen. During the attack on Foy, Easy Company trooper Clancy Lyall saw Dike get shot in his right shoulder. Omitted from the on-screen depiction, this wound inhibited Dike’s decision-making and caused him to panic. Furthermore, Dike won two Bronze Star Medals for valor earlier in the war; one in Holland for organizing a hasty defense against, “superior and repeated attacks”, and another at Bastogne where, “…he personally removed from an exposed position, in full enemy view, three wounded members of his company, while under intense small arms fire.”
Finally, Dike was not killed at Foy. He survived his wound and became the aide to General Taylor. Dike remained in the Army for the remainder of the war, served in Korea, and eventually attained the rank of Lieutenant Colonel in the Army Reserves. He also went back to Yale and earned his law degree. He worked as a U.S. Commissioner in Japan, practiced law in New York City and Washington D.C., and was even employed by the CIA for a time. He died in Rolle, Switzerland on June 23, 1989.
Master Sergeant Albert Blithe and his wife Kay. (Photo from findagrave.com)
Private Blithe — Part Three Canretan
Episode three begins with Private Albert Blithe just after D-Day when he rejoins Easy Company after the confusion of the drop. Following the fight to take Carentan, he is struck with a case of hysterical blindness. After recovering, Blithe returns to Easy Company. Following his encounter with the dead German, Blithe admits to Lt. Speirs that he didn’t try to find his unit on D-Day; instead, he hid in a ditch out of fear. Speirs tells him that he’s already dead and that he must accept that in order to function as a soldier should, “without mercy, without compassion, without remorse.”
Blithe follows Speirs’ advice and fights ferociously during the German counterattack at Bloody Gulch. After the battle, Blithe finds a dead German that he shot and removes the Edelweiss on the German’s uniform. Blithe takes the Edelweiss for himself and places it on his uniform, completing his character arc. A few days later, he volunteers to investigate a farmhouse during a patrol where he is shot in the neck by a German sniper. The episode ends saying that Blithe died from his wounds in 1948.
Blithe’s depiction is mostly true. He was stricken with hysterical blindness and he was shot by a sniper whilst investigating a farmhouse. However, Blithe was shot in his collarbone. He recovered from his wounds and was sent back to the states. He remained in the Army and fought with the 187th Airborne Regimental Combat Team in Korea. After his second war, Blithe was assigned to the Military Assistance Advisory Group in Taiwan. In December 1967, while on active duty in Germany, Blithe attended a ceremony in Bastogne commemorating the Battle of the Bulge. Upon his return to Germany, Blithe felt nauseous and was taken to the ER at Wiesbaden Hospital. He was diagnosed with a perforated ulcer and died in the ICU on December 17 after surgery. Blithe had attained the rank of Master Sergeant and was buried with full honors at Arlington National Cemetery.
The other men of Easy Company never found out what happened to Blithe after he was wounded at the farmhouse. They assumed he succumbed to his wounds and the producers of the show did no further research. Having spent more than 20 years in the Army over the course of three wars, Blithe deserves more credit than he is given in Band of Brothers.
Winters displays the surrendered sidearm of the German Major. (Photo from We Stand Alone Together, Credit to HBO)
The surrender — Part Ten Points
The last episode of the miniseries follows Major Dick Winters and Easy Company during the last few months of the war. After the official German surrender, Winters meets with a German Colonel who offers Winters his Luger pistol as his formal surrender. Out of respect for a fellow soldier, Winters allows the Colonel to keep his sidearm. The German is surprised by Winters’ gesture and gives him a crisp salute in return.
In reality, the surrendering German was a Major like Winters. The sidearm that he offered as his formal surrender was a Walther PP (a long-barreled version of James Bond’s famous Walther PPK), which Winters accepted and kept until his death in 2011. In an interview for HBO, Winters showed the pistol and recounted the German’s surrender:
I was assigned this Major and when he walked in, he presented me this pistol and offered his personal surrender, which naturally I accepted gratefully. So that would be the end of the war for his men and this is basically the end of the war for my men. And the significance is that, it wasn’t until later when he had given me this pistol and I got a chance to look at it carefully that I realized, this pistol had never been fired. There was no blood on it. That’s the way all wars should end: with an agreement with no blood on it. And I assure you this pistol has never, never been fired since I’ve had it and it will not be fired.
Winters’ powerful and insightful words about the surrender make the scene in Band of Brothers feel like a missed opportunity. The real-life exchange between the two Majors and the impression that the symbolic pistol left would have been more impactful than the surrender shown on screen.
