4 things you didn't know about Oliver Stone's classic 'Platoon' - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY MOVIES

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

There are a lot of war movies to choose from, but not many of them are directed from the perspective of a man who lived through the mental torture that was the Vietnam War.

With Platoon, critically acclaimed writer-director Oliver Stone (an Army veteran) transports audiences back to that politically charged time in American history where the war efforts of our brave service members were met with disdain upon returning home.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Filmmaker and Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone.
(oliverstone.com)

Platoon, fueled by Stone’s unique vision, features some of the most electric, emotionally driven scenes to ever hit the big screen. Although the film won several awards, there are a few things you probably didn’t know about this iconic war movie.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Filipino protesters linked arms whenever forces attempted to disperse them.

(Photo by Romeo Mariano)

The Philippines Revolution of 1986

Talented actor Willem Dafoe, who played Sgt. Elias in the film, decided that he needed to head to the Philippines before the rest of the cast to get acclimated before shooting. After arriving and taking a brief nap, Dafoe awoke and opened his hotel room’s curtains only to watch a column of tanks drive down the street.

The Philippines Revolution had just kicked off.

From the moment the actors landed, they were treated like infantrymen

Capt. Dale Dye (a Marine veteran) made the actors get haircuts and speak to one another using only character names. Many of the actors were sitting pretty stateside just 48 hours earlier. Suddenly, they were being treated like soldiers.

While the actors were digging their fighting holes with e-tools in the jungle, one of the special effects masterminds on set, Yves De Bono, planted explosive charges nearby to help transform the thespians into hardened grunts.

Once Capt. Dye gave the signal, the charges exploded as planned, taking the actors by complete surprise.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Lerner (played by Johnny Depp) carries a young girl through a Vietnam village

(Orion Pictures)

Johnny Depp fell asleep on post

While in training, Depp was assigned to man a post when he started drifting off to sleep. The young actor woke to a gun pressed to the back of his neck. Capt. Dye informed Depp that he had just been killed.

www.youtube.com

They were too high to film a scene the right way

Remember that scene where everyone got high? Well, that was real, according to actor Willem Dafoe. During an interview for a behind-the-scenes documentary, the cast got pretty high before the lights and camera were set up. However, once they were ready to film, their marijuana “high” was more like a “Mary Jane down.”

The castmates became very sleepy and, according to a chuckling Dafoe, everyone was “useless.”

Articles

3 reasons why Airwolf is more badass than the F-35

Okay, you’ve heard all the complaints about the F-35. It’s super-expensive. It’s got problems getting ready for combat. But in the real world, there’s no other option. And as WATM has already explained, the Marine Corps desperately needs to replace its F/A-18 Hornets.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Airwolf about to blow through two bandits. (Youtube Screenshot)

But suppose, instead of blowing their RD money on the F-35, the Air Force, Navy, and Marines had decided to pull out File A56-7W and instead replicate Airwolf? They’d have gotten a much better deal – and it might even have helped the Army, too.

Airwolf’s specs (click here for another source) reveal this helicopter already took advantage of some stealth technology, had modern ECM systems and sensors, and very heavy armament (four 30mm cannon, two 40mm cannon, and various air-to-air and air-to-ground missiles). All in all, it’s very powerful, even if it was the brainchild of one of the big TV showrunners of the 1980s and 1990s.

So, why does it beat the F-35? Here are some of the reasons.

1. It can operate off any ship

With a top speed of over Mach 2, Airwolf may have the performance of a fighter jet, but it takes off and lands like a helicopter – without the need for the complex mechanisms used on the V-22 Osprey.

Think of it this way; with Airwolf in its hanger deck every surface combatant and amphibious ship could carry what amounts to a Generation 4.5 fighter. Even the Littoral Combat Ships could handle Airwolf, giving them a lot more punch in a fight than they currently have.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Airwolf can land anywhere this MH-60R can land. (U.S. Navy Photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Sean M. Castellano)

2. It would replace more airframes than the F-35 would

The F-35 is replacing the AV-8B Harrier, F/A-18 Hornet, F-16 Fighting Falcon, and A-10 Thunderbolt II in U.S. service. Airwolf not only would replace all four of those airframes, but it would also replace all of the AH-1 and AH-64 helicopters in Marine Corps and Army service. The promise of the TFX program as originally envisioned in the 1960s could be fulfilled at last!

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
A look at Airwolf’s ADF pod and chain guns. (Youtube Screenshot)

3. Better performance

According to an Air Force fact sheet, the F-35 has a top speed of Mach 1.6, a ceiling of 50,000 feet, and a range of 1,350 miles without refueling. Airwolf hits a top speed of Mach 2, a ceiling of 100,000 feet, and a range of 1,450 miles.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Full-size replica of the Airwolf at the Tennessee Museum of Aviation, Sevierville, Tennessee. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In other words, Airwolf would have the F-35 beat in some crucial areas. Now, the F-35 might have an advantage in terms of payload (fixed-wing planes usually have that edge), but the fact remains, Airwolf would have been a very viable candidate for that competition – and might have had the edge, given that the Army would have bought airframes to replace the Apache.

Oh, and here’s the Season 1 opener, just for kicks:

popular

4 times Canada was more moto than the US

America’s neighbor to the north is known for their politeness, medical care, maple syrup cartels, Ryan Gosling, hormone-free cows, and love for Kraft Mac and Cheese.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Also, have you tried a double double and a Maple Dip? Holy hell, they are good.

