‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

A new Disney+ series is a throwback to an aspirational time in U.S. history that proved ordinary humans can achieve extraordinary feats.

“The Right Stuff” takes viewers back to America’s space race against the Soviet Union, with the U.S. placing its hopes on the capabilities of seven astronauts — all military test pilots. Two men at the center of the Mercury Seven are Maj. John Glenn (played by Patrick J. Adams), a revered Marine test pilot and committed family man, and Lt. Cmdr. Alan Shepard (played by Jake McDorman), one of the best test pilots in Navy history, according to a press release.


McDorman is no stranger to high-profile military characters. He previously played Navy SEAL Ryan Job in “American Sniper.” Though McDorman wasn’t looking for crossover in the two roles, he says there are parallels.

“What I got out of reading “The Right Stuff” and also reading “American Sniper” … was this relationship to fear. I mean these are people who have a very unique relationship to fear as far as any average person, like myself, could understand. To be able to act efficiently and make smart, calculated decisions under circumstances that would have any of the rest of us acting impulsively or recklessly or too reactionary is certainly a parallel,” he said.

The Right Stuff | Official Trailer | Disney+

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“The Right Stuff” explores how the astronauts’ lives were put on full display, in a manner described as America’s first reality TV show — including with “government-backed PR and publicity” to elevate the Mercury Seven, McDorman says. He adds that a joy and a fear exist when portraying a real person from history.

“When you feel that real presence of people that knew this person, loved this person, along with the public perception of a person — you know it both can breathe down your neck but it can also really inspire you, because it’s just this great responsibility to have. And honestly, it really doesn’t change my approach to the work too much, and I think if you let it, it can just spin you out and kind of sabotage you. So, I kind of use it as just another layer of excitement to view into the research process,” he said.

McDorman and his fellow cast members had a wealth of research to lean on for the pre-production process, he says, but Alan Shepard was also a private man — he was among the astronauts that didn’t write his own book. The other component of McDorman’s preparation for the role entailed in-person experiences.

“As far as the physical training part of it [the role], none of us did as much as we wished we could have — there was probably an astronaut bucket list that we all have,” he said. “We didn’t get to do the most exciting parts of astronaut training physically but educationally, by far, we did. We shot in Coco Beach, we shot in Florida where all of this stuff happened. We got to meet real astronauts at Kennedy Space Center and tour the entire facility; we got invited to the 50th anniversary of the moon landing … and just kind of soak in this environment firsthand before we started.”

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

“The Right Stuff” takes viewers back to a unified time in history when Americans rallied behind a common goal of developing a space program. McDorman recommends adding it to the must-watch list for the intersection to strides made this year.

“I’d say directly, the historical aspect is fascinating and if you really want a bookend with this year, the first manned SpaceX launch that happened in 2020, and now this show coming out months later, which is the inception of the American space program. You really get to see the start and finish and scope of that entire timeline with this show. It’s a story that even though it’s a famous book and was adapted to an Academy Award-winning movie, I still think for a lot of people — myself being one of those people at first — it’s relatively untold. I think most people my age, and especially people younger, are familiar with Apollo 11 — Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins, those guys — so learning about two space programs before Apollo, starting with Mercury and learning how the whole space program came to be and how far behind the Russians we were, you know we were reacting to them successfully putting satellites in orbit,” he said.

The Disney+ series also examines the astronauts’ families, who became instant celebrities. Among those under the microscope was Louise Shepard (played by Shannon Lucio), a wife and mother who refuses to let her husband’s [Alan Shepard] transgressions affect her home.

Lucio said she was attracted to the project because the story takes a deeper, clear-eyed look at this cast of characters who came together to try to do something that was dangerous and unheard of at that time. But the private nature of the Shepard family made getting inside of Louise’s head more difficult, Lucio added.

There is an effort by show creators to put the roles of the wives at the forefront, especially because Lucio points out these families were forced to present a “perfect Americana life to the public” while grappling with the realities of their lives privately.

“The show really focuses primarily on three astronauts: John Glenn, Alan Shepard, and Gordo Cooper, and then it also puts a good focus on their wives — and really what each wife was struggling with during this chaotic time when the spotlight was really on them. It does focus, not just on how they were there for their men to support them through this, but what was personally going on for them,” Lucio said.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Shannon Lucio as “Louise” and Jake McDorman as “Alan”

The couple’s relationship, as an example, was complex because it was born out of love, but “Alan was a known philanderer, almost from the moment they were married and throughout most of his life,” Lucio says. Still, Louise remained by his side so that the family could remain whole and he could continue being Alan Shepard.

Lucio says “The Right Stuff” offers an opportune message for current matters facing the nation.

“The story is an inspiring one because it takes these people who are deeply-flawed, but very ambitious and also noble and honorable, in some respects, and it throws them together and they’re all jockeying for this position to be the first. But at the end of the day they realize this is so much bigger than them. This is for America. This is for humanity. This is for trying to push what we are capable of further, and I think that right now, especially with what’s going on and how divisive our country in particular is in this moment, coming together and accomplishing something that is unthinkable is a story I feel needs to be shared and watched right now, for the sake of our souls,” Lucio said.