After the series premiere, Winters told Hanks that he wished the production had been more authentic, hoping for an “80 percent solution.”
Hanks responded, “Look, Major, this is Hollywood. At the end of the day, we will be hailed as geniuses if we get this 12 percent right. We are going to shoot for 17 percent.”
Band of Brothers is a well-made and fitting tribute to (most of) the men who fought in Easy Company during WWII. As with most Hollywood productions, the history was adapted for dramatic effect and series structure. Certain stories and experiences were modified or folded into other characters for the sake of storytelling, but the show as a whole is still one of the best portrayals of WWII to date. In the case of the aforementioned stories and experiences however, their true history deserves to be told, learned, and remembered.
Deployments quickly turn into the movie Groundhog Day. You see the same people, do the same missions, and eat the same chow. You’ve got nowhere to go and nothing to do. As you might imagine, things get real weird real fast.
At about month six, you’ll see things like troops singing Disney songs to each other or guys starting fights with traffic cones as arms. If you don’t join in, you’d better be filming it.
Our deployment videos always kill on YouTube because people think we’re super serious all the time.
7. Wanting personal space
One unexpected advantage of Big Military cramming as many troops into as small of a space as possible is that we get close to one another. There’s nowhere to go, especially on a deployment, so you might as well get to know everyone who shares your space.
Civilians might be surprised at the level of closeness between troops in a platoon, especially when it’s snowing outside and everyone is wearing summer PTs.
“Here, we see a bunch of soldiers waiting for morning PT…” (Screengrab via BBC’s Planet Earth)
6. Mentioning it’s your birthday
For better or worse, hazing is highly frowned upon in the military. Any type of initiation or harassment directed toward fellow troops is a major offense under the Uniform Code of Military Justice. No commander would dare allow their troops to partake in any form of hazing — unless it’s someone’s birthday, of course!
If the unit finds out on their own, you’re in for a terrible surprise. If you’re the idiot who brings it up, don’t expect cake and ice cream from the guys.
5. Being gentle
To the normal person, this would contradict the earlier rules of “embrace silliness” and “forget personal space,” but this is different in its own weird way.
We tell ourselves that we’re hardened, ass-kicking, life-taking, warfighting machines. The truth is, we just don’t have the time or desire for little things, like talking about our feelings or establishing emotional safe spaces. If you just really need a hug, you’ll have to either disguise it as a joke or go and see the chaplain — and even they probably won’t give you a hug, wimp.
4. Asking questions
Normal people would try to figure out the little things, like “why are we doing this exact same, mundane task for the ninth time this month?” Troops, on the other hand, just give up hope after a while and do it.
This is so ingrained that when someone does ask a question, it’s treated like a joke.
3. Taking care of your body
Troops work out constantly. Once for morning PT and probably again when they go to the gym.
All that effort totally negates all of the coffee, energy drinks, beer, pounds of bacon, burgers, pizza, and cartons of cigarettes that an average troop goes through… right?
2. Turning down a chance to do dumb things
If a troop gets a call and the person on the other end says, “we need you out here quick. Don’t let Sergeant Jones find out about it,” context doesn’t matter. They’re there and are probably three beers in before anyone can explain what’s happening.
Best case scenario: It’s an epic night. Worst case: It ends up being a “no sh*t, there I was…” story.
1. Showering without flip-flops on
Only two types of people clean off in a community shower without “shower shoes:” Idiots and people trying to catch gangrene.
You have no idea what the person before you did in that shower nor how often that shower has been cleaned. Why on Earth would you dare put your feet on that same spot?
About the time this issue hits the newsstands, the U.S. Special Operations community will likely be taking a look back at one of the most high-profile operations in their history: Operation Gothic Serpent, which included the infamous Battle of the Black Sea, made famous by the book-slash-movie Black Hawk Down. That mission, which took place in October of 1993, is officially 25 years old this fall.
Several veterans of that operation are currently active in the firearms industry and have given their historical accounts of the mission to various media outlets. Instead of trying to retell someone else’s war story, we wanted to take this anniversary to examine the progress of America’s everyman rifle over the ensuing two-and-a-half decades, and perhaps reflect on just how good we have it now.
Blast from the past
As the rise of the retro rifle continues to gain momentum, several companies are now producing period-themed AR-pattern rifles to commemorate past iterations of Stoner’s most famous design. Troy Industries was one of the first to offer an out-of-the-box solution to collectors and enthusiasts wanting a “period” rifle with their My Service Rifle line, commemorating famous military operations, and the associated rifles used to win the day.