None of these facts should come as a surprise. Canadians are just a hair’s breadth away from being Americans. In fact, we wanted Canada so bad the Articles of Confederation stated that Canada could join the United States at any time, just by asking. Everyone else needed a nine-state agreement. We settled for Vermont instead.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Vermont: Canada Lite. (Wikimedia Commons)

But don’t be fooled by their overwhelmingly nice disposition, their Prime Minister who takes public transit to work, or that Alex Trebek shaved his mustache. Outnumbered Canadians beat the crap out of us in the only war we ever fought.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
We burned Toronto, so they burned Washington. They also gave the Canadian soldier better sideburns in their War of 1812 monument. (Wikimedia Commons)

Canadian Forces are still deployed around the world, often alongside American counterparts. And historically, Canada has been just as hyped as the U.S. to take the fight to the fascists, the Communists, or the terrorists.

Maybe it comes from being the world’s largest consumer of Budweiser. Don’t drink too much of that stuff, guys. You’ll be buying hummers and spreading freedom in no time.

1. Canada just built a Civil War monument.

At a time when the U.S. is removing some Civil War monuments, an Ontario-based Civil War re-enactors group erected one. It’s a monument to the Canadian soldiers who died in the American Civil War.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
They call themselves the Grays and Blues. (Courtesy of the Grays and Blues of Montreal)

Though Canada was still in the British sphere during the time period, some 6,000 Canadians headed south (and some further south) to fight on both sides of the war.

“We don’t have any far-right maniacs, racists or anti-Semites, we’re just town folks who are interested in history,” Grays and Blues president Bob McLaughlin told Postmedia News.

2. They were the first to declare war on Japan.

On Dec. 7, 1941, the Canadian Parliament was adjourned. But in the hours after the attack on Pearl Harbor, Prime Minister Mackenzie King and his cabinet decided that war with Japan was inevitable and called it then and there. The Japanese had also hit Malaya and Hong Kong – possessions of the United Kingdom – on Dec. 7th.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
In the long run, sucker punching is not a sustainable strategy.

The United States didn’t declare war until the next day. When Parliament reconvened on Jan. 21, 1942, King let them know that Canada was at war with Japan…and also Finland, Hungary, and Romania.

Canada
Mackenzie King will freaking kill you…then have a seance and ask your ghost for political advice. (Wikimedia Commons)

3. Canada took in Vietnam Draft Dodgers…then replaced them.

It wasn’t official or anything. Canada didn’t exchange unwilling participants with willing ones. While an estimated 30,000 would-be conscripts fled the draft for Canada (and were warmly welcomed), 30,000 Canadians fled peace-ridden Canada for the jungles of Southeast Asia.

Canada
Canadian Rob McSorley, left, is pictured in March 1970 with two members of his U.S. Army Ranger regiment after a dangerous reconnaissance mission. McSorley was killed in action only weeks after this photo was taken. (L Company Ranger 75th Infantry Archives)

The Canadian government outlawed such volunteerism, but the 30,000 Canadians still managed to sign up for Vietnam service. Those that did received the same treatment as every other soldier, including the assignment of social security numbers. That is, until, after the war, when they got none of the post-service benefits. It wasn’t until 1986 that they got the same treatment…in Canada.

The Canadian Vietnam Veterans’ Memorial is called “The North Wall” and can be found in Windsor, Ontario.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
The North Remembers. (Wikimedia Commons)

4. Canada took in Americans during the 9/11 attacks.

Flights bound for the U.S. that day were diverted or grounded — except in Canada, where they were welcomed by Operation Yellow Ribbon. Canada wanted to help get any potentially dangerous flights on the ground as soon as possible. They even opened up their military airfields to the 255 flights diverted to their airspace.

In all, some 30,000 people were left displaced inside Canada. And if you have to be a refugee somewhere — even temporarily — Canada is the place to be. If hotels, gyms, and schools were full, Canadians started taking Americans into their own homes and putting them up.


Feature image: U.S. National Guard photo

MIGHTY HISTORY

This famous mobster’s son was a West Point grad

Meyer Lansky was the mind behind the mob. Active in the criminal underworld since the days before Prohibition, Lansky – the “Mob’s Accountant” – was able to figure out how to make mafia earnings and turn them into legitimate businesses. It was because of his acumen that the mob was able to form a kind of national crime syndicate with the likes of Lucky Luciano and Bugsy Siegel. He would become the highest-ranking non-Italian in the Mafia.

His kids were going to do something very different.


To the Sicilians, being in the mafia was an honorable occupation. According to the onetime head of the Bonnano crime family, Joe Bonnano, one of the terms that designated a mafioso was loosely translated as “Man of Honor.” For Jewish men like Meyer Lanksy, however, it wasn’t so honorable. In fact, Lanksy found the business shameful, despite spending his life building it. Still, he wanted a different life for his children.

One of his children, Paul, would actually attend the U.S. Military Academy at West Point – on his own merit.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Meyer Lansky with his family: Sons (from left) Paul and Buddy, who had cerebral palsy, daughter Sandra, and first wife Ana.