Other members of the cast include Patrick J. Adams as “Major John Glenn,” Colin O’Donoghue as “Captain Gordon Cooper,” Eloise Mumford as “Trudy Cooper,” James Lafferty as “Captain Scott Carpenter,” Nora Zehetner as “Annie Glenn,” Eric Laden as “Chris Kraft, Jr.,” Patrick Fischler as “Bob Gilruth,” Aaron Staton as “Wally Schirra,” Michael Trotter as “Virgil “Gus” Grissom,” Micah Stock as “Deke Slayton,” and Josh Cooke as “Loudon Wainwright, Jr.”

The eight-episode series premiered on Oct. 9 and is available for streaming on Disney+.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Peter Markle: From the US Army to USA Hockey and on to Hollywood

Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.

WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?

I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.

When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard

a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.

I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.

I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.

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

My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.

WATM: What values were stressed at home?

It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.

WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?

I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.

I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.

The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.

I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.

No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.

I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.

WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing and writing?

It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.

WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?

I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.

WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?

After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.

All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com

Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.

Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.

Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.

Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com

93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com

Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.

Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?

There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com

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

First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.

Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.


MIGHTY MOVIES

How a Vietnam War PJ joined the crew of ‘The Last Full Measure’

When Airman 1st Class William H. Pitsenbarger posthumously received a Medal of Honor for his valor and sacrifice during the Vietnam War, retired Air Force Pararescueman SMSgt John Pighini was at the ceremony.

In March 1966, Pitsenbarger was killed in action after intentionally placing himself in harm’s way to rescue Army infantrymen pinned down by the enemy during Operation Abilene during the Vietnam War. He received the Air Force Cross for his actions, but the men he saved never forgot what his sacrifice meant.

After 34 years, his Air Force Cross was upgraded to the Medal of Honor in a ceremony that took place on Dec. 8, 2000, just in time for Pitsenbarger’s father to accept the medal on his son’s behalf.

Nearly 20 years later, The Last Full Measure tells the story of Pitsenbarger’s heroism and the efforts it took to present him with the Medal of Honor, the highest military award in the United States of America.

The film recreates the moving Medal of Honor ceremony. John Pighini was there for that, too, which is how his filmmaking journey began.


This is the true story that inspired The Last Full Measure

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“We’d known about the movie for years — it took almost 20 years to get it done. They’d always told us [members of the pararescue community] we could be in the remake of the Medal of Honor ceremony,” Pighini recalled. While there he noticed some military details that weren’t quite correct — so he spoke up and found the director and crew willing to listen and make adjustments.

Director Todd Robinson quickly recognized that Pighini was a valuable resource for his film. Pighini served in Vietnam after graduating from his pararescue training program in November 1966. He would earn a Silver Star and a Distinguished Flying Cross for his rescue missions during the war. He would also serve as the first pararescue superintendent for the 24th Special Tactics Squadron and he now serves as vice president of the Pararescue Association.

So, he knows a thing or two about providing medical aid on the battlefield and combat in Southeast Asia.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

Todd Robinson, Jeremy Irvine, August Blanco Rosenstein, John Pighini on set for The Last Full Measure in Thailand, 2017. (Photo by Eddie Rosenstein)

His unique experience made him a particularly helpful resource for creating accuracy for the film. “I taught combat medicine so I was very much in tune with setting up exercises and working with people to ensure everything is done correctly. I was also involved in helicopter operations for so many years,” Pighini stated. He was brought on to film on location with the cast and crew as they shot the Vietnam scenes for the film.

Of course, anyone who has worked on a film knows that it isn’t always possible to be completely accurate. Budget limitations or storytelling choices will often take precedence.

“The important thing was that we told Pits’ story and it resonated with people. There are those who point out that we didn’t have the right helicopter, but there was only one 43 [Kaman HH-43F] and the guy just wouldn’t let it go so we used the Huey [Bell UH-1 Iriquois]. But the movie wasn’t about the Hueys, it was about Pits. It was about going down and saving lives, knowing full well what was coming his way that night. It was about our creed: these things we do that others may live,” Pighini reflected.

When I asked him about the idea of heroism, Pighini grew solemn. “Pararescuemen…it’s in your blood. Like nurses and doctors — when people want to help people, it’s a calling. To me, it was always about saving a life. I didn’t feel like I was being a hero. The guys that gave the last full measure…they’re the heroes.”

The Last Full Measure – Arrives on Digital 4/7 and on Blu-ray, DVD, and On Demand 4/21

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‘The Last Full Measure’ Trailer

The Last Full Measure is available on Blu-Ray/DVD/Digital and includes special features for fans of military history:

  • “The Women of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “Medal of Honor Ceremony Shoot” Featurette
  • “The Others May Live: Remembering Operation Abilene” Featurette
  • “USAF Museum Screening with Veterans Pitsenbarger Family” Featurette
  • “The Music of The Last Full Measure” Featurette
  • “William Pitsenbarger Tribute” Photo Gallery
MIGHTY MOVIES

This Navy veteran is ‘sleeping over’ at Sunday’s big game

As service members, we sometimes have to sleep in some very uncomfortable places in order to accomplish our mission.


But for one Navy veteran, all of his long, sleepless nights aboard USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) are about to pay off with the help of Courtyard Hotels.

Former Naval officer Courey Marshall has officially won the Courtyard Super Bowl Sleepover Contest and got the surprise of a lifetime.

