MIGHTY MOVIES

10 questions with Hollywood icon and Army veteran, Robert Duvall

Robert Duvall has had a remarkable career. With iconic roles in The Godfather I and II, Lonesome Dove, The Apostle, Tender Mercies, To Kill a Mockingbird, Apocalypse Now, Days of Thunder, and many more, Duvall is best known for his roles on screen and as an accomplished filmmaker. Perhaps lesser known is that he served in the Army for two years during the 1950s and comes from a military family where his father was a Rear Admiral.

WATM had the opportunity to speak with Duvall to hear about his fascinating life, from growing up as an Admiral’s son to working with some of the greatest minds in entertainment of all time.


WATM: What was your family like and your life like growing up?

We moved a lot because of being in a military family. We lived in San Diego and then Annapolis, MD, at the Naval Academy. I remember seeing a movie when I was really young at Camp Pendleton for a dime back in the 1930s when we lived in Mission Hills in San Diego. Right before WWII started, my dad was transferred from Pacific Fleet to the Atlantic Fleet, which led to our move to Annapolis for eight straight years. My father’s first ship was in the Atlantic. My grandmother lived with us for a while as well back then. As a young boy, I watched athletic events at the Academy and became inundated with their sports as a kid. I remember watching Army and Navy games when Army players such as Doc Blanchard and Glenn Davis were on the field.

My father was a good line officer and had a solid war record where he retired as a Rear Admiral. His first command was in San Pedro which was the USS Clark, which was a minesweeper. He was with destroyers from Europe to North Africa where his last command was USS Juno, which was a light cruiser. My father served on the USS Indianapolis (famous for delivering parts for Little Boy and then being sunk by the Japanese losing a large percentage of the crew to sharks) and carried President Roosevelt’s bags for him while he was on the ship. My father kept quiet about his service in retirement and didn’t go out on ships once retired..

We prayed and did our bit at home while he was abroad fighting in the war. One funny thing was how my father stopped smoking during the war, so we sent him chewing gum instead. My father worked with the British Navy and enjoyed serving with them. He told us how the British Navy would toast the Queen but not the President of the U.S. After they would have dinner and wine, the British would have wrestling matches where it was best two out of three falls. My dad respected the British and Churchill. Thank God for Churchill as he was likely the greatest man in the 20th century.

The USS Indianapolis- U.S. Navy photo 80-G-425615

As a young teen, me and my siblings went out to our uncle Harold Prescott’s 40,000-acre cattle and sheep ranch in Montana for two summers in a row. This happened at the end of WWII. These memories and experiences at the ranch I’ll never forget; they embedded in me a certain culture. We would go there by train on the Empire Builder of the Great Northern. It would take us from Chicago where we took the Baltimore Ohio the first way and my aunt would pick us up when the Empire Builder would stop in the open fields.

We rode horses, cleaned out the chicken coop, went camping in the mountains and fly fishing with my uncle. I met Jimmy Morrison, a great veterinarian and immigrant from Scotland, while at the ranch and learned a lot about handling animals from him. He was just good to be around where we pitched horseshoes every night with him. Jimmy roped a baby coyote from his horse once and he raced full speed on his quarter horse and touched a galloping antelope on the neck.

They would have big dances there in Montana where if you asked the wrong woman to dance the whole place would turn into a gigantic fist fight, thereby ending the dance. My uncle even gave us a salary at the end of the summer for the work we did around the ranch. He told us, “With your father off fighting the war the least I can do is pay you boys something for your work around here.” My uncle Harold fought in WWI in the Battle of Belleau Wood as a Marine.

Empire Builder of the Great Northern. Credit: Great Northern Railway Historical Society.

I went into a small college, Principia College where my military family pushed me into acting. I changed my major to drama after my first A in an acting course and found myself.

WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?

My mother ran the home while my father was away. My father could be gone for eight months and we respected him for his service. He was a good man and taught us work ethic by example. My mother ran a cotillion for dancing as we grew up where we learned social graces and how to interact with people, especially women. She made for us a good and stable home life with great experiences.

The US Naval Academy in the 1940s. Credit:HipPostcard.com

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

We were taught to believe in God, do good for other people and to be patriotic. We were taught to keep positive thoughts even in hard times.

Norman Rockwell’s “Saying Grace” painting. Credit Norman Rockwell.

WATM: What influenced you to join the U.S. Army and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I was drafted and went in for two years where the Army was okay. I did a lot of imitations of people I met in the Army which was shared with my family and friends. One experience really stuck with me was with a fellow soldier nicknamed 3-D, who was like six feet six inches tall and could hardly see. We were marching one night and he disappeared as he had fallen into a fox hole. It struck me as strange that Mickey Mantle was 4F, but that 3-D was considered service worthy. How is a star center fielder for the Yankees not able to serve but this guy is?

I really brought away humor and the ability to tell stories from the Army and served my time. It served me later for playing military roles and allowed me to have a respect for the part. I have a respect for the military, so I played those parts with credence and professionalism.

President George W. Bush stands with recipients of the 2005 National Medal of Arts, from left: Leonard Garment, Louis Auchincloss, Paquito D’Rivera, James DePreist, Tina Ramirez, Robert Duvall, and Ollie Johnston. Credit: White House photo by Eric Draper – whitehouse.gov

WATM: What are the best lessons that Sanford Meisner taught you?

I trained with Sanford on the GI Bill where he taught me how to be as simple as possible in connecting with people. He showed us how to be basic and get to the core of communication. He taught me a legitimate and helpful shortcut in acting. Meisner once said he was easier to please than Lee Strasberg at the Actors Studio. Meisner was friends with Horton Foote, who gave me my first film in “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Horton had seen me in a play that Meisner had directed at the Neighborhood Playhouse and liked what they saw, so from that I got Boo Radley. It was a wonderful part to start off with and Horton really helped me a lot in my career.

A photo of a young Robert. Credit unknown.

WATM: What was it like transitioning from stage actor to Film/TV actor?

I started out in the theatre and did summer stock. The main difference is you just speak up a little more on stage than you do in film and TV. You are still believing in an imaginary set of circumstances and going into an imaginary world. It is you doing it yourself where you are appearing as you are becoming something else as we have only one set of emotions and psyche. One of my favorite stage parts ever, American Buffalo, I did on Broadway, which is the Mamet play, it was the best. You do eight shows a week which can wear you down. I would nap between shows and just get up and stumble on stage from that deep nap. Rest is very important.

And Robert Duvall in the “Miniature” episode of the “Twilight Zone.” Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What are some of your best memories from your early to mid-career working on great shows and films?

There were parts I was able to grow in and was able to get better as I got older. There are always some parts you do better than other parts for whatever reasons. Eastwood was good to work with and I liked working with John Wayne as well. The Duke was just neat to be around. He did some good work and stuck up for me on the set of “True Grit.” I was having struggles working with the director of the film where Duke chimed in to balance the odds.