“The Lansky boy has justified the confidence which was placed in him,” wrote Tennessee Sen. Estes Kefauver upon appointing Paul Lanksy to West Point. It was a far cry from the life his father lived, having created Las Vegas with his friends, other legendary members of America’s most notorious organized crime families. The younger Lansky would graduate from the Academy in 1954 and join the Air Force.

Lansky was in the Air Force until 1963, ultimately resigning his commission while at the rank of Captain so he could take a civilian engineering job in Tacoma, Wash. He stayed far from his famous father’s profession, going so far as to pretend that he and the elder Lansky had some sort of falling out and didn’t speak.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The true history of the Medal of Honor

The nation’s highest medal for valor under enemy fire dates back over 150 years and has been awarded to well over 3,000 men and one woman in honor of heroic acts, including everything from stealing enemy trains to braving machine gun fire to pull comrades to safety.

This is the true history of the Medal of Honor.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott was one of Andrew’s Raiders and the first recipient of the Medal of Honor. Most of the other soldiers on the raid were eventually awarded the medal.

(Illustration by William Pittenger, Library of Congress)

The idea of creating a new medal for valor got its legs when Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welles suggested to Iowa Senator James Grimes that he author legislation to create such an accolade. The idea was that such an honor would increase morale among the sailors and Marines serving in a navy fractured by a burgeoning civil war. Grimes’s bill was introduced on Dec. 9, 1861, and quickly gained support.

The bill quickly made it through Congress and President Abraham Lincoln signed it into law on December 21. At the time, the president was authorized to award 200 medals to Navy and Marine Corps enlisted personnel. It would be another seven months, July 1862, before Army enlisted personnel were authorized to receive the medal — but another 2,000 medals were authorized at that time.

The first medal to be awarded went to a soldier, Army Pvt. Jacob Parrott, one of Andrews’ Raiders who stole a locomotive in Big Shanty, Georgia, and took the train on a 87-mile raid across Confederate territory in April, 1862. Parrott received the Medal first, but nearly all Army personnel on the raid eventually received it. Secretary of War Edwin Stanton presented the first six.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

The Navy was the first service authorized to present Medals of Honor, but the Army beat them to the punch. Still, hundreds of medals were awarded to deserving sailors for actions taken during the conflict, including this one presented to William Pelham for actions on the USS Hartford in 1864.

(Naval History and Heritage Command)

Although Andrews’ Raiders were among the first to receive the Medal of Honor, they were not the first persons to earn it. Recommendations for the award trickled in for actions taken earlier.

The earliest action that would earn an Army Medal of Honor took place in February, 1861, when assistant Army surgeon Bernard Irwin rescued 60 soldiers from a larger Apache force with only 14 men. The first naval action to earn the medal took place in October, 1862, when sailor John Williams stayed at his position on the USS Commodore Perry when it was under heavy fire while steaming down the Blackwater River and firing on Confederate batteries.

In 1863, the medal was made permanent and the rules were broadened to allow its award to Army officers. Soon after, in 1864, a former slave named Robert Blake became the first Black American to receive the Medal of Honor when he replaced a powder boy who was killed by a Confederate shell, running powder boxes to artillery crews while under fire.

In 1865, the first and only award of the of the Medal of Honor to a woman occurred. Dr. Mary E. Walker had served in the Union Army during the war and requested a commission. President Andrew Johnson refused but ordered that she be awarded a Medal of Honor in recognition of her bravery and service under fire even though she had served as a civilian and was ineligible.

Seven years later, the Civil War had ended but campaigns against Native Americans were being fought in earnest. It was during these Indian Wars that William “Buffalo Bill” Cody also received the medal despite being technically ineligible.

The medals for Walker and Cody were rescinded in 1917 but later reinstated. Walker’s was reinstated in 1977, Cody’s in 1989.

It’s sometimes noted that the Civil War-standard for the Medal of Honor was lower than the standard applied during World Wars I and II and more modern conflicts. The change in requirements began in 1876 after a surge of recommendations poured in following the Battle of Little Big Horn.

Additional recommendations came from the Legion of Honor, a group led by Medal of Honor recipients that would later become the Congressional Medal of Honor Society. In 1897, President William McKinley adopted new, higher standards that would later be applied during World War I.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Air Force Capt. Jay Zeamer received a Medal of Honor of the Gillespie design featuring a blue ribbon with 13 stars, the word valor, and a wreath of laurels.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Ken LaRock)

While Civil War and Indian Wars-era Medals of Honor featured designs that incorporated a red, white, and blue ribbon and multiple clasps, in 1904, Medal of Honor recipient and Gen. George Gillespie introduced a new design with a blue ribbon carrying 13 stars. It also added a laurel wreath around the iconic star, added the word “VALOR” to the medal, and made a number of other, smaller design changes.

All Medal of Honor designs approved after 1904 are an evolution of this design.

In 1915, the Navy broadened its rules for the medal so that naval officers, like their Army counterparts, were eligible. In 1918, additional rules for the Army Medal of Honor required that the valorous action take place in conflict with an enemy, that the recommended awardee be a person serving in the Army, and that the medal be presented within three years of the valorous act.

Another change during World War I was that the Medal of Honor was officially placed as the highest medal for valor. While it had always been one of the top awards, it was previously uncertain if the Medal of Honor always outranked service crosses, distinguished service medals, and the Silver Star. In July 1918, the relative tiers of each medal were established, officially putting the Medal of Honor on top.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

U.S. Coast Guardsman Douglas Munro and his compatriots work to protect U.S. Marines on the beaches of Guadalcanal during a withdrawal under fire from Japanese soldiers.