Related: 15 things that capture Super Bowl Sunday, Navy-style

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
USS Bonhomme Richard (LHD-6) (Source: Wikipedia Commons)

The contest awards one superfan the chance to sleep over at the stadium and wake up in a suite on the day of the NFL’s biggest game of the year — the Super Bowl.

To secretly get Courey to show up for the big reveal, he was under the impression he was attending a photo shoot for the contest’s finalists.

Standing in front of a large Courtyard Hotel backdrop, Courey posed for photographers while taking instructions from an unexpected and concealed director, future NFL Hall-of-Famer Peyton Manning.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
A man who needs no introduction: Two-time Super Bowl champ, Peyton Manning. (Image source via Courtyard Hotel YouTube)

After calling a play at a fake line of scrimmage, Manning finally revealed himself from his curtained location to surprise the longtime fan.

Manning handed over the two Super Bowl tickets to Courey and wife, Chelsea, who was also at the shoot, and informed him of his ‘sleepover’ privileges.

“It’s a dream come true,” Marshall happily stated.

Courey served in the Navy from 2008 to 2012 as a divisional officer and oversaw approximately 45 sailors who served as “operations specialists.” Their roles consisted of aiding and helping execute the ship’s combat missions.

Also Read: 14 photos that show how deployed troops watch the Super Bowl

Check out Courtyard Hotels‘ video below to watch this former Navy officer get surprised by NFL legend Peyton Manning with tickets to Super Bowl LII.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wkds2S_5Fm8
(Courtyard Hotels | YouTube)
MIGHTY MOVIES

3 reasons ‘War Dogs’ is the best civilian war movie

Two childhood friends take advantage of a loophole in the way the U.S. military puts out its contracts and become international arms dealers. Yet, it’s the crazy true story on which the movie War Dogs is based. Add to that the stellar performances of co-leads Jonah Hill and Miles Teller and you get a dark comedy veterans and civilians alike can crack a beer and watch together.

1. Bromance with guns

Inspired by the improbable adventures of Efraim Diveroli and David Packouz (who has a cameo singing “Who fears the Reaper” in the retirement home scene), the movie addresses a mostly comedic tone on a very serious subject: international arms trafficking. Although some people criticized the comical treatment of the subject, the minimization of the US government’s part in the story. What better way to get people interested in a serious and controversial topic than by giving them a good laugh?

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
(War Dogs Trailer, YouTube)

With sleek action, a rocking soundtrack and well-crafted dialogues, the movie offers to take the viewers through the rollicking adventures of two Miami pals living the high life. Drugs, guns and accompanied by women with a shaky morale compass? They’re borderline CIA material at this point. Yet, by and by, the promised buddy comedy turns into an indictment of unrestrained capitalism, human greed and the Administration that led to the war in Iraq. War Dogs is a dark comedy that pelts you with laughs and insights into the heart of human depravation with the same enthusiasm and leaves you with a smile on your face reciting, ‘Fallujah bad!’

2. Veterans would not have made the same mistakes

After all, how can two regular guys without any particular qualifications become suppliers on multi-million dollar contracts for the most powerful military in the world? What devil did they bargain with to become such wealthy international arms dealers? Can any shred of morality survive in this business? Also, how do we get in on that? Asking for a friend.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
(War Dogs Trailer, YouTube)

Jonah Hill and Miles Teller each deliver a Terminal Lance-like performance in their respective roles. Hill, playing a bloated, cocaine-using Efraim Diveroli (Hill gained 44 pounds for the part), reprises a role somewhat similar to his part in The Wolf of Wall Street. He’s equally sleazy, callous and convincing in both roles. As the more naïve Packouz, Teller is almost innocent enough to be touching. The characters are a charismatic scumbag and a gullible, yet loyal friend who get in over their heads. Neither were evil masterminds. Albania, a Communist country for a long time, made 80% of its trade with China. That fact alone would have alerted more clever businessmen about the dangers of dealing with communists. It takes a special mindset to accept to exchange one’s integrity and morality for money.

3. Its a commentary on unchecked capitalism

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
(War Dogs Trailer, YouTube)

That mindset is the one fostered and encouraged by unbridled capitalism. As Diveroli says: “God bless Dick Cheney’s America!” How many young Americans are taught that it’s all about making money, no matter the cost? That everything can be accepted and forgiven if it’s in the name of profit? In the same vein as The Wolf of Wall Street and The Big Short, War Dogs uses dark comedy to denounce massive moral failings in the modern capitalist society. It makes us laugh about a profound and disturbing truth. Maybe it’s a laugh to avoid crying.

That’s why War Dogs is the best civilian war movie. Its narrative is sleek and its story is almost too incredible to be true. The talented leads make the characters convincing, touching, absolutely un-relatable, flawed and funny, yet it is difficult to really hate them without seeing them as products of a broken environment. Its light premises lead to a mordant analysis of politics and corruption in the early 2000s. It gives enough laughs and action scenes to make the pill easier to swallow. Especially when your buddy says “I was in Fallujah,” and sh*t you not, he has pictures. It’s an uncomfortably entertaining movie that sits between the private and public sector of the war.

MIGHTY MOVIES

The Incredible Story of the Battle of Kamdesh

This article is sponsored by Screen Media Films.