Their recent release of the M16A2 SFOD-D carbine made an all-too-appropriate cornerstone for this project. This no-frills rifle was state of the art at the time it was used by small-team elements of the U.S. Army and Air Force in the late ’80s and early ’90s. It’s a 14.5-inch barrel, carbine-length gas system affair with traditional CAR handguards, iron sights, and an A2 carry handle upper. The gun ships with a length of rail mounted on both the carry handle and the 6 o’clock position at the forward end of the handguard.
This carbine was considered state-of-the-art around the time Meatloaf topped radio charts with “I’d Do Anything For Love (But I Won’t Do That).” If that doesn’t make you feel old …
As a preface to all of you firearm historians out there, please note that this was an “in the spirit of” build and does features accessories in the style of this period, as opposed to the actual items. Attempting to procure the actual lights, sights, and mounts from two-plus decades ago was hardly conducive to deadlines or production budgets. So, in several cases, we had to make do with “close enough.” Good enough, as the saying goes, for government work. This particular Gothic Serpent sample is outfitted with a SureFire 6P, complete with a whopping 60-lumen incandescent bulb, mounted on a single scope ring with their push-button tactical tail cap. The optic is an Aimpoint 9000, which uses the longer tube style of the older 5000 with updated electronics.
While the idea of mounting a light to a weapon isn’t exactly new, the technology to do so in a manner that’s both convenient and ergonomic is a relatively recent development. As late as the early years of Operation Iraqi Freedom, line units were using duct tape and hose clamps to hold D-cell mag lights onto their rifles. The SOF community, having a larger budget and more time dedicated to RD, found that you could use weaver scope rings to mount the then-new smaller lights made by SureFire onto their guns. Certainly better than the methods used by conventional units even a decade later, this small measure of convenience came with two primary pitfalls — actuating the light and lumens.
Though night vision, and the earlier starlight technology, dates back to Vietnam and somewhat before, dedicated night-fighting gear isn’t a catchall for “intermediate” lighting situations. Think about entering a dark room in the middle of a bright desert afternoon in Africa. You need some kind of artificial light to see your target, but early night vision goggles — prone to washout or permanent damage from ambient light through a window or hole in the ceiling — were the wrong answer. So weapon lights became the best compromise.
Even though any advantage is better than no advantage, less than 100 lumens doesn’t buy you much reaction time. As your eyes are rapidly adjusting from bright light, to no light, to a little bit of light the “increased” ability to identify friend from foe is marginal at best. Tape switches were available at the time, but far from universal and far from reliable. They had to be taped on and, if you’ve ever had a piece of tape peel off something in the heat, you know that taping things together isn’t the most ironclad attachment method.
Once you get the light mounted, you have to be able to actually turn it on. With the light at the bottom of the handguard, thumb activation is out of the question. To make this placement work, we had to shift our support handgrip to just past the magwell and use the index knuckle of that hand to trip the light. It works, but not well. While firing, we had trouble keeping enough pressure on the switch to keep it on. The other option is to twist the tailcap for constant-on, but then you run into the fairly obvious issues of battery life, and of giving away your position between engagements.
Synergistic advances in handguards, lights, and forward grips provide a support-hand hold that’s more ergonomic and offers better control over the weapon.
Once you can see your target, you gotta hit it. The early electro-optical sights, also of Vietnam vintage, were a huge boon for rapid shots under tight constraints. The optics themselves, to include the Aimpoint 3000s and 5000s of the Black Hawk Down era, didn’t have the kind of battery life or reliability that we now expect from any red dot worth its salt. But mounting them on an A2-style receiver created an additional issue: height over bore.
For the uninitiated, height over bore is exactly what it sounds like. Mounting your scope several inches above your barrel creates the need for both mechanical offset when you zero as well as for manual holdover when trying to make precise shots — like headshots, which are a common point of training for hostage rescue units. Furthermore, these high-mounted optics require a “chin weld” on the stock, which is unnatural, uncomfortable, and offers a floating sight picture at best, particularly while shooting on the move.
Latest and greatest
As a demonstration of the technical progress that’s been made in configuring the AR or M4-style rifle, we contrast Troy’s My Service Rifle SFOD-D gun to their own cutting-edge carbine, the SOC-C. The SOCC (Special Operations Compatible Carbine) also sports a 14.5-inch barrel chambered in 5.56mm — which is squarely where the similarities end. The SOC-C features a mid-length gas system. Recent testing by USSOCOM has proven what the commercial market has known for years —that the longer gas tube makes for a cleaner and softer shooting weapon.