(U.S. Coast Guard)

The other military services would later adopt similar restrictions.

The only award of the Medal of Honor to a Coast Guardsman took place during World War II after Signalman First Class Douglas Munro braved Japanese machine gun fire to rescue Marines and sailors during the Battle of Guadalcanal. He was shot in the head during the engagement and died soon after returning to U.S. lines.

Because no Coast Guard version of the medal had ever been designed, Munro’s family was presented the Navy version. A 1963 law allowed for a Coast Guard design but no design has been approved and no medals of such a design have ever been made.

The Air Force made its own design for the medal in 1956 and it was officially adopted in 1965. Prior to that, airmen received the Army award.

Today, there are three approved versions of the Medal of Honor, one for each the Army, the Air Force, and the naval services.

To date, the medal has been presented to nearly 3,500 people.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Army finds a fix for safety failures in M4 and M4A1 rifles

U.S. Army weapons officials have figured out the cause and ginned up a fix for a dangerous glitch in the selector switch of M4 and M4A1 carbines that could cause the weapon to fire unintentionally.

In June 2018, Military.com reported that about 3,000 Army M4 and M4A1s had failed new safety inspections begun after the service’s Tank-automotive and Armaments Command sent out a safety-of-use message in March 2018 to all branches of the U.S. military, advising units to perform an updated functions check on all variants of M16s and M4s after a soldier experienced an unexplained, unintended discharge.

After more than 50,000 weapons were checked, TACOM officials discovered the cause of the glitch and halted the inspections, TACOM spokesman R. Slade Walters told Military.com.


“After receiving a significant number of reports from the field and an average failure rate of about 6 percent of the weapons inspected, we ended the inspections and have determined that the cause of the problem is a tolerance stack of the internal firing components,” he said in an email. “The problem is fixed by modifying the selector to remove the tolerance issue and the fault. TACOM is working on an Army-wide directive to repair weapons with the issue that will be released when it is approved at the appropriate levels.”

During a follow-up phone interview, Walters said, “Each individual part conforms to the tolerance requirements, but when the multiple parts get stuck together in 6 to 9 percent of the weapons, depending on which models you are looking at … those tolerances create that condition.”

“So in some weapons it’s not a problem and in others it is,” he said, explaining that the lower receiver’s internal parts need “some machining and or grinding to slightly modify the internal components.”

“When they do that, it fixes the problem … and when they have done it and repeated it, they have been able to correct the problem in weapons showing the issue,” he added.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

The receiver of a former M4 carbine shows laser etching to reflect it is now an M4A1 capable of firing on full-auto.

(U.S. Army photo)

Most failures occurred in M4A1s. The M4A1s that had been converted from M4s suffered 2,070 failures out of 23,000 inspected, a 9 percent failure rate. Out of about 16,000 original M4A1s inspected, 960 suffered failures, a 6 percent failure rate.

Less than one percent of the 4,000 M4s checked failed the updated functions check. And less than one percent of the 8,500 M16A2s checked failed the test as well.

About 500 M16A4s were also checked, but no failures were reported.

The Marine Corps also uses the M4 carbine, but the service said in June 2018 that its weapons were passing the new functions check.

The glitch-testing started when a Fort Knox soldier’s M4A1 selector switch became stuck in-between the semi and auto settings. When the soldier pulled the trigger, the weapon failed to fire. The soldier then moved the selector switch and the weapon fired, the TACOM message states.

The M4A1 is now the Army’s primary individual weapon. The service is converting M4 carbines to M4A1s through the M4 Product Improvement program. The M4A1 has been used by special operations forces for about two decades. It features a heavier barrel and a full-automatic setting instead of the three-round burst setting on standard M4s.

The Army said that all new M4A1s being issued are being checked for the selector glitch and corrected as needed, Walters said.

“Anybody who has gotten a new weapon in the last month or two has gotten weapons free of this error,” he said. “It’s not a small number; it’s like several thousand. It has already been implemented in the supply chain.”

It’s unclear if TACOM will have unit armorers fix the weapons that showed the glitch or if TACOM technicians will do the work, Walters said. He added that “this is still pre-decisional.”

TACOM officials also could not explain why the glitch had not shown up in the past.

“It was just a weird fluke,” Walters said. “In the number of rounds that have gone through those models in the number of years those models have been available, it’s like a winning-the-lottery kind of fluke. And the fact that we discovered it is just one of those things.”

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

Why we all need to understand the Medal of Honor

There’s an extraordinary brotherhood that exists among us but few will ever actually meet these honored members. Like our sacred flag, woven together by humility, valor and extreme courage, this is a community of men who never sought recognition — rather earned it — through their own strength, service and sacrifice. These incredible heroes are the recipients of the Medal of Honor.

In the military community, these men are treated with an indescribable reverence; a gratitude that runs deep because of the understanding of the gravity of the citation. Most of these men shouldn’t be alive and many who have earned the Medal never lived to see it. But in the civilian community, the awards often blend together, confusing hearts with crosses, silver with purple.