Ulu Grosbard was a close friend and gave me a lot of help early in my career. He directed me in Broadway and Off-Broadway plays. If I needed something from him, he would help me right away. He was a great guy.

Brando was the great one to work with and was so innovative. A memorable story is where I met a great English stage actor that went to see a Streetcar Named Desire when Brando was in it on Broadway. The English actor got embarrassed because he thought a stagehand had wandered on stage by mistake. The “stagehand” was so natural, but it turned out that it was just Brando on stage. The English actor went to see it seven times. Gene Hackman, Dustin Hoffman and I would meet at Cromwell’s drug store two or three times a week for an hour. We mentioned Brando nearly every day in those conversations. Working with Brando was amazing; he turned the world upside down when he came around.

Jimmy Caan is super funny and an extremely quick wit. James has a lot of talent and is a wonderful actor where we stay in touch with each other. De Niro was wonderful and I did summer stock with Gene Hackman. One note on Gene, when I busted my pelvis on set a long time ago, he offered me his last 0. I didn’t take it but he is a great guy to be around. Gene Hackman was a Marine and played on the USMC Football team with Joe Bartos, a Naval Academy grad and professional football player for the Redskins. Gene also served in Korea and stood duty in the cold there. He used to tell me stories about his time in Korea. Dustin Hoffman was my roommate and was a character where he belongs in the business. I kept in touch with Wilford Brimley as well when he was a bodyguard for Howard Hughes and a Marine.

Robert in his first feature film “To Kill a Mockingbird.” Credit IMDB.com

Francis Ford Coppola, Robert, and Marlon Brando on set for “The Godfather.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert with George Lucas and Donald Pleasance working on “THX 1138.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert and Tommy Lee Jones in “Lonesome Dove.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Clint Eastwood while filming Joe Kidd. Credit IMDB.com

WATM: What was your experience like working on the military films “Apocalypse Now” and “The Great Santini?”

When I went in to read for “Apocalypse Now,” the initial writing for the character I played wasn’t written very well. Colonel Carnage was the original name for LtCol Kilgore and was made more of a caricature of the Army than a realistic portrayal. It was just too much for me. Coppola allowed me to adjust the LtCol for the film and to find the uniform and the hat for the character. Coppola always allowed me to find the character and was very instrumental in my career. He helped me a lot. Coppola and I were so close, we would have arguments on the phone about artistic points, but we had a mutual respect. I really like working for him.

When I did “The Great Santini,” I went down early to location to get settled in Beaufort, South Carolina. I found a place to live and went into a real estate office where they thought I was a Marine. One funny memory was when I went up to a beautiful house on the hill when looking for a place to rent. I went up to the door with the real estate people where this sweet, little southern lady opened it and I asked her if she would allow me to rent the home from her. She had the most honest and funniest response with her draw, “Well where would I go?” I thanked her for her time, and we left.

I would get up at 5:30 in the mornings and go hang out with the drill instructors at MCRD Parris Island. They seemed more beat up and tired than the recruits were. They were hoarse and exhausted from their work training them. I went to the officers and non-commissioned officers’ ball while on base where I had a great time with them. I always try to be as accurate as I can with military parts, especially in “The Great Santini.” Overall, working with the Marines was great! I love Marines!

As LtCol Kilgore in “Apocalypse Now.” Credit IMDB.com

Robert Duvall with Francis Ford Coppola on set of “Apocalypse Now.” Credit unknown.

Robert Duvall in The Great Santini. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are your favorite moments from your mid-career to now on such films?

“Tender Mercies” comes to mind where I insisted on Wilford being in the film with me where he had my back in dealing with the director. Wilford helped with the common distance between a foreign director and a native actor, which was taking place in my situation. One of the best memories from that set is when the director, Bruce Beresford, told us to, “pick up the pace,” on set. Wilford responded with, “I didn’t know anybody dropped it.” . Wilford’s retort drew laughter from the cast and crew.

I once walked into the dining room on “Lonesome Dove” and told them, “We were making the Godfather of Westerns.” I really believe that and playing Gus is probably my most favorite part to play overall.

“Days of Thunder” was a lot of fun working with Tom Cruise. Tom Cruise is a good guy to work with and he bought me a ,000 jumping horse. He really is a terrific and very giving guy. It was great to be with him again on “Jack Reacher.” I played a retired Marine in that film with him.

Working on “Falling Down” with Rachel Ticotin was wonderful. She is a smart and fun actress to work with. We had a great time on set for the film.

“The Apostle” was a wonderful film to make. Miranda Richardson was so talented in the film and we had Farrah Fawcett, who was underrated, in it as well. I put my own money in that film and we got it back. Marlon Brando loved it and so did Billy Graham, so I got praise on both sides from the secular and religious. Brando wrote me a letter that is framed on my wall and it still means a lot to me what he wrote.

Hank Whitman is another talented professional to work with where we worked together on “Wild Horses” in 2015. He is a Texas Ranger and served in the Marines. He is a classy guy and a man of his word.

My favorite film to work on recently was “Get Low,” just loved the character. It was just a nice production to work on, especially with Lucas Black who I worked with on “Sling Blade.”

Robert with Tess Harper in “Tender Mercies,” which he won the Oscar for Best Actor in 1984. Credit IMDB.com.

Susan Rinnell, Robert Duvall, Glenn Close, Jason Presson, Gail Youngs and Wilford Brimley in “The Stone Boy.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert working on “The Natural.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Tom Cruise while filming “Days of Thunder.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert and Gene Hackman in Geronimo: An American Legend. Credit IMDB.com.

Rachel Ticotin and Robert Duvall in “Falling Down.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert wrote, directed, produced and starred in “The Apostle.” Credit IMDB.com.

Robert with Nic Cage filming “Gone in 60 Seconds.” Credit IMDB.com.

On set in “Get Low” with Bill Murray. Credit IMDB.com.

WATM: What are you most proud of in your life and career?

I am proud of my wife Luciana and we have a nice relationship. She is a great cook, she is going for her brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is studying Kali which is Filipino knife training. She has a great family she comes from in Argentina where she is the granddaughter of Argentinian aviation pioneer Susana Ferrari Billinghurst. We love our dogs and they are like kids.

Picture of Robert with his wife Luciana at an event for “The Judge.” Credit IMDB.com.


MIGHTY TRENDING

DoD making steady progress on Space Force plans

Space is a crucial domain that the United States must continue to exploit and lead in, said Vice President Mike Pence at the fourth meeting of the National Space Council at Fort Lesley J. McNair on Oct. 24, 2018.