For the defenders of a remote outpost in Afghanistan’s Nurestan Province, Oct. 3. 2009 was “A Day for Heroes.” Combat Outpost (COP) Keating was relentlessly attacked by 400 Taliban fighters and protected by 53 soldiers from Bravo Troop, 3rd Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment, 4th Infantry Division.

For 12 hours, Bravo Troop fought to keep the enemy from overrunning the base. The bloody fighting cost both sides dearly.


In the end, an estimated 200 Taliban fighters died trying to destroy the base. In all, eight American soldiers were killed and 27 were wounded. The defenders of COP Keating were awarded 27 Purple Hearts, 37 Army Commendation Medals for valor, 3 Bronze Stars, 18 Bronze Stars for valor, 7 Silver Stars, and 2 Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Justin Gallegos and 1st Lt. Andrew Bundermann’s Silver Stars were later upgraded to Distinguished Service Crosses. Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha and Spc.Ty Carter received the Medal of Honor for their actions that day.

The battle is the subject of the new movie, The Outpost, directed by Rod Lurie and starring Scott Eastwood, Caleb Landry Jones and Orlando Bloom, now in theaters and on demand. The film is based on CNN correspondent Jake Tapper’s book about the Battle of Kamdesh, “The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor.”

The Outpost – Official Trailer

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The Outpost – Official Trailer

COP Keating was not a place the soldiers should have been in the first place. Their limited reach and manpower turned their counterinsurgency mission into a constant need to defend the base itself, according to the Army’s after-action report on the battle.

To make matters worse, defending that base was a nightmare. Positioned at “the bottom of a bowl,” it was surrounded by high mountains, ceding the high ground to the enemy. It made the base an “attractive target,” according to reports. The Taliban attacked COP Keating 47 times during the soldiers’ five-month deployment there.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
Combat Outpost Keating from up high

(U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Brad Larson)

But they weren’t just randomly attacking the COP. Taliban fighters were probing the base, gathering information on key areas, and learning the soldiers’ defensive tactics in preparation for a larger strike.

Worse still, there was not much help that could come to their rescue in case of an attack. Intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) assets were being used in the search for a missing soldier elsewhere. Other forces that could have been used to reinforce the defenders or speed up the closure of the base were being used on a mission for Afghan President Hamid Karzai. The soldiers soon became accustomed to the probing attacks.

Until the morning of Oct. 3, 2009, when the base became a Taliban shooting gallery.

Just before 6 a.m. local time, the soldiers woke up to a high volume of fire coming from the surrounding hills. Using the information from their probing attacks, Taliban fighters overran Keating’s 60mm and 120mm mortar support and began to hit COP Keating in force, taking the Army by surprise.

Incoming attacks from the surrounding mountains laid a punishing fire on the base and its defenders, the Taliban were closing in and the Army was losing ground. Soldiers defending the base withdrew into a tighter perimeter and began to call down close-air support from Air Force aircraft and AH-64 Apache helicopters, often inside the base’s original perimeter.

Things looked bleak, but there was still a lot of daylight left.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

(Screen Media/’The Outpost’ Film)

By the afternoon, the Bravo Troop was angry and ready to hit back. Inside the TOC, the soldiers listened to the din of battle; explosions, bullet hits, and near-constant shouting from outside. According to Mark Seavey’s account of the battle for the American Legion, Staff Sgt. Clinton “Clint” Romesha suddenly spoke:

“‘Ro’ said in a very stern and demanding voice – just as there was a moment of odd but haunting silence – ‘I’ll tell you what we are going to do. We are going to take this f***ing COP back!'”

After enduring hours of withering fire and fighting off the invaders, the Army began to turn the tide. A quick-reaction force landed three kilometers to relieve the defenders of COP Keating. Even if the base was secured, they still had to focus on bringing the fight to the enemy outside of the valley using air support to neutralize Taliban positions in the nearby hills and villages, including a local police station.

The Taliban lost half of their attacking force and sustained scores of wounded. The base was still in American hands, but it was more clear than ever that it was in an unsustainable situation. Soon after the fight for COP Keating, the base was abandoned and destroyed by American aircraft to keep it from the enemy.

The soldiers from Bravo Troop displayed incredible heroism and valor in the face of an enemy onslaught that could have totally wiped them out and destroyed the base. Every medal citation from the Battle of Kamdesh reads like a Homeric epic.

To learn more about the Battle of Kamdesh or the story behind COP Keating, check out Jake Tapper’s exhaustively detailed book, The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor, and catch the new movie, The Outpost, in theaters and on demand now!

This article is sponsored by Screen Media Films.

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Catch-22’ is the war miniseries that still feels relevant

Catch-22 was written six decades ago by World War II veteran Joseph Heller, but change the B-25s to CH-47s and make the sands of Pianosa (an Italian island) the sands of Afghanistan, Iraq, or Kuwait, and all the characters and most of the plots would fit right in.


The new miniseries from George Clooney, which features him in the supporting role of an insane commander of cadets, includes all the best moments from the novel. The funny ones, and the ones that capture the horror of conflict. Moments like these seven:
(Spoilers below.)

When a slight error in directions puts a man in mortal danger

When a new gunner shows up to the squadron, he’s bunked in the tent of Yossarian, the main protagonist of the novel and the only one of the miniseries. Yossarian isn’t the most helpful of lieutenants, but he gives the new sergeant directions to the administration tent. A slight miscount of tents sends the sergeant to the ops tent, instead.