Now, a major motion picture is closing that information gap, educating the public on the Medal of Honor while pulling at your heartstrings. The Last Full Measure, in theaters nationwide on January 24, has an all star cast that tells the incredible, true story of William H. Pitsenbarger. Pitsenbarger was a U.S. Air Force Pararescueman credited with saving over 60 men after an ambush on the Army’s 1st Infantry Division during a battle in Vietnam. The story couples his heroic actions with the relentless efforts, spanning three decades, made by the men he saved to ensure he was posthumously honored.

Following the Washington, D.C. premiere screening of The Last Full Measure, We Are The Mighty had the opportunity to sit with Medal of Honor recipient First Lieutenant Brian M. Thacker and Medal of Honor Foundation Vice President of External Affairs Dan Smith, to get their take on the movie.

WATM: Tell me your thoughts on the movie.

Thacker: This fills in so many blanks. I knew the Pitsenbarger story and then all of a sudden it kind of happened. In the story, it becomes very clear. The question you have is what was the Air Force guy doing with a leg unit in the first place? And then you think about it and yeah, it’s exactly how it works: the guys closest respond to the call. They were doing joint operations back then and they didn’t even know it. The movie is no frills, a straight story of not just Pitsenbarger, but the whole unit that kept the dream of the award moving forward. It’s a story that needs to be told. There’s a story like that behind every Medal of Honor ever presented.

If you were over there, you know there are many other stories that deserve to be recognized. For a long time, Pitsenbarger was one of them.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

WATM: I understand why this story is so important for the Medal of Honor brotherhood and to the veteran population. Why do you think it’s critical for civilians to see as well?

Thacker: First of all, they need to learn what the Medal means. It’s not a me award. Pitsenbarger is the medic with the award, but it really goes to all of the men in that company that were put in an untenable situation. The stories that came out of what happens as a result are equally as important. It’s not over when the shooting stops. The camaraderie and the close bond of serving together is what gets us through.

WATM: There’s a great line in the movie about how the medal means so much more than a battle; it’s the story behind it that connects us all. What story does your medal tell?

Thacker: The other half of the story behind mine is that of a Recon Sergeant that got an assignment he didn’t want but came out with a DSC. My guess is that his citation, like mine, was written at the highest level. But our unit was a Joe six pack, a bunch of people from all over the country that didn’t realize how untenable our situation was really going to be until the first shot was fired. Then it was, ‘Oh Lord, just let us hang on. We just need to get through this day.’ It all comes down to everyone just trying to help each other get through the day. Certainly you don’t do it by yourself.

WATM to Smith: What does having a MOH recipient in the audience tonight mean to you?

Smith: It’s beyond special. Young airman Pitsenbarger’s story is inspiring and remarkable. What we try to do and what our mission is, is to raise resources to let recipients tell their stories and to bring that and the legacy of the Medal to the communities. The most senior leaders in our military and our government talk about the less than one percent who serve and this growing civilian and military divide.

For these gentlemen to be able to tell their stories, not just to the military but to the community will close this gap. I’m hopeful that everyday people will see this movie, hear these heroic stories and change the ambivalence that often comes without knowing the impact of the award. So many men came home from Vietnam and weren’t able to tell their stories. I’m hopeful this will reach not just veterans of that generation but the younger generations as well.

WATM: What do you think this film teaches the next generation?

Thacker: We did everything we could to bury Vietnam. The young people that were born after the war grew up in the dark, unless you were living with a Vietnam veteran and you were living it right with your dad. It’s very symbolic. We see the same thing with young people who volunteered after 9/11; this mentality that I need to be a part of this. It’s 50 years later but it’s the same ethic that bubbles up.

You can take that notion of service far beyond the military. It’s in the fire departments, police departments and even the teaching community; this sense of service above self. You see bits and pieces of that in this movie and I hope it’s one the kids will watch because it’s living history.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

WATM: Was there any particular scene in this movie that really resonated with you?

Thacker: When Pitsenbarger realized he had to go down to help them to teach them how to use the litter. Being in that position does something to your pucker factor. People who have been there, you can ask them: ‘Do you remember what it felt like?’ They’ll tell you they were very afraid. Knowing you are in over your head and wondering who you turn to for help, that happens all the time. There will be a lot of people who understand that feeling of all of a sudden being in charge.

WATM: As a MOH recipient, I imagine you’re invited to events like this all of the time. Is there a particular event you have been a part of that has had a profound impact on your life?

Thacker: Being able to attend an Inauguration and to witness the peaceful transfer of power was an incredible experience. I don’t think people understand how truly special and uniquely American that is.

WATM: Is there anything else you want people to know about either you or the Medal of Honor Foundation?

Thacker: We still have something to say. I remember when the Baby Boom generation wasn’t going to amount to much. Now we’re saying the same thing about Millenials, and I promise you, we’ll be as wrong about them as our parents were about us. That willingness to stand up and take the risk is fairly common.

Smith: These men have incredible stories to tell. My hope is that through films like The Last Full Measure we’ll be able to connect communities with this heroism.

The Last Full Measure will be in theaters January 24. These stories deserve to be told and the valor of The Medal of Honor should live on through all of us. Perpetuating the legacy should be our collective Last Full Measure.

You can buy tickets to see the film and support this story and legacy on The Last Full Measure’s website.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This insect pain scale will help you test your warrior mettle

The sting of the Warrior Wasp is pure torture, according to entomologist Dr. Justin Schmidt, who was willingly stung by each of the most painful insect stings on Earth to create a scale of pain. He went on to describe it as being chained in the flow of an active volcano. It was the only one that ever made him question why he would endeavor to create such a scale.