“Space is a warfighting domain, just like the land, air and sea,” Pence said. “And America will be as dominant there as we are, here on Earth.”

This is the basis for President Donald J. Trump’s creation of the United States Space Force, which would be the sixth branch of the military, the vice president said.


Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan called this “the next and natural evolution” of America’s military. The new service “is absolutely necessary to ensure American supremacy in space,” he said. “The U.S. military is the best in the world in space, but our adversaries have taken note and are actively developing and fielding capabilities to potentially deny our usage of space in crisis or war.”

Space Force

Also pushing this is the growth in capacity and capabilities of the commercial space industry, which has moved forward in ways never imagined, Shanahan said. “President Trump has directed that a response to the threats from adversaries and the opportunities of commercial space be combined to generate a solution — the Space Force,” he said.

Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick M. Shanahan.

The department will submit a legislative proposal in the coming weeks, and the deputy secretary called that “a significant lift.”

“The legislative proposal will embody our guiding principles, speed and effectiveness,” he said. “Speed in leveraging commercial space technology and resources. Speed in escaping red tape. Speed in fielding capabilities sooner. It will reflect our drive to be more effective — effective in maximizing how we are more integrated technically to unlock our ability to be united in our space operations. Effective in creating a solution, and then together — not singularly — leveraging the solutions across the enterprise. Effective in how we structure the Space Force.”

DOD is considering the cost of the venture.

Space Development Agency

The department is also working on the Space Development Agency. The agency will leverage technology, standards, and architecture to enable unparalleled integration, he said. “The effort now is on reconciling capabilities prioritized by the National Defense Strategy with the readiness of technology, anchored by our assumptions on how quickly we can scale,” Shanahan said.

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the council that all members of the Joint Chiefs support the stand up of a combatant command for space. The command will focus DOD activities and the department’s development of doctrine, tactics, techniques and procedures in the domain. The command will also focus discussions on “the authorities, responsibilities, and rules of engagement for conduct in space, for the conduct of defensive and offensive operations to protect our constellation, to fight our constellation, and to support our war fighters in all domains, and across all domains, as we protect our ability to deploy civil, commercial, and military space, to the benefit of the nation,” Selva said.

Seeking strategic advantage

This is needed, said Sue Gordon, the deputy director of national intelligence. “The intelligence community applauds the redoubled emphasis on ensuring and protecting our strategic advantage in this domain that is so necessary to our national interests,” she said. “But it’s a strategic advantage that our adversaries and competitors would seek to diminish.

Intelligence analysts believe Russia and China continue to focus on establishing operational forces designed to attack U.S. space systems. “Space is a priority warfighting domain for them, as demonstrated by the creation of dedicated space organizations over the past several years,” she said. “Russian and Chinese destructive antisatellite weapons will probably reach initial operating capability in the next few years. And both these countries are advancing directed energy weapons technologies for the purpose of fielding anti-satellite weapons that could blind or damage our sensitive space-based optical sensors, such as those used for remote sensing or missile defense.”

Russia and China also continue to launch experimental satellites to advance counter-space capabilities. “If a future conflict were to occur involving Russia or China, either country would probably justify attacks against U.S. and allied satellites as necessary to offset any perceived U.S. military advantage derived from military, civil or commercial space systems,” she said.

This article originally appeared on the United States Department of Defense. Follow @DeptofDefense on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why the German military may look to recruit foreigners

The German military, the Bundeswehr, had 21,000 unfilled positions in 2017, and the service is now looking beyond its borders to fill its ranks.

A Defense Ministry report in late 2016 proposed recruiting from other EU countries, and the ministry confirmed in late July 2018 that it was seriously considering doing so.

“The Bundeswehr is growing,” a ministry spokesman told news agency DPA. “For this, we need qualified personnel.”


Germany’s military has shrunk since the Cold War. In 2011, the country ended mandatory military service. From a high of of 585,000 troops in the mid-1980s, the service’s numbers have fallen to just under 179,000 in mid-2018.

A German infantryman stands at the ready with his Heckler Koch G36 during a practice exercise in 2004.

(U.S. Navy photo)

About half of current members of the German military are expected to retire by 2030, and with an aging population, finding native-born replacements may get tougher.

German leaders have pushed to add more troops while beefing up defense spending.

In mid-2016, Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said she would remove the cap of 185,000 total troops to help make the force more flexible. She said the military would look to add 14,300 soldiers over seven years. (In early 2017, the Defense Ministry upped that to 20,000 soldiers added by 2024.)

“The Bundeswehr is under pressure to modernize in all areas,” she said at the time. “We have to get away from the process of permanent shrinking.”

Efforts to grow have included more recruitment of minors — a record-high 2,128 people under 18 joined as volunteers in 2017, but signing up young Germans has been criticized.

Recruiting foreigners was generally supported by the governing parties, with some qualifiers.

Karl-Heinz Brunner, a defense expert and member of the Social Democrat Party, said foreigners who join up should be promised citizenship.

“If citizens of other countries are accepted, without the promise of getting a German passport, the Bundeswehr risks becoming a mercenary army,” he told German newspaper Augsburger Allegemeine.

Florian Hahn, a defense spokesman for the Christian Democratic Union, said such a recruitment model “could be developed,” but “a certain level of trust with every soldier must be guaranteed.”

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Burt W. Eichen)

‘Germany just doesn’t feel threatened’

Personnel woes are only part of the Bundeswehr’s problem.

Reports have emerged in recent years of shortages of everything from body armor to tanks. German troops overseas have been hamstrung by damaged or malfunctioning equipment. A lack of spare parts has left some weapons systems unusable.

Reports of inoperable fighter jets — and insufficient training for pilots — have raised questions about whether Germany can fulfill its NATO responsibilities. As of late 2017, all of Germany’s submarines were out of service, and the navy in general has struggled to build ships and develop a strategy.

Gen. Volker Wieker, the military’s inspector general, said in February 2018 that the force would be ready to assume command of NATO’s Very High Readiness Joint Task Force in Eastern Europe in 2019.

The Bundeswehr had a long-term plan to address ” still unsatisfactory ” gaps in its capabilities, Wieker said, but it would take at least a decade to recover after years of dwindling defense spending.

Defense spending is a contentious issue in Germany — one supercharged by President Donald Trump’s attacks on NATO members for what he sees as failures to meet the 2%-of-GDP defense-spending level they agreed to reach by 2024.

Governing-coalition members have feuded over how to raise defense expenditures. Those in favor of a quick increase say it’s needed to fix the military. Others want the money directed elsewhere and have said Chancellor Angela Merkel is doing Trump’s militarist bidding.

“What we’ve seen in the last few years — really the sort of tragic and kind of embarrassing stories about the state of the Bundeswehr — that is certainly sinking in, and Germans are now supporting more defense spending than they have in the past,” Sophia Besch, a research fellow at the Center for European Reform, said on a recent edition of the Center for a New American Security’s Brussels Sprouts podcast .