So the sergeant, instead of signing in to the unit, gets thrown into the next plane going up on a mission, a dangerous one over Nazi-controlled Italy.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

(Hulu screenshot)

When an Army sergeant tries to marry an Italian whore

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before: A young Army sergeant meets an attractive sex worker, falls in love, and wants to get married, even though everyone in the unit tells him it’s a horrible idea.

In Catch-22, that’s Nately, and his enduring loves goes to “Nately’s Whore,” an Italian woman with a funny pimp and a clever younger sister. While Nately’s story is a bit cliche, it also features one of the better lines of sergeants loving sex workers.

“Sure, she’s a prostitute now, but she won’t be once I marry her.”

When a piece of flak almost sends the hero home

During one of the bombardier’s missions, he almost gets his “million dollar wound,” the one that would let him go home. Slight spoiler: He’s hit in the nuts by flak. As the American doctor later explains, any man who gives up a nut for his country is entitled to go home. But any man who almost loses a testicle has to fly more missions.

And, spoiler, Yossarian only almost lost his testicle. A piece of shrapnel passed through his scrotum, between his testicles.

When an aviator creates a mock scrotum to ask about his testicles

And how did Yossarian learn that he still had two testicles? An Italian doctor told him. But the Italian man only spoke Italian, and Yossarian only spoke English, so he did a bit of improvisation, just like any soldier trying to communicate with a local would do.

In Yossarian’s case, that was turning a handkerchief into an improvised scrotum filled with two nearby pieces of fruit. Then he pointed at the fake nut sack, said, “Two,” pointed at his own sack, and asked, “Two?” The doctor got the idea, laughed, and confirmed the boys were still present.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

(Hulu screenshot)

When the colonel tries to cover up failure by giving an award and promotion

At one point, our hero is so distracted on a bombing run that he goes through the whole run-up, gives all the verbal commands and watches for the release point, but forgets to actually throw the lever to release the bombs. Yossarian, pretty strung out by this point, decides to just get his plane to go around for another pass.

(Major spoiler) But on that second pass, a beloved character is killed, and Yossarian blames himself for making the second run. His bosses blame him too. But when they go to punish him, they suddenly realize that punishing the bombardier would send the message that the mission failed. So, to maintain the perception that the mission was a success, they promote him and give him a medal instead.

(Then, for slightly related reasons, they have him arrested about 24 hours later.)

When the whole world turns dark

But the most familiar parts of the miniseries, and the novel, are the dark moments, when the humor melts away, and the terrifying reality of the war smashes its way in like the world’s most horrible Kool-Aid Man. We aren’t going to list any moments here, because all of them are major spoilers.

But the themes of loss, vulnerability, the futility of war, rampant capitalism, and more are all explored. The “loss” one comes up a lot.

Catch-22 Trailer (Official) • A Hulu Original

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The titular catch: Catch-22

It’s in most of the ads, so you’ve probably seen how Catch-22 works. If not, it’s a piece of bureaucratic genius that sounds exactly like something the Army would come up with.

Flying bombing missions is suicidal and, therefore, insane. Anyone who is insane doesn’t have to fly bombing missions. All they have to do is present themselves to a doctor and ask to go home. Except.

Except that the moment they ask to go home, the doctor is required to take that as the thought process of a rational mind. Rational people aren’t crazy and can’t be sent home for insanity.

So anyone who asks to go home, can’t. Anyone who doesn’t ask can go home anytime, as soon as they ask.

If you’ve got Hulu, you can check out the show anytime. If not, the book is probably better anyway. Sure, you don’t get to watch Hugh Laurie, but there are even more jokes than in the miniseries. And the novel was written by a vet, so it avoids some of the military mistakes like the show makes. (One guy wearing massive sergeant stripes introduces himself as a lieutenant. There’s about one mistake like that per episode.)

Articles

These are the events that led to the ‘Miracle at Dunkirk’

The “Miracle at Dunkirk,” when 338,000 troops were evacuated in Operation Dynamo where optimistic estimates topped out at 45,000 might be rescued, was a turning point for the allies, allowing them to salvage troops that would fight in North Africa, at D-Day, and beyond.


In 7 steps, here’s how the British Expeditionary Force was trapped on the beaches of France and then rescued in Operation Dynamo.

1. The Brits arrive on the continent

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
British troops from the 2nd Battalion, Coldstream Guards, march through Cherbourg, France, in late 1939. (Photo: Imperial War Museums)

The seeds of Dunkirk were laid on Sep. 3, 1939, when the British Expeditionary Force was sent to France following Germany’s invasion of Poland and amidst the obvious German military buildup of the late 1930s. Eight first and second-line infantry divisions as well as a number of support troops had arrived by May 1940, spending most of their time training and preparing defenses.

The military maneuvers and buildup between the two sides were dubbed the “Phoney War.” Belgium, the Netherlands, and other countries across Europe prepared for the likelihood of a German invasion.

2. The Germans invade

On May 10, 1940, the “Phoney War” came to a violent end as the Germans invaded the Netherlands and Belgium. The Germans quickly took ground and captured bridgeheads on the River Meuse, allowing them to invade France through the Ardennes Forest.