The SOCC covers that gas tube with a 12-inch M-LOK handguard. This single feature offers the warfighter a level of modularity that hasn’t been known since the M16’s introduction six decades ago. Now you can mount your lights and any other accessory wherever you want. In our case, we used SureFire’s new 600DF weaponlight attached to the rifle by way of an Arisaka Defense inline mount. The 600DF produces 1,500 lumens, which not only restores small rooms to broad daylight conditions at the push of a button, but can probably be used to signal low-flying aircraft or heat up your MRE.
When Super 6-4 went down near the Bakara Market in Mogadishu, soldiers had to mount a rail to the handguard, a scope ring to the rail, and the light into the scope ring. This system creates poor ergonomics and multiple points of failure for your light to shoot loose or fall off completely. With the 600DF/Arisaka combo, the mount is screwed directly into the body of the flashlight, and then attached directly to the handguard. Not only is this a simpler system less prone to mechanical failure, but the advent of modular handguards provides adjustability in where the light is placed, both lengthwise along the fore-end and around its circumference. The biggest single benefit to come from this advancement is that, now, you can configure the gun around the operator’s natural stance and hand placement instead of changing how you fight just to accommodate a flashlight.
Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.
Optics have gotten smaller, smarter, tougher, and more diverse in the last 25 years. Our SOCC sports an Aimpoint Comp M5. It’s their smallest and most efficient rifle-mounted red dot. With battery life measured in years and a slew of brightness settings that include night vision compatibility. The move from carry-handle upper receivers to full-length top rails provide a laundry list of benefits on a fighting rifle. The aforementioned height-over-bore issue all but disappears. This simplifies zero. It also simplifies unconventional shooting positions like shooting over or under a barricade and allows a proper cheek weld. Additionally, the full-length top rail allows end users to utilize different types of optics. The vast increase in mounting space means that force multipliers like variable-power glass and clip-on thermal or night-vision units can be mounted quickly and securely with no tools, as the mission changes.
All the small things
While lights and sights were our two most obvious observations, there are other less prominent improvements that are equally important. One is the advent of ambidextrous controls. While, statistically, the number of left-handed shooters is pretty low throughout the ranks, if you happen to have one on your team you want them to reap all the same benefits everyone else in the stack does. Ambi selector levers, charging handles, and mag and bolt releases all create a perfectly mirrored manual of arms, regardless of which hand is pressing the trigger. But it’s not only southpaws who get something out of it.
The advent of urban warfare has forced U.S. soldiers to enter a battle space full of walls, windows, and hard angles. Being able to transition your carbine from strong side to support side as you adapt to available cover offers a very real increase in soldier survivability. Ambidextrous buttons and switches allow all shooters to switch-hit off of barriers without having to change anything about how they drive their gun.
Things like lower height-over-bore and shorter overall length give the SOCC carbine a distinct edge over its partner. Internals and fire controls are also highly improved over Mil-spec.
The last, but perhaps most critical upgrades we’ll discuss come in the form of the almighty bang switch. After executing proper stance/grip/sight alignment/sight picture, trigger press is the shooter’s last physical input into the weapon before that round leaves the barrel. Sloppy or harsh trigger press can throw a shot even if you do everything else right. This becomes a literal matter of life and death for units that fight in very close quarters where hostages and innocents are all in play.
The M16A2 SFOD-D sports a standard Mil-spec trigger that was delightfully rocky and inconsistent. By comparison, the SOCC comes out of the box with a Geissele G2S trigger. While not marketed as a match trigger per se, it offers a gliding smooth take-up with a consistent break that snaps like a carrot each and every time. It’s this consistency and predictability that gives a shooter an opportunity to improve their marksmanship more quickly, as well as imparting a confidence that the trigger will do exactly what you want it to every single time — a not insignificant comfort when entering situations measured in tenths of a second.
Newer shooters, and older ones who have embraced progress, get quickly adjusted to the ease with which a modern, properly configured rifle can be run hard under demanding conditions. While the events of Operation Gothic Serpent can be labeled as both tragic and heroic, the lessons learned from those units and their experience cobbling together a “best possible” solution with the parts they had set in motion a ripple effect that helped birth the cutting-edge carbines we now use to defend our country and our homes.