“There is just this huge debate … around the 2% [of GDP defense-spending level] being the right way of going about it,” Besch added.

Some Germans also remain chastened by World War II and the Cold War, which devastated and then divided the country. The Bundeswehr still struggles with its Nazi history.

“There’s a definitely a generational aspect to this,” Besch said. “The sort of traditional pacifist approach … I think is mostly permanent in the older generations.”

Others just aren’t that worried.

“I think the issue today is that Germany just doesn’t feel threatened. Germans just don’t see a threat to themselves,” Besch added. “They see perhaps a threat in the East, but their relationship with Russia is complex. They just don’t see the need to invest that much in defense spending.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

Articles

Why the M-60 ‘Pig’ remains one of the best US machine guns ever

Just a few feet away from the Vietnam Veterans Memorial Wall in Washington, D.C., is a life-size statue called “Three Soldiers.”


Crafted in bronze by sculptor Frederick Hart, he portrayed the men garbed in uniforms representative of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps, carrying weapons of the Vietnam War era and facing the memorial wall. The man on the left, his body draped with ammo belts, carries an M-60 general purpose machine gun.

Other than the M-16 rifle, perhaps no other firearm is as closely associated with the Vietnam War as the M-60. Portrayals of the M-60 in the hands of Vietnam War soldiers range from the sublime dignity expressed by the “Three Soldiers” statue to the over-the-top destruction of the fictional town of Hope, Washington, by Sylvester Stallone’s character, John Rambo, in the film “First Blood.”

The M-60 is a weapon that has faithfully served American soldiers in many battles since 1957. Far from perfect, the early model of the M-60 had so many design flaws that soldiers jerry-rigged fixes using everything from wire coat hangers to empty C-ration cans. The M-60 is also heavy — the machine gun weighs about 23 pounds, and those belts of ammo aren’t exactly lightweight, either.

No wonder the M-60 earned an unflattering nickname: The Pig.

But one thing is certain. Even with its flaws, a soldier armed with an M-60 can lay down a lot of lead, whether he is fighting in the jungles of Southeast Asia or the badlands of Afghanistan.

U.S. Marine Corps M-60 in all her glory. (Photo courtesy of WikiMedia Commons)

The M-60 is an air-cooled, disintegrating belt-fed, gas-operated general purpose machine gun. It fires the 7.62 mm round with a cyclic rate of about 550 rounds a minute — a rate of fire that requires the crew to change the M-60’s barrel about every minute. In addition, the M-60 has an integral, folding bipod, but it can also be mounted on a folding tripod.

The M-60 was — and is — a fixture in the U.S. armed forces, serving as a squad support weapon, vehicle-mounted machine gun and as a “flex gun” mounted in the doors of helicopters like the UH-1 Huey and the CH-47 Chinook.

Development of the M-60 started after World War II. American generals held a grudging admiration for the German MG-42, a machine gun so powerful that it was nicknamed “Hitler’s Bone Saw” by the Wehrmacht troops that fired it. The MG-42 had a blinding rate of fire and was belt fed—both qualities were considered desirable by weapons designers. The Fallschirmjägergewehr 42, or FG 42 battle rifle, also had equally desirable qualities, such as a gas-operated bolt, which were closely scrutinized by the Americans.

Ordnance experts took the best Germany had to offer and developed a prototype machine gun. Some argued it wasn’t an ideal machine gun compared to foreign models such as the FN MAG—but it could be domestically produced, which made congressmen with defense industries in their districts very happy.

In 1957, the Defense Department adopted the machine gun and dubbed it the United States Machine Gun, Caliber 7.62 mm, M60. It’s been in the arsenal ever since.

A Navy SEAL fires an M-60 lightweight machine gun from the shoulder, because that’s how SEALs roll. (Photographer’s Mate Petty Officer 1st Class Chuck Mussi)

But the three-man crews who served the M-60 during the Vietnam War discovered the machine gun had its idiosyncrasies.

First of all, no one designing the M-60 remembered to put a wire carrying handle on the barrel. That made barrel changes an agonizing affair—in order to remove the red-hot steel, an assistant gunner was expected in the heat of battle to don asbestos gloves that looked like oven mitts. Also, ammo belts would sometimes bind in the weapon. Then, some G.I. got a brilliant idea: just lash an empty C-ration can to the left side of the receiver so the belt would flow smoothly over the curved surface.

By the 1980s, the military adopted the M-60E3, a version of the machine gun with added improvements and (most of) the bugs worked out.

Although the Defense Department ordered the phase-out of the M-60, it is still used by U.S. armed forces personnel. SEALs favor the M-60, the Navy and the Coast Guard often have it on board their ships, and Army reserve units frequently have an M-60 in the weapons room.

And 45 nations — many of them NATO or East Asia allies — continue to use the M-60 as their heavy-hitting general purpose machine gun.

MIGHTY HISTORY

5 countries where you can still become a knight

The fantasy genre has captured the imagination of millions around the world. The middle ages are romanticized with images of knights bending the knee to serve their King or Queen on and off the battlefield. Historically, the rank came with the privileges of land, title, and wealth. Militarily, knights had to be trained from an early age to become feared instruments of warfare. Dawning their Coat of Arms they fearlessly charged the battlefield in the name of God, King, and Country.


Modern day knights may participate in wars in the name of the realm, without the suits of armor. Foreigners may also be invested as honorary knights contingent on customs and contributions to the realm. The Grand Master of a Knight Order is usually the Monarch, President, or Prime Minister of the country the Order resides in. There are several countries that still have Knight Orders that we, not born a noble birth, can ascend to by completing extraordinary achievements.

There is, however, a country that you can become a knight of today. As in right now, today.

Americans and Briton Who Thwarted Train Attack Get France’s Top Honor | Mashable News

www.youtube.com

France – Order of the Legion of Honor

The Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur was founded in 1802 by Napoleon Bonaparte. The purpose of this award was to unify France after the French Revolution and award his soldiers for bravery in combat. It is a 216-year-old Order of merit that can be awarded through high civil or military conduct.

To enter as the first rank of Chevalier or Knight, one must have served a minimum of 20 years of public service or 25 years of exceptional professional distinction. However, foreign individuals who perform acts of valor on French soil are also eligible for membership.

Three Americans, two of which are Air Force and Army service members, received the award in 2016. The President of France personally awarded our brothers in arms France’s highest honor after foiling a terrorist attack.

The image is used to identify the Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity, a subject of public interest.

Italy – Order of the Star of Italian Solidarity

Stella della Solidarietà Italiana was founded by Enrico De Nicola in 1947 in pursuit of the reconstruction of Italy. This knighthood was created specifically for foreigners and expats who made an outstanding contribution to the reconstruction of Italy after World War II.