3. Allied countries collapse

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
Fort Eben-Emael in Belgium was thought to be one of the strongest forts in the world in 1940. German paratroopers exploited weaknesses to capture it in hours. (Photo: Public Domain)

The German blitzkrieg advanced faster and harder than most Allied leaders could believe, and countries quickly collapsed. One of the world’s greatest forts was captured in Belgium in only hours. The Netherlands, Belgium, Luxembourg, and others surrendered within weeks.

4. The French and British withdraw towards the beaches

As army after army and country after country surrendered to the German war machine, those still fighting were forced to withdraw further and further east and north. They were pushed against the beaches of France. Panzer forces attacked and captured the French deep-water ports at Boulogne and Calais on May 25 and 26, limiting the potential evacuation options.

5. The Panzers stop

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
German panzers invade western Belgium in May 1940. (Photo: German Federal Archives)

The 48-hour timeline was agreed upon because it was the longest that forces could reliably hold out against German armor. But the German tanks had mysteriously stopped their push towards Dunkirk itself on May 23 by order of Gen. Ewald von Kleist. The next day, a full “stop order” was given by Hitler.

The Allies responded by quickly shoring up their defenses as best they could. What was a loose line of troops on May 23, likely to be brushed aside quickly, became a much more formidable line of dug in but exhausted forces.

6. The evacuation begins

On May 26, Operation Dynamo was launched with the goal of evacuating 45,000 troops within 48 hours before the beaches fell. British defenders helping to hold Calais sent their own evacuation ships to Dover to help evacuate those troops at Dunkirk. Calais fell that evening; all British and French forces there were killed or captured.

7. The evacuation runs for 10 days

The pace of the evacuation started slow on May 26 with 8,000 men removed, but increased in efficiency quickly result in more men getting off.

Within the first few days, Royal Navy officers working the “Mole,” a pier-like breakwater that protected the harbor from ocean currents, turned it into an improvised dock that evacuated 1,000 troops an hour at its peak. Additional men embarked from improvised piers and the beaches themselves.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

One of the most shocking events in the evacuations began on May 27 when the Royal Navy requisitioned small vessels for use in the evacuations. Most of the ships were manned by the Royal Navy, but some ship owners insisted that they would pilot their craft to assist in the evacuation.

The crews of the “Little Ships of Dunkirk” grew on May 29 when the BBC broadcasted an appeal “for men with experience of motorboats and coastal navigation.”

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
The British Army evacuation from Dunkirk (Source: Public Domain)

The fleets of navy and civilian vessels crossed back and forth across the English Channel, rescuing about 338,000 troops, mostly British and French, by June 4 when Operation Dynamo ended.

Learn more about the events of May and June 1940 in the video below:

YouTube, World of Tanks North America

MIGHTY MOVIES

Why HBO’s ‘Watchmen’ is not a superhero series

HBO is diving into the world of comic books.

Its upcoming TV show, “Watchmen,” is inspired by the 1986 graphic novel of the same name by writer Alan Moore and artist Dave Gibbons, which is considered a classic deconstruction of the superhero genre.

But if you ask the show’s creator, Damon Lindelof, his series isn’t so much a deconstruction because “nobody has superpowers.”

In his first in-depth interview for the series with Entertainment Weekly, Lindelof — who also cocreated “Lost” and HBO’s “The Leftovers” — was asked how he plans to “break new ground on super anti-heroes” when other movies or TV shows like “Deadpool” and Amazon’s “The Boys” have recently tackled the idea.


“I started to think that for ‘Watchmen’ maybe the more interesting point is to think about masking and authority and policing as an adjunct to superheroes,” Lindelof told EW. “In ‘Watchmen,’ nobody has superpowers — the only super-powered individual is Dr. Manhattan and he’s not currently on the planet.”

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

“The Boys.”

(Amazon Prime Video)

He added, “In ‘The Boys,’ you have superpowered individuals in capes that can shoot lasers out of their eyes and fly around and have feats of strength and turn invisible. Nobody on ‘Watchmen’ can do that.”

In “The Boys,” a group of government operatives keep corrupt superheroes in check, from the Superman-like Homelander to the Flash-esque A-Train.

The “Watchmen” graphic novel follows a group of costumed vigilantes who uncover a vast conspiracy after one of their own is murdered. In Lindelof’s “Watchmen” show, which takes place nearly 30 years after the events of the novel, vigilantes are outlawed and police officers wear masks.

“I felt like we wouldn’t be deconstructing the superhero myth because all the characters in Watchmen are just humans who play dress up,” Lindelof continued. “It would be more interesting to ask psychological questions about why do people dress up, why is hiding their identity a good idea, and there are interesting themes to explore here when your mask both hides you and shows you at the same time — because your mask is actually a reflection in yourself.”

“Watchmen” premieres on HBO on Oct. 20, 2019.

Articles

This is when the Pope’s Swiss Guard was deadlier than 300 Spartans

Military history is full of famous last stands – the Greeks at Thermopylae, Custer at Little Big Horn, the French Foreign Legion at Camarón — just to name a few. The last unit people might think of making a famous last stand are the Pope’s personal bodyguards: the Swiss Guard.


‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed

But even though the men who would respond to an incident involving the Pope have traded poofy pants for tactical gear, and bladed weapons for Sig SG 550 rifles, those razor-sharp halberds weren’t always just ceremonial. There was a time when the halberds, pikes, and swords carried by the ceremonial guards were the latest in military technology. The Swiss Guard are, after all, the oldest, continuous standing army in the world.

In 1527, the Holy Roman Emperor Charles V had just beat down the French in Italy. the only problem was, he couldn’t afford to pay the massive army he used to do it. Understandably pissed, the 34,000-strong army began to march on Rome, believing the Papal States would be an easy target to sack and pillage. They were right… for the most part.

On May 6, 1527, that army broke through Rome’s defenders and looted and pillaged the city for 12 days.

‘The Right Stuff’ shows how military test pilots were the heroes America needed
Paintings always make sacking, burning, and pillaging seem so tame.

But the city didn’t just roll over for the renegade army.

Defending Rome was a militia made up of 5,000 and 189 of the Pope’s Swiss Guard. Of those, around 40 or so escorted Pope Clement VII to safety – and they were the only survivors of the assault. The rest were slaughtered, choosing to hold their ground in the Vatican.

While that number seems like a horrifying loss for the Swiss Guards, consider that the elite unit reduced the fighting force of the Imperial Army by three-quarters. Of the 20,000 troops that moved to storm the city of Rome, 15,000 were killed or injured by the city’s defenders.

MIGHTY MOVIES

This is the state that looks most like Afghanistan, according to Hollywood

If you’re looking to make a movie about the Afghanistan War, it should be obvious that you’re not going to be filming in Afghanistan itself. We’re coming up on the 19th anniversary of the war’s beginning, and things are still far too violent in the country to allow a movie crew to work safely.

That hasn’t stopped Hollywood from making films about the war, and they’ve tried multiple locations around the world in an attempt to capture that unique Hindu Kush vibe.

Movies like “Rock the Kasbah” have traveled to Morocco, a country that has also been a stand-in for Iraq (“American Sniper”), Libya (“13 Hours”) and Somalia (“Black Hawk Down”). The Gen. David Petraeus-inspired satire “War Machine” filmed in Abu Dhabi.

Most recently, “The Outpost” was filmed in Bulgaria, a Balkan nation with mountains that did a convincing job of subbing for Kamdesh, Afghanistan. Director Rod Lurie told Page Six that he originally wanted to film in Morocco, but local rules made that impossible.

“Places to film were Bulgaria or Morocco, but Morocco wouldn’t allow us to bring weapons. Soldiers need weapons. Morocco needed to know how many blanks we’d fire. So we went to Bulgaria. Great equipment, crews, props, makeup people. We stayed in a castle in Sofia.”

Things certainly have changed in Morocco since Ridley Scott made “Black Hawk Down” in the African country back in 2000.

Morocco, Bulgaria, Abu Dhabi. They’re all far from home and expensive. What if there was a location that was a quick two-hour flight from Los Angeles, gave excellent tax credits to motion picture companies, and had killer cuisine based on a local variety of chiles?

New Mexico welcomes you. The state has a booming movie and television economy and has been home to television series like “Breaking Bad,” “Better Call Saul,” “The Night Shift,” “Longmire,” “Get Shorty” and “The Brave.”

It’s also been a location for movies like “The Avengers,” “Only the Brave,” “No Country for Old Men,” “Hostiles,” “Hell or High Water” and “Logan.”

New Mexico’s got the infrastructure and the crews, and it’s got the mountains and desert that have allowed three outstanding movies to tell stories about Afghanistan.

Let’s all hope that someday we get to see a great movie about Afghanistan that’s actually filmed there because the country has found peace and stability.

In the meantime, here are the best Afghanistan war movies shot in New Mexico.

Lone Survivor

Director Peter Berg and actor Mark Wahlberg began a long and fruitful collaboration with this movie based on Navy SEAL Markus Luttrell’s memoir about the 2005 Operation Red Wings mission to capture Taliban leader Ahmad Shah.

Luttrell was the only team member to survive the mission. Michael Murphy, Matthew Axelson and Danny Dietz lost their lives in an ambush after the team elected not to kill a young goat herder who stumbled across the mission.

The movie, nominated for two Oscars, proved there was an audience for well-made military films about our modern wars and kicked off a cycle of successful military films. Berg and Wahlberg have gone on to make “Deepwater Horizon,” “Patriots Day,” “Mile 22” and “Spenser Confidential.”

Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

Based on journalist Kim Barker’s Afghanistan War memoir “The Taliban Shuffle,” “Whiskey Tango Foxtrot” stars Tina Fey as “Kim Baker,” a television journalist who learns the war correspondent ropes from journalists played by Margot Robbie and Martin Freeman.

Billy Bob Thornton shines as Baker’s primary military contact, and Nicholas Braun (now famous as Cousin Greg on “Succession”) plays her cameraman.

12 Strong

It’s hard to believe that it took until 2018 for Hollywood to make a movie about the legendary “horse soldiers,” the Green Berets who landed in Afghanistan in early October 2001 to lay the groundwork for the overthrow of the nation’s Taliban government.

Maybe they were waiting for the war to be over. Maybe they were worried how to film the horseback riding battle scenes while working with unfamiliar animal handlers in a foreign country.