Schmidt’s Pain Index covers the stings of Hymenoptera, a class of insect that includes bees, wasps, and ants. On the scale of one to four, with four being the worst pain imaginable, only three insects made the top of the list.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Level One: Adorable.

Level one

The first level is short, sharp, but not lasting stings from things like sweat bees and fire ants. The pain from these stings generally last around five minutes or less. There is minimal damage done to the body from the insect venom. Schmidt described the sting of a sweat bee as “light, ephemeral, almost fruity. A tiny spark has singed a single hair on your arm.”

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Level Two: Been There, Done That.

Level two

Raising the stakes just a little means the next level is still filled with creatures with which most of us are familiar. Level two includes common honeybees, yellow jackets, and hornets. Dr. Schmidt says the vast majority of bees, wasps, and ants will fall into level two, though the sensations of pain are different from creature to creature.

While a yellow jacket can cause a very directed and hot kind of pain, Schmidt describes the sting of a termite-raiding ant as a “migraine contained on the tip of one’s finger.”

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Level Three: Not Cute.

Level three

This level, though not exclusively filled with wasps, is mostly wasps. The stings of a level three insect can last from anywhere from a few minutes to longer than an hour. Though the ants that do make a level three kind of pain are very painful and memorable.

He described the sting of the Maricopa Harvester Ant as “After eight unrelenting hours of drilling into that ingrown toenail, you find the drill wedged into the toe.”

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Level Four: Kill It With Fire.

Level four

As previously mentioned, only three insects fall into this level of pain, and Dr. Schmidt has experienced all of them, including that of the bullet ant, long regarded as the most painful insect bite ever felt and lasting for hours. The others include the tarantula hawk, a wasp whose venom is meant to hunt giant tarantulas and the warrior wasp, with a sting that was once clinically described as “traumatic.”

The Amazonian Tribe of the Mawé have a puberty right for males that includes wearing a bullet ant glove. If you experience the worst pain the jungle has to offer, how can you possibly fear anything else?

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is why the infamous glider regiments quietly fizzled out of history

The United States Military has always prided itself on its legacy. That’s why the historical accomplishments of a unit are almost always passed down from the old-timers to the young bloods. And if a great troop does a heroic deed, you can bet the installation where they were once stationed will have a street named after them.

The history books of the United States Military are extensive and cherished — but you won’t often see mention of the glider regiments. Outside of randomly finding their insignia on “Badges of the United States Army” posters that line the training room, you won’t ever hear anyone sing the tales of the gliders.

That’s mostly because the history of the gliders is a bit… awkward, let’s say.


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Still though. There was a need that the gliders filled and they got the job done… some times…

(National Archives)

Since their inception, gliders have been at odds with the paratroopers. Instead of having an infantryman jump from an aircraft and float down individually, the gliders would be filled to the brim with infantrymen that could all exit the glider at the same time and location. Gliders could also be filled with heavy equipment or vehicles and moved into the battlefield, remaining fairly silent as it glided to the ground.

And that about does it for the list of benefits to using gliders.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Earlier anti-glider poles had explosives, but the Axis found it a bit of overkill, as the inertia alone did the trick.

(National Archives)

The thing is, all of the functions of the glider were better (and more safely) served by the helicopter. But even before helicopters were ready to take on a primary role, the Army had long abandoned gliders.

There were simply too many problems in the operating of gliders. First, gliders had to be towed by a much larger aircraft. When the time came, the glider would release the line and, as the name implies, glide to its intended destination. It didn’t have its own engine or any completely reliable means of piloting it.

Accidents were frequent. After all, there’s a reason they were unaffectionately called “flying coffins.” The glider needed to remain light (despite the heavy load in the back), so it had barely any kind of protection. The glider was literally made of honeycombed plywood and canvas, meaning air pockets or 40-mph winds could start shredding the exterior.

If the glider did manage to hold together throughout its journey, it was most left to its own devices after the departure of the towing plane. There were no brakes and steering was difficult. The only safe bet was to find a clearing, which were difficult to spot, seeing as the gliders cut the line while still miles away from their destination.

It also didn’t help that the Axis knew about the gliders’ biggest weakness: randomly placed ten-foot poles in giant clearings.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Farewell, gliders. You won’t be missed.

(442nd Fighter Wing Archive photo)

Gliders, in the eyes of the public, were doomed from the very beginning. In August, 1943, the gliders were given their first public demonstration in front for 10,000 spectators in St. Louis. A single bolt came undone and the glider fell like a sack of bricks right in front of the grand stand. Everyone onboard, including the mayor of St. Louis, was instantly killed.

The gliders did land properly more often than not and they played an instrumental role in major Allied invasions, but the fact that a staggering eleven percent of all troops who rode in them would die (and thirty percent were wounded upon landing) was something that the military just wanted to forget about.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Russia already threatened the US with its ‘doomsday device’

Since 2015, when images of a Russian nuclear torpedo first leaked on state television, the world has asked itself why Moscow would build a weapon that could end all life on Earth.

While all nuclear weapons can kill thousands in the blink of an eye and leave radiation poisoning the environment for years to come, Russia’s new doomsday device, called “Poseidon,” takes steps to maximize this effect.