Giorgio Napolitano, the 11th President of Italy, refocused the scope of the award to promote friendly relations with other countries and improve ties with Italy. If you do something that is a positive reflection of Italy and promotes Italian culture, you too may become a Knight or Dame of this Order.

Mida d’aquesta previsualització

The United kingdom – Order of the British Empire

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire was founded in 1917 by King Geroge V to reward civilian and military service members for meritorious service to the United Kingdom. This Order also selects members who contribute artistically to British culture, like most knighthood orders, men and women are conferred the title equally. A member’s ascension to the two highest ranks grants the member a knighthood and the right to the title of ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame.’

Appointments are made on the recommendation of the British Secretary of State for Defense and the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs. Foreigners may be granted an Honorary knighthood but do not have the right to place ‘Sir’ or ‘Dame’ as a prefix to their name.

Presidentfranciscop

Spain – Order of the Golden Fleece

The Distinguished Order of the Golden Fleece, Insigne Orden del Toisón de Oro in Spanish, was founded in 1430 by Philip the Good, Duke of Burgundy. It has stood for over 589 years, and it is currently constituted and active. This order has two Grandmasters, the King of Spain Felipe VI and Archduke Karl of Austria. This knighthood order is the most prestigious and exclusive in the world with as few as 1,200 members since its founding.

This knighthood is only granted for the lifetime of the recipient and the collar, the symbol of your status, must be returned to the ruling monarch after one’s death. To become a member one must either be of a royal bloodline tied to Spain or be an exceptional individual in either politics or academics. For example, Víctor García de la Concha, who is a Philologist that became the Director of the Royal Spanish Academy, is one of the 17 living members of this Order.

I’m now Sir Ruddy Cano Hernandez, first of his name and lord of a square foot tile. Bow ya sh*ts.

Sealandgov.org

The Principality of Sealand – The Knights of the Sovereign Military Order of Sealand

There is good news for the impatient!

You can become a knight of Sealand right now. There are add-ons that you may include with your purchase such as a Sealand ID card and a square foot ‘plot’ of land that will total £154.96 or 0.01 at the writing of this article. Technically Sealand isn’t a country because it is not recognized by the majority of other countries.

However, there is a case that technically allows it to be considered a country without recognition from England. The Prince of Sealand declared Sealand’s independence from the UK on September 2,1967.

In support of the Principality of Sealand’s sovereignty, Prince Roy fired warning shots at a buoy repair boat that came close to Sealand. The Prince was charged by the British government with unlawful possession and discharge of a firearm. The Essex court proclaimed that they didn’t have jurisdiction over the tower and the British government chose to drop the case due to mockery by the media. – ThoughtCo.com

If you wanted to become a knight and do not want to do anything more than buy your way in, that’s now an option. I don’t think you’ll be receiving any invitations to a royal ball, though.

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time pilots dropped terrifying darts out of their planes at the enemy

The first World War was a horrific time to be a soldier on the frontlines. Nations were in a rush to quickly develop and implement the newest and most effective tools of destruction. Before the war, troops had no idea of the true devastation that a tank, fighter pilot, or the various gas canisters could bring.

Then, there were the flechette darts that — thankfully — never really took off. To be frank, they sound a little silly. They’re just oversized versions of the darts that troops would toss around at their local pub — what’s the big deal? In reality, they were more like something out of a freakin’ horror movie.


The darts were also mostly silent. One minute, you and your platoon are fine in the trenches. The next, you’re all being turned into pincushions.

(Illustration from the Petit Journal, August, 1915)

First, let’s talk about the physics behind these darts from Hell. They were roughly five inches long, weighed just over a pound, and were made of sharpened steel. When they were dropped from hundreds of feet above the ground, they’d strike the ground with enough force to pierce helmets and even vehicles.

If you filed grooves into the top or added a bird’s feather to the dull end, the dart would always land pointy-side down. Now consider the fact that a single pilot could release a canister filled with around 250 of these darts at a time and you can understand the sheer terror that these things wrought.

The Italians invented the darts before the war, but soon, countries on both sides of No Man’s Land were dropping them on opposing trenches. They were also extremely cheap to make and implement, which means they were used constantly — although the Royal Flying Corps felt they were “unsportsmanlike.” The Germans, on the other hand, were very keen on using the darts on the French. In fact, they had them specially imprinted with the text, “invention Française, fabrication Allemande.” Which roughly translates to, “a French invention, German made.”

The flechette darts didn’t last past the early years of the war when bombs were deemed more effective. But the design of sharp darts being used for war later resurfaced with the flechette rounds used in shotguns and the infamous Beehive artillery round used in the Vietnam War.

To learn more about the flechette darts, check out the video below.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia wants Canada to hand over files on ex-Nazi death squad interpreter

Russia says it has asked Canada to hand over case files on a 95-year-old former Nazi death-squad member to help Moscow investigate the mass murder of children at a Soviet orphanage during World War II.


Helmut Oberlander, who was born in Ukraine and became a German citizen during the war, lives in Canada.

He obtained Canadian citizenship in 1960 and courts have repeatedly ruled Oberlander’s citizenship should be revoked because he lied about his participation in a Nazi death squad during the war. In December Canada’s Supreme Court refused to hear his appeal on the government’s decision to strip him of his passport, bringing him a step closer to actual deportation from Canada.

Russia’s Investigation Committee announced on February 14 that it wanted Canada’s case and legal files on Oberlander, saying it was checking his possible involvement in a 1942 “genocide” at an orphanage in the Sea of Azov town of Yeysk.

The committee said in a statement that a death squad equipped with “mobile gas chambers” was deployed in 1942 and 1943 to the German-occupied Krasnodar region.

“As a result of one such operation, on October 9 and 10, 1942, a mass murder of children at the Yeysk orphanage was committed,” it added.

At the time, Oberlander served as a translator for the Nazis’ mobile killing squads, the committee said.

Oberlander has said he was forced to join one of the squads at the age of 17 and did not take part in any atrocities.

Last year, Russian investigators said they had opened a probe into suspected genocide after declassified documents in the Krasnodar region revealed that the bodies of 214 disabled foster children who had fled the Crimean Peninsula for nearby Yeysk were found after Nazi forces were driven out of the area.

MIGHTY MOVIES

One thing John Wick 3 got right about a firefight no other movie has

With the third installment of the John Wick franchise continuing to see solid returns at the box office and a fourth installment already announced, it seems clear that the Keanu Reeves’ action vehicle is bringing something to the moviegoing audience that they’ve lacked in this era of high-budget blockbusters and CGI-infused epics. I’ve gone on record in the past saying that I believe the secret to Wick’s success is in its approach to violence; melding realism with whimsy in a uniquely American fashion and producing this nation’s first legitimate response to the Brit’s premiere assassin franchise, James Bond.