This article originally appeared on Recoilweb. Follow @RecoilMag on Twitter.
When you think of badass U.S. Presidents, you likely aren’t thinking of Herbert Hoover. In fact, he’s probably very low on your list of presidential badassery, right there with James Buchanan, Millard Fillmore, and Chester A. Arthur.
But what if you saw him and his wife fighting with the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry, his wife brandishing a .38 Smith Wesson, to fight Chinese rebels trying to murder tons of foreigners?
Before he became President of the United States, Hoover was the general manager for the Chinese Engineering and Mining Corporation. He and his wife lived in China around the turn of the 20th Century and was generally well-regarded by the Chinese for his progressive views regarding their treatment.
But the Boxer Rebellion soon broke out in 1900, a semi-spiritual effort to rid China of foreigners, often by ridding their heads of their bodies. It spread from sporadic acts of violence against Western influence to a full-on peasant uprising. That’s when the Chinese Empress Dowager Tsu’u Hzi declared war on all foreign nations at the same time.
Good call, lady.
The powers allied against China included France, Germany, the British Empire, the United States, Russia, Italy, Austria-Hungary, and Japan, who mobilized a multi-national force (called the Eight-Nation Alliance) to protect foreign interests and recuse the besieged foreign legations and citizens around the country.
The Hoovers were in Tianjin, and they were ready for the Boxers.
For a month, Hoover and his wife – along with the rest of the city – resisted the siege of Tianjin. Future First Lady of the United States, Lou Henry Hoover, defended herself with a Smith Wesson .38 caliber pistol while traveling from the battlefield to the hospital.
Initially, the Hoovers enlisted the 800 other Westerners and Chinese Christians (also a target of the Boxers) to maintain a defense of the west end of Tianjin. They reinforced the area with bags of grain and sugar while arming U.S. Marines and sailors who happened to be there.
Hoover was known to have rescued Chinese children caught in the crossfire during the street-to-street fighting. Both Hoovers did duty manning the barricades. It’s not known if the Hoovers — devout pacifist Quakers — actually killed anyone, but they did keep the Boxers from doing it.
The beginning of the end came as the multinational relief column — including the U.S. Army’s 9th Infantry Regiment, to this day known as the “Manchus” — arrived in Tianjin. Hoover himself led U.S. Marines, along with columns of British, French, and Japanese troops around the city. His knowledge of the area and its terrain was critical to their success there.
Later, biographer David Bruner recalled Mrs. Hoover’s account of her time in his book, Herber Hoover: A Public Life. She said she “had a splendid time during the Boxer Rebellion and would not have missed it for anything.”
Tianjin was the bloodiest battle of the entire Boxer Rebellion.
One day in 1964, TV producer Sherwood Schwartz received a strange message – from the U.S. Coast Guard. And that wasn’t the only message. Schwartz received a series of telegram forwards from the Coast Guard. He had just launched a new show on CBS about seven castaways stranded on a desert island…and Americans were demanding that the Coast Guard mount a rescue.
In a paper for the Center for Media Literacy, William F. Fore wrote that Schwartz was “mystified” by the telegrams. Concerned and delusional viewers were angry that the Coast Guard couldn’t spare one ship to send for those people.
“For several weeks, now, we have seen American citizens stranded on some Pacific island,” one viewer wrote to the Coast Guard. “We spend millions in foreign aid. Why not send one U.S. destroyer to rescue those poor people before they starve to death?”
Part of what was mystifying to the producer was the existence of a laugh track on the show.
“Who did they think was laughing at the survivors of the wreck of the U.S.S. Minnow?” Schwartz told Entertainment Weekly. “It boggled my mind. Where did they think the music came from, and the commercials?”
In his book “Inside Gilligan’s Island,” Schwartz recalled discovering the telegrams for the first time. When the show was only ten weeks old, Schwartz received a call from a Commander Doyle of the U.S. Coast Guard. Having spent time in the Army as a Corporal, Schwartz was still impressed by rank, and took the call.
Doyle told Schwartz he would tell him the important message over the phone, but he wasn’t sure the Hollywood producer would believe him. So a few days later, Doyle was in Schwartz’ office, presenting the producer with a number of envelopes containing messages, like the one above, demanding to rescue the Minnow.
The telegrams he received from Doyle stayed with Schwartz his whole life. He noted that there is a subset of people watching who believe everything they see.
“It seems to me a great opportunity for producers to accentuate the positive in those viewers,” Schwartz wrote, “Instead of inspiring the negative.”