If the US fired one of its Minutemen III nuclear weapons at a target, it would detonate in the air above the target and rely on the blast’s incredible downward pressure to crush it. The fireball from the nuke may not even touch the ground, and the only radiation would come from the bomb itself and any dust particles swept up in the explosion, Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit,” previously told Business Insider.


But Russia’s Poseidon is said to use a warhead many times as strong, perhaps even as strong as the largest bomb ever detonated. Additionally, it’s designed to come into direct contact with water, marine animals, and the ocean floor, kicking up a radioactive tsunami that could spread deadly radiation over hundreds of thousands of miles of land and sea and render it uninhabitable for decades.

In short, while most nuclear weapons can end a city, Russia’s Poseidon could end a continent.

Even in the mania at the height of the Cold War, nobody took seriously the idea of building such a world-ender, Malcolm Davis, a senior analyst at the Australian Strategic Policy Institute, told Business Insider.

So why build one now?

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

A briefing slide captured from Russian state TV is said to be about the Poseidon nuclear torpedo.

(BBC)

A NATO-ender

Davis called the Poseidon a “third-strike vengeance weapon” — meaning Russia would attack a NATO member, the US would respond, and a devastated Russia would flip the switch on a hidden nuke that would lay waste to an entire US seaboard.

According to Davis, the Poseidon would give Russia a “coercive power” to discourage a NATO response to a Russian first strike.

Russia here would seek to not only reoccupy Eastern Europe “but coerce NATO to not act upon an Article 5 declaration and thus lose credibility,” he said, referring to the alliance’s key clause that guarantees a collective response to an attack on a member state.

Russian President Vladimir Putin “has made it clear he seeks the collapse of NATO,” Davis continued. “If NATO doesn’t come to the aid of a member state, it’s pretty much finished as a defense alliance.”

Essentially, Russia could use the Poseidon as an insurance policy while it picks apart NATO. The US, for fear that its coastlines could become irradiated for decades by a stealthy underwater torpedo it has no defenses against, might seriously question how badly it needs to save Estonia from Moscow’s clutches.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

“Putin may calculate that NATO will blink first rather than risk escalation to a nuclear exchange,” Davis said. “Poseidon accentuates the risks to NATO in responding to any Russian threat greatly, dramatically increasing Russia’s coercive power.”

Davis also suggested the Poseidon would make a capable but heavy-handed naval weapon, which he said could most likely take out an entire carrier strike group in one shot.

Russia’s new nuclear ferocity

Russia has recently signaled its willingness to use nuclear weapons to coerce the West with its violation of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, Davis said. These missiles are purpose-built for taking out European capitals from the Russian mainland.

But Russia has frequently engaged in nuclear saber-rattling when it feels encircled by NATO forces, and so far it has steered clear of confronting NATO with kinetic forces.

“Whether that will involve actual use or just the threat of use is the uncertainty,” Davis said.

While it’s hard to imagine a good reason for laying the kind of destruction the Poseidon promises, Davis warned that we shouldn’t assume the Russians think about nuclear warfare the same way the US does.

Featured image: AtomCentral.com

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

MIGHTY CULTURE

4 reasons why the ‘Florida Man’ is definitely a drunk Marine

We’ve all seen “Florida Man” show up in ridiculous headlines. You know the ones: “Florida man calls 911 over missing beer so many times he gets arrested.” Or how about, “Florida man claims wife was kidnapped by holograms.” The list goes on. In fact, headlines coming out of Florida are so often outrageous that “Florida Man” has become something of a pop culture myth, known for getting into trouble in the most ridiculous ways — ways that only someone in an altered state of mind to conjure up.

Alcohol is undeniably a big part of military culture. Troops are constantly pushing the boundaries of what defines alcoholic behavior. The most prolific offender among the branches is, without a doubt, the Marine Corps. Drunk Marines are notorious for getting into trouble and, by now, it’s practically expected because it happens so often.

At the end of the day, the “Florida Man” has a lot in common with a drunk Marine. Here’s why:


4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Then the Army has to come clean up the mess.

(U.S. Army)

1. The antics are surprisingly similar

For some reason, “Florida Man” is always noted for his intoxication — and even if it doesn’t make the headline, you can safely assume his state of mind. Drinking, getting rowdy, and stripping in public are some of Florida Man’s favorite pastimes — just like Marines! In fact, if you were to take some of his greatest works and replace “Florida Man” with “drunk Marine,” nobody would bat an eye at it.

No, really. Try it with us:

“Naked Florida Man drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down house baking cookies on George Foreman Grill”

And make these changes:

Naked, drunk Marine drinks 2 liters of vodka, burns down barracks baking cookies on George Foreman Grill

Seamless, right? That’s why we’re not allowed to have toasters in our rooms.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Seriously? Over chicken?

(U.S. Marine Corps)

2. They both exhibit aggressive tendencies

Drunk Marines are, quite possibly, the most irritable people on the planet. Making simple requests or doing anything that might accidentally upset one will likely result in violence.

Tell me, which of these is the real headline?

Florida Man swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Drunk Marine swings anchor at beachgoers because they ruined his chicken

Can’t tell? Us neither. This is what happens when you don’t have a battle buddy.