What makes Reeves’ Wick Bond-like where other successful American franchises have fallen short (culturally speaking) isn’t in its similarities to the spy-franchise, but rather in its willingness to depart so openly from it. While American heroes like Jason Bourne, Jack Ryan, and even Ethan Hunt seem to emulate Bond’s style and approach to varying degrees, Wick diverges from the expected and leans hard into a stylized alternate reality where firefights require grappling skills and the homeless man you gave your change to might actually be a trained assassin hiding his Rolex from your view.

Trained combatants masquerading as homeless men is a common urban legend that may have legitimate roots in some British SAS operations.

(Lionsgate)

This departure from what we’ve come to expect could have been enough to make the Wick-flicks into a Matrix-like fantasy franchise, but it’s where and how these films choose to anchor themselves in reality that makes Wick’s fight scenes so jarring. Every time you start to think you’re watching another superhero movie, the Wick series brings you back to earth with a powerful thud, grounding its over-the-top violence in reality, even when the circumstances are anything but realistic.

One scene in John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum” perfectly captures this combination of gritty realism and seemingly surreal violence in a brief but dramatic fight between the titular Wick and one of the countless assassins he’s forced to dispatch along the path to redemption. As the two wrestle with one another, they fall into an indoor pool, creating separation and offering each an opportunity to level their weapons at one another.

About as effective as this.

(Marine Corps photo by Pfc. Levi Schultz)

With both Wick and his opponent still submerged under the water, the goon opens fire, releasing three rounds into the pool that, in any other film, would have hit Wick square in the chest. Instead, however, the rounds immediately begin to flutter off course, reacting to the dense water separating the two men in what is perhaps the most realistic example of water’s effect on traveling rounds I’ve ever seen depicted in film.

Wick then closes the distance between the two of them, pressing the muzzle of his weapon right into the neck of his opponent and firing, killing the bad guy and allowing Wick a precious moment to regroup.

John Wick Chapter 3 Underwater Gun Fight | John Wick Chapter 3

youtu.be

While movies may show bullets whizzing through the water (often with the hero dodging them as he swims away), the truth is, water is about 800 times denser than air and has a huge effect on the trajectory and energy of a round. As the bullet strikes the water, its kinetic energy immediately begins to dissipate against the resistance of the thicker medium, allowing that drag to send it fluttering off course, and usually, rendering the bullet near enough to inert to make it no threat to any nearby assassins.

“John Wick: Chapter 3” is the first movie I’ve ever seen so clearly demonstrate water’s effect on a bullet’s path without taking the time to handhold the audience to explain the physics behind it. Instead, Wick simply shows the action as it would unfold and moves on, respecting the viewer enough to assume that you’ll get it–even if it’s something you’ve never seen on screen before.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tzm_yyl13yo
Fires weapon under water – with his own life on the line

youtu.be

As demonstrated by Mythbusters in an episode called “Bulletproof Water” that aired in July of 2005, just about anything you shoot at the water short of a .50 caliber round or a 12 gauge slug will disintegrate in less than three feet when fired into water. If you trust your math enough, you can even devise a rig that lets you shoot 5.56mm rounds at yourself like physicist Andreas Wahl did to prove the point, but I’m inclined to take Wick’s word for it on this one.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Airman awarded Bronze Star for meritorious achievement in Afghanistan

Major Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, was presented the Bronze Star Medal at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019, for his meritorious achievement while at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan.

Since Dec. 6, 1941, men and women who served in any capacity in or with the U.S. military, have been awarded the Bronze Star Medal by distinguishing themselves through heroic or meritorious achievement or service in a combat zone.

From March 3, 2018, to March 2, 2019, Darty served as the operations officer and maintenance advisor for the 442nd Air Expeditionary Advisory Squadron. During this time, he operated outside of a coalition-controlled airfield, where he endured 29 indirect fire rocket attacks and was exposed to a persistent threat of insider attacks.


Even with all of the challenges, Darty was able to help execute more than 10,000 sorties during his year in Afghanistan, and he also helped set up a UH-60 Black Hawk maintenance training program, which allowed for the host nation members to become more familiar with this technology.

U.S. Air Force Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, poses for a photo at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 9, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

“This was an outstanding opportunity for me and I learned so much about my job as well as myself,” Darty said. “I was able to work alongside great U.S. military members as well as extraordinary Afghan National Army counterparts who all shared the same common goal.”

Before arriving to RAF Mildenhall, Darty finished the 365-day deployment which brought its share of obstacles.

“Communication was the toughest obstacle we faced,” Darty said. “We received training in Dari, which is one of the primary languages in Afghanistan, and we worked alongside some of the bravest interpreters and people I’ve ever met in some of the most hostile conditions, and patience was my guide.”

Learning patience and understanding of other cultures was a major factor in Darty and members of his team being awarded the Bronze Star.

“Some things I was the lead for and some I did on my own, but this award is really for the 40-plus other people in the squadron who did the heavy lifting,” Darty said. “Our team consisted of Romanian, Swedish and U.S. service members from different branches – it was a truly joint, coalition organization.”

U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Paul Weme, 100th Maintenance Group commander, presents Maj. Aaron Darty, 100th Maintenance Squadron operations officer, with a Bronze Star Medal during a ceremony held at RAF Mildenhall, England, July 1, 2019.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brandon Esau)

Master Sgt. William Smith, 733rd Air Mobility Squadron production superintendent at Kadena Air Base, Japan, worked alongside Darty in Afghanistan and attests to his ability to lead a team with a common goal.

“It was an absolute pleasure to have the opportunity to work with a person of his caliber in a hostile and foreign environment,” Smith remarked. “Major Darty has an uncanny ability to bring everybody around him up, even in unknown situations. He was always calm in numerous high-stress situations where our number one priority was keeping our people safe and out of harm’s way.

Coming together as a team to execute the mission is, according to Darty, part of his vision for the airmen he works with here.

“My advice to them is always rely on the people next to you,” Darty expressed. “This was something I learned while deployed which I never learned anywhere else. We were our own security and even though we may not be getting shot at everyday here, you have to always trust the person by your side.”

This article originally appeared on United States Air Force. Follow @USAF on Twitter.

Articles

The best and the worst Air Force recruiting slogans of all time

The U.S. Air Force has had many recruiting slogans, used at various times to varying effect. The current Air Force slogan “Aim High, Fly-Fight-Win” is no “We’re Looking For A Few Good Men” or “The Few The Proud, The Marines.” But yet the USAF continues its effort to come up with something as sticky as “Semper Fi.”


Not happening.