Whatever the reasons, Black Label Media stepped up and figured out that it could make the movie in New Mexico after working there to film “Sicario,” “Only the Brave” and the sequel “Sicario: Day of the Soldado.”

Chris Hemsworth, Michael Shannon and Michael Pena star as Green Berets based on the real men who led the critical mission that began our military response to 9/11.

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

popular

Real versus reel: Four ways ‘Braveheart’ was different in real life

In 1995, Mel Gibson starred in and directed the war epic Braveheart, which follows the story of one of Scotland’s greatest national heroes, Sir William Wallace. Wallace almost single-handedly inspired his fellow Scotsmen to stand against their English oppressors, which earned him a permanent spot in the history books.

Among critics, the film cleaned house. It went on to win best picture, best director, best cinematography, and a few others at the 1996 Academy Awards. Although the film has received its fair share of acclaim, historians don’t always share the same enthusiasm. The movie steers away from what really occurred several times.


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Victorian depiction of the Battle of Stirling Bridge (public domain/ Wikimedia Commons)
Battle of Stirling… Fields?

After a few quick, murderous scenes, Wallace joins a small group of his countrymen, ready to ward off a massive force of English troops that are spread across a vast field. In real life, this clash of warriors didn’t happen on some open plains — it occurred on a narrow bridge.

The battle took place in September of 1297, nearly 17 years after the film. Wallace and Andrew de Moray (who isn’t mentioned in the movie) showed up to the bridge and positioned themselves on the side north of the river, where the bridge was constructed.

The Brits were caught off guard, as Wallace and his men waited until about a third of the English’s total force crossed before attacking. The Scotsmen used clever tactics, packing men on the bridge shoulder-to-shoulder, mitigating their numerical disadvantage.

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Wallace took all the credit… (Paramount Pictures)
Wallace being knighted

After the Battle of Stirling Bridge, both Wallace and Andrew de Moray were both granted Knighthood and labeled as Joint Guardians of Scotland.

Andrew de Moray died about a month later from wounds sustained during the battle. Despite his heroics, Andrew de Moray gets zero credit in the film.

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Think about that for a moment… (Paramount Pictures)
Wallace’s affair with Princess Isabelle of France

In the film, Wallace sleeps with Princess Isabella of France (as played by Sophie Marceau), the wife of Edward II of England. According to several sources, the couple was married in January of 1308, which is two years and five months after Wallace was put to death in August 1305, according to the film.

The movie showed Edward II and the princess getting married during Wallace’s lifetime. Now, if Scottish warrior had truly knocked up the French princess before his death in 1305, that would have made her around 10 years old, as she was born in 1295.

Something doesn’t add up.

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“We’re busted!” (Paramount Pictures)
Edward I dies before Wallace?

Who could forget the film’s dramatic ending? Wallace is stretched, pulled by horses, and screams, “freedom!” as his entrails are removed — powerful stuff. In the film, Edward I (as played by Patrick McGoohan) takes his last breath before the editor takes us back to Wallace’s final moment.

According to history, Edward I died around the year 1307. As moving as it was to watch the two deaths happen, it couldn’t have happened.


-Feature image courtesy of Paramount Pictures

MIGHTY MOVIES

‘Avengers’ directors just undid that major ‘Endgame’ twist

One of if not the most dramatic moments in Avengers: Endgame is the scene in which a shieldless Captain America wields Mjolnir, Thor’s hammer that Odin enchanted so that only the worthy are able to lift it. There’s an entire scene in Age of Ultron showing the other Avengers trying and failing to pick it up. Or at least that’s what we thought was happening.

In a new interview, Endgame directors Joe and Anthony Russo were asked why Cap is able to pick up Mjolnir in Endgame but not in Age of Ultron. What changed between the two films, about nine years of Marvel Cinematic Universe time?


Anthony replied: “In our heads, he was able to wield it. He didn’t know that until that moment in Ultron when he tried to pick it up. But Cap’s sense of character and humility and, out of deference to Thor’s ego, Cap, in that moment realizing he can move the hammer, decides not to.”

Avengers: Age of Ultron – Lifting Thor’s Hammer – Movie CLIP HD

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There is a brief moment in that Ultron scene in which the hammer appears to move ever so slightly and a look of panic flashes across Thor’s face, so it’s not as though Russo’s explanation comes completely out of left-field. The problem is simply that his version is just not as interesting as the prevailing theory.

Many thought that in Ultron, Cap couldn’t quite pick up the hammer because he was keeping a huge secret from Tony. In Captain America: Civil War he was forced to admit that Bucky was the one who killed the Starks. So by the time that scene in Endgame rolls around, he is worthy of wielding Mjolnir. It’s a nice arc that makes narrative sense and puts adherence to a moral code, the foundation of any good superhero story, at the forefront.

And now the Russos have deflated it. Because as nice as it is to be humble and not show up your friends, it’s not nearly as interesting as telling your friend that you’ve been keeping the identity of his parents’ murderers a secret.

J.K. Rowling learned the hard way that fans don’t particularly like it when architects of elaborate fictional worlds make statements outside of their work that alters their experience.

So while theorizing about this stuff is fun, creators have to know that when they do it comes from a place of authority that can have the effect of erasing fan speculation. That robs fans of the fun of speculating themselves and, as in this case, it can provide a less interesting “answer” to the most exciting questions the work in question raises.

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

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