3. Playing with dangerous, live animals

Both Marines and Florida Man have a penchant for messing with whatever wildlife happens to share their environment. Add a little bit of alcohol to the situation, and you might end up with this:

Florida Man enters convenience store carrying live gator, chases customers

That could easily be this:

Drunk Marine enters PX carrying live gator, chases customers

I feel like I’ve seen both of these before…

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

Why do drunk people always want to fight cops?

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Jesus Sepulveda Torres)

4. Trying to fight cops

To be fair, drunk Marines will fight anyone when given the chance. But, of course, any challenge of authority will result in direct confrontation. That’s how you get headline swaps like this:

“Florida Man trashes McDonald’s, challenges cops to fight him at jail”

“Drunk Marine trashes chow hall, challenges PMO to fight him”

After evaluating the evidence, we can conclude with near certainty that Florida Man is indeed a US Marine.

popular

Can you pass the US citizenship test?

Many people dream of becoming a U.S. citizen. The process is notoriously arduous and taxing, but the most nerve-wracking part for many is taking the U.S. citizenship test. It’s so difficult, in fact, that according to NBCNews, only 36% of American citizens could pass the test. That’s like around the same percentage of students at Arizona State that could pass an STD test. Yikes.

Some of the foundational, basic, questions are reportedly missed by as much as 60% of the population. For instance, only 39% of American test takers know how many justices serve on the supreme court. If you’re thinking, “Uhhh… I dunno, like 50…Or 12?” You’re probably in good company. You’re also wrong. It’s nine. That’s a freebie—follow along, and then plug your answers into the key at the bottom to see how well you fare.

If you get at least six correct you pass. No peeking!


How many members are in the House of Representatives? 

A.) 435
B.) 350
C.) 503
D.) 69

Who is in charge of the executive branch?

A.) The President
B.) Secretary of Defense
C.) Speaker of the House
D.) Majority Whip

What piece of land did the United States purchase from France in 1803?

A.) Alaska Purchase
B.) Gadsden Purchase
C.) Louisiana Purchase
D.) Hawaii

How many U.S. senators are there?

A.) 50
B.) 100
C.) 200
D.) 400

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Stolen by Nicolas Cage in 2004… and 2007?

 

When was the constitution written?

A.) 1692
B.) 1802
C.) 1776
D.) 1787

How many amendments does the constitution have?

A.) 27
B.) 25
C.) 20
D.) 14

Who was the President during World War I?

A.) Calvin Cooldige
B.) Woodrow Wilson
C.) Franklin D. Roosevelt
D.) Harry Truman

Under the constitution, which of these powers does not belong to the federal government? 

A.) Print money
B.) Declare war
C.) Ratify amendments to the Constitution
D.) Make treaties with foreign powers

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
U.S. Senate floor.

 

We elect a U.S. senator for how many years?

A.) Six years
B.) Four years
C.) Eight years
D.) Two years

The Federalist Papers supported the passage of the U.S. constitution. Which of these men was not one of the authors? 

A.) Alexander Hamilton
B.) John Adams
C.) James Madison
D.) John Jay

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’
Spc. Jorge Vilicana takes general Army test (Capt. David Gasperson)

 

ANSWER KEY

  1. a
  2. a
  3. c
  4. b
  5. d
  6. a
  7. b
  8. c
  9. a
  10. b
If you got at least 6/10 right—congrats you passed the U.S. citizenship test! If you didn’t—you can always just lie in comments section and say you did!
MIGHTY HISTORY

You will never be as badass as this explorer who removed his own appendix

Leonid Rogozov was one of 13 scientists and researchers on the Soviet Union’s sixth expedition to Antarctica from 1960 to 1962. One morning in 1961, he woke up feeling general malaise, weakness, and feverish along with pain in his abdomen. He soon understood what was happening. His appendix needed to be removed. Unfortunately, he was the only one who could do it.

So he did.


If movies and television taught us anything during the Cold War, it’s that Russians are amazingly strong superpeople who punch with the force of a full ton, can train even the worst armies to become special operators, and seem to know everything about everyone. In this case, movies and television were absolutely right. Rogozov was the only medical doctor on the team of Soviet scientists at Novolazarevskaya Station, almost 47 miles from the Antarctic Coast, separated by the Lazarev Ice Shelf. On April 29, 1961, the morning he woke up with pain in his abdomen, the average daily temperature would have been around 13 degrees Fahrenheit.

The doctor recognized his symptoms as indicative of appendicitis, an inflammation affecting the appendix that can cause it to burst. Without any kind of treatment, this condition can kill in a matter of a few days. Rogozov had to act fast because his condition was only getting worse. He was beginning to vomit and believed his appendix might soon burst. With the help of two fellow scientists holding mirrors, he used a novocaine solution to numb the direct area and then went to work.

4 things you didn’t know about Oliver Stone’s classic ‘Platoon’

No big deal.

The doctor made a 12-centimeter incision and began looking into his own abdomen and the organs within. He noticed his appendix was discolored with a dark stain and estimated it was about to burst. For two hours, he poked around, resected his appendix, and battled bouts of nausea and the weakness caused by his condition. He sometimes even had to work by feeling alone, being unable to see from the angle he was sitting. But the operation was a success.

Four days later, his digestive system began functioning normally. After five days, his fever receded, and after a week, the incision was completely healed. In two weeks, he was back to duty and after a month, back to heavy labor in Antarctica as if he hadn’t just cut out his own appendix.

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