Marine Corps slogan recognition will always beat any branch (and even some national brands… there are studies on this), but Air Force advertising has been like the Cleveland Browns trying to find a quarterback – they were on to something early, but after a while, it got confusing.

Here’s WATM’s list of Air Force slogans ranked from the best ideas to the worst:

1. “Aim High”

Easily the best slogan the Air Force ever used. Aim High is so good, the Air Force had to bring it back. It’s fast, snappy, memorable, and says all you need to know: we think we’re the best branch, so why try to join the Army or Navy? I don’t know why they changed it and they probably couldn’t tell you either but whatever they changed it to had to be the Merrill McPeak uniform of Air Force slogan.

That was the most Air Force joke ever made.

2. “Uno Ab Alto (One From on High)”

This sounds less like Airmen and more like Gandalf the Gray. Or a Harry Potter spell. Looking for that badass Latin quote will get you into trouble, Air Force. I can’t fault them too much because this was before Aim High. Uno Ab Alto gets #2 because it’s a classier way of saying “Death From Above” (Mors Ab Alto) which I think is a far better recruiting slogan for the Drone Age. If you want to attract more drone pilots, just say what you mean.

The 7th Bomb Wing is ahead of the game.

3. “Aim High . . . Fly-Fight-Win”

Sloganeering as a result of surveys, meetings, and calls for suggestions: the true Air Force way. This latest iteration of “Aim High” ranks as #3 because it’s riding the coattails of #1.

This will likely not be replaced for a long time considering the amount of research, time, and money effort spent on coming up with it. It shouldn’t be a surprise to Air Force veterans that the Air Force put so much into changing their slogan only to lean on one they used a decade or so ago and adding a college fight song to it.

If they wanted to use things Airmen naturally say to each other as a recruiting slogan, they should have just listened to Airmen in squadron hallways, but this would probably result in the Air Force slogan being “Have a great Air Force day” “Happy Hour?” or “See you tomorrow, Doug.”

4. “The Sky’s No Limit”

Harkening back to the Air Force’s Cold War glory days, The Sky’s No Limit is actually not a bad one to fall back on if we’re just going to start resurrecting old lines. The test pilots of the days of yore were pretty ballsy, and with the Air Force’s expanding missions as an Air and Space Force, this is a good descriptive slogan, even if it’s a little vague.

Airman Snuffy just brings his buddies on the flightline, NBD.

The only real problem with this is a lot of the Air Force doesn’t really fly so for them, the sky’s no limit, but getting there certainly is. Believe it or not, some people who join the Air Force don’t want to fly. The fighting and winning are fun, though.

5. “Do Something Amazing”

While the Air Force has some heroic people working in incredible career fields (that is, people who do those amazing somethings), it also has cooks, plumbers, and lawyers. All are necessary to the Air Force mission (and are true-blue lifesavers when you really want or need one – trust me, you want these people to be your friends), but these aren’t the careers you think of when you’re considering joining the military. You might be disappointed when you’re thinking about all the amazing AFSCs you’ll cross-train into the moment you can. At least they’re not patronizing people by framing additional duties as a great activity.

Marines probably do this.

Actually, you know what’s amazing? Spending an entire enlistment without ever having to see Tops In Blue.

And at air shows.

Also, “amazing” is what a sorority girl calls her summer study abroad program in London.

6. “We Do The Impossible Everyday”

… And we do the hyperbolic so much more. Read some USAF EPRs for the most flowery language you’ve ever seen. The thesaurus was created for Air Force performance reviews. You need one to make it sound like your creepy subordinate deserves a goddamn medal for volunteering to watch people pee.

The sky’s no limit.

This line looks like the Air Force doesn’t know the meaning of the word impossible (Which is a much better slogan. Air Force, call me). The biggest problem with this slogan is that they also do the very, very possible all the time. Not every one gets the “impossible” job.

What’s she holding? Wait, They read from dead trees? MAGIC.

You know what’s possible? Getting booted out for your third alcohol-related incident because Frank’s Franks won’t put hot dogs on Anthony’s Pizza. You know who makes that possible? Air Force JAGs and security forces.

7. “No One Comes Close”

This wouldn’t have been so bad in retrospect, except you know who comes close? The Navy. They also have fighters and stuff. Not exactly the same missions, I know, but… close enough to make this slogan awkward.

8. “Cross Into The Blue”

This nebulous Blue. Context tells you it’s the sky but the ocean is also blue, for the record, and it’s a much more tangible blue to cross into. This would be a better line for trying to get Army people to come to the Air Force, but I doubt that would be the goal (Airmen use the term “Army Proof” for a reason).

9. “It’s Not Science Fiction, It’s What We Do Everyday”

This would be a better slogan for Scientology. I don’t remember Orson Scott Card writing about drone strikes in Pakistan but maybe somewhere a six-year-old is playing video games and ending terrorists. No one confuses drones with alien technology. The Internet had been around for a long time when these ads started. So too with night vision. Until DARPA puts those Iron Man suits in field tests, no one will ever make that connection.

America’s Airmen (for the most part) are not delusional about themselves. They don’t need to be. For all the “Chair Force” smack Airman take from other branches, troops like Ammo are awesome in their own way and don’t need to pretend they’re all combat controllers.

Except Mondays between 1100 and 1400.

10. “We’ve Been Waiting For You”

Slightly ominous, it doesn’t really inspire as much as it implies the Air Force has been watching you while you sleep, staring at you from across crowded rooms, and following you home after school.

11. “Above All”

Unfinished thoughts probably always seem like a great idea for a slogan in meetings. Sure, I get the idea of putting your branch above everyone else’s as a way to foster esprit de corps, but it can be troublesome sometimes.

Every branch has their strengths, so let’s be real. Unlike this Air Force Training Instructor:

Another reason this slogan ranks so low is the lack of originality. Uber alles (above all) is the German national anthem.

12. “A Great Way of Life”

An older slogan which probably seemed appropriate for a time when the Air Force has to pull people from living the American Dream and get them into the Air Force, where they would sleep on the flightline and be prepared to bomb Russians into the Stone Age 24/7.

The Airmen of the Strategic Air Command era were pretty badass in their own right. Nowadays, this would mean highlighting the golf course, gym, the dorms (and the Airmen who live there), the DFAC, and all the stupid shit young Airmen tend to do when they get to their first duty station.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The first commissioned female officer served in the Civil War

Some might scoff at the idea of a Confederate Army officer being counted in U.S. military history, but Sally Tompkins is one worth noting. Not only was she a commissioned female officer in a world of men, Capt. Sally Tompkins’ hospital had the lowest death rate of any hospital on either side of the war.


The Confederate Army was staffed and run by officers who had earned their ranks through the same means as U.S. government Army officers, the United States Military Academy at West Point. Their judgment can be said to be markedly similar – and in some cases much better – than their Union Army counterparts. After all, the North suffered a series of stunning defeats at the hands of these generals early on in the war.

So to say that Sally Tompkins was appointed by officers whose judgment would probably have been accepted in the United States Army is a point worth making. She first came to run a hospital out of the home of Richmond, Va. Judge John Robertson while just 27 years old. Soon after, Confederate President Jefferson Davis mandated that all Confederate military hospitals be run by Confederate military officers. Miss Tompkins was suddenly Capt. Tompkins, CSA.

But Tompkins was the only officer that would refuse to be paid for her work.

The Robertson Hospital, Richmond, Virginia, ca. 1861.

She was the daughter of a Revolutionary War veteran and thus appreciated the sacrifices made by men on the battlefields. As a native Virginian, she swore loyalty to her native state, and when the time came for her to help the cause, she picked up the slack where she could. That time just happened to come right after the First Battle of Bull Run, near Manassas, Va. Richmond was quickly overloaded with dying and wounded soldiers. Civilians were asked to open their homes to those men, and that’s how she started overseeing the Robertson home.

Throughout the war, Capt. Tompkins and her hospital served some 1,300 wounded troops, losing only 73 of them. Tompkins kept a register of each patient’s name, company, commanding officer, regiment, infliction, and discharge information for everyone at the hospital throughout the war. Tompkins’ mortality rate was the lowest on either side of the war, losing only 73 of those 1,300 – just five percent.

For this achievement, she became known as “The Angel of the Confederacy.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Veterans are writing eulogies to ‘the buddy they’ll never forget’

Few things in this world are stronger than the bonds forged by troops who fought together in combat. Those who survive life-threatening ordeals on the battlefield become closer in ways that others may never understand. When one of them loses their closest friend, it’s a tragedy that hurts forever.

What could be a more fitting for the coming Memorial Day than to write about what that friend means to you?


This memorial day, AARP is collecting stories about the friendships forged in war. Close friendships forged on the front lines of Vietnam and in the Nazi POW camps of World War II all the way to the remote combat outposts of Iraq. Veterans are writing stories of the best friends they met during these trying times. Two crewman stationed aboard the ill-fated USS Indianapolis, Marines fighting in the frozen wastes around the Chosin Reservoir, a young lieutenant and his radioman in the jungles of Vietnam.

Some survived the war. Many did not. What they have in common is that they’ll never be forgotten. Corporal Charles Thomas was that buddy for Lt. Karl Marlantes.

Marlantes in Vietnam after an eye injury.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

If that name sounds familiar, it’s because Marlantes is the author of two books, What It Is Like to Go to War and the critically-acclaimed Matterhorn.

Marlantes was a newly-christened Marine in Vietnam when Thomas was assigned to be his radioman. Like any good young officer, Marlantes listened to his more experienced corporal when he made suggestions. The young man even saved his lieutenant’s life on a mission in the mountains near the DMZ. Marlantes told AARP The Magazine:

“In early December 1968, we were on a long mission, high in the mountains, and it was monsoon time. We couldn’t get resupplied and were without food for three or four days. It was also cold, but we had no extra clothes, just the stuff rotting on us. One night I got hypothermic, really hypothermic. I couldn’t think and started shivering. Everybody knew hypothermia kills you. And Thomas just laid me on the ground and wrapped a quilted poncho liner around us and hugged me. And then his body heat got me back. Saved my life.”

Marlantes receiving the Navy Cross.
(Courtesy of Karl Marlantes)

Corporal Thomas was an outstanding Marine in combat and a talented radioman. Sadly, during an assault on an NVA position in 1969, Marlantes had to send Cpl. Thomas around the hill to set up an ambush. Following his orders, Thomas left the safety of his cover and made a dash for the objective with his squad. That’s when three rocket-propelled grenades struck, killing him and one other. Marlantes, now 73, recalled the moments afterward for AARP:

“I had to go through all the guys’ bodies to pull out, if you can believe this, anything like pictures of naked girls, so their parents wouldn’t be upset — it’s bad enough that their kid comes home in a body bag. And I pulled a letter out of Thomas’ pocket from his mother and remember it said, “Don’t you worry, Butch.” We knew each other only by last names and nicknames. I never knew he was Butch, that his mother called him that. “Don’t you worry, Butch, you’ll be home in just 11 more days.”

Watch Karl Marlantes look back and tell the story of Cpl. Charles Thomas.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is why there’s no excuse for Hollywood to screw up military uniforms

Every time a new Hollywood blockbuster comes out about the military, veterans and active duty service members get defensive — and for good reason.


The military is very detail-oriented and the veteran community can spot every mistake in technique, procedure, or uniform wear. It pains us watching films that can’t even get the amount of flags on our uniform correct.

Related: 62 glaring technical errors in ‘The Hurt Locker’

As much of a master craftsman as Stanley Kubrick was when creating films, he’s not without his flaws. For instance, that scene in Full Metal Jacket when Joker is doing pull-ups and then Private Pyle gets hell for not being able to do one.

But Gunny Hartman should have been on Joker’s ass just as much since none of his should have counted (although it could be argued that it was a character choice by late, great R. Lee Ermey, a former Marine Corps Drill Instructor and Hollywood’s truest bad ass, just so he could f*ck with Pyle sooner.)

via GIPHY

The film doesn’t exactly shine the best light on the reality of the Vietnam War, but at least in Full Metal Jacket, the uniforms are on point. According to the original Title 10, Chapter 45 section 772 line (f), actors may wear armed forces uniforms as long as it does not intend to discredit that armed force, and in 1970 that condition was removed altogether.

Back in 1967, Daniel Jay Schacht put on a theatrical street performance in protest of the Vietnam War. He and two other actors put on a skit where he “shot” the others with squirt-guns filled with red liquid. It was highly disrespectful but he did manage to get the uniform correct. After being sentenced with a $250 fine and six months in prison, he brought it up to the Court of Appeals and eventually to the Supreme Court.

It was ruled that, as distasteful as it was, his performance was protected under the First Amendment. The Vietnam War protester inadvertently helped troops by taking away any excuse to not get our uniforms right in film, television, and theatrical performances. Now there is no gray area. Hollywood has no excuse to not get the uniforms right.

So what gives? There are far more films that try to portray troops as righteous as Superman, but have them pop their collar.

The reason films like Full Metal Jacket, Forrest Gump, American Sniper, and Thank You For Your Service get it right is because they handle the military with respect. The producers, director, and costume designers listen when the military advisor speaks. They hire costume designers like Keith Denny who have handled military films before to do it right.

Military advisors have been gaining more and more respect in the industry. Because without them, well, the film turns into a drinking game for troops and vets — and they do not hold back their vitriol.