“An author cannot, of course, remain wholly unaffected by his experience.”
These are the words of arguably the most influential writer of the 20th century and WWI veteran, John Ronald Reuel “J.R.R.” Tolkien.
In June 1916, the newly commissioned lieutenant kissed his newly married wife goodbye as he boarded the transport to Calais, France. Come July 1st, one of the bloodiest battles in human history took place near the Somme River. That day, his closest friend was killed and Tolkien forever changed.
Shouldering the burden of leadership and the ever looming threat of death, by disease or the enemy, Tolkien carried on. Ultimately, it was Trench Fever that sent him home ten days before the dust settled.
Deemed no longer medically fit for service, Tolkien returned to his passion: writing. The rest is history.
When the second edition of TheLord of the Rings was released, the foreword stated: “The real war does not resemble the legendary war in its process or its conclusion.” Tolkien continued with, “But I cordially dislike allegory in all its manifestations, and always have done so since I grew old and wary enough to detect its presence. I much prefer history, true or feigned, with its varied applicability to the thought and experience of readers.”
He hated direct comparisons of his works to real world events. No real world leader is Sauron. No real world army are the orcs. And the One Ring is not a reference to the nuclear bomb.
Much of the psychology and emotions of his works, however, did pull from his time on the battlefield, most notably with the Dead Marshes. In the second volume (and film) The Two Towers, the ghoulish Gollum lead the protagonist, Frodo Baggins, through a swamp full of bloated bodies under the mud and water.
Tolkien’s biography, The Letters of J.R.R. Tolkien, explained that what Frodo experienced in the Marsh was specifically based on the Battle of the Somme where Tolkien saw countless bodies across the muddy battlefield.
Themes were also pulled from his leadership and the bravery of his men. Tolkien studied at Oxford and lead men from mining, milling, and weaving towns of Lancashire. In another biography, Tolkien and the Great War, Tolkien said he “felt an affinity for these working class men, but military protocol forbade him from developing friendships with ‘other ranks’.” This man-apart thematically affected many of the characters in his novels.
One of the largest changes from the novel to any film adaptation is the “Scouring of the Shire” and the mindset of Frodo after the war. In the final chapters of the last book, Saruman attacked the Shire and all of the townspeople had to defend their home.
Afterward, Frodo was left alone.
War changed him. Frodo couldn’t just return to being a happy, singing Hobbit like everyone else after the war. He’d been stabbed, poisoned, and lost a finger. Frodo, like Tolkien himself, had become “shell-shocked” after combat.
The forward of the 1991 release of The Lord of the Rings added another Tolkien quote: “The country in which I lived in childhood was being shabbily destroyed before I was ten. Recently I saw in a paper a picture of the last decrepitude of the once thriving corn-mill beside its pool that long ago seemed to me so important.”
For those unfamiliar with it, M*A*S*H was a hit comedy-drama television series that aired on CBS from 1972 to 1983. Following a team of doctors and support staff from the 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, the show takes place during the Korean War. During the war, the helicopter was a revolutionary platform that allowed for more rapid evacuation of wounded personnel from the battlefield. As such, the H-13 Sioux, known affectionately as the flying fishbowl, played a prominent role in the show. The Bell 47, the civilian model of the H-13, that was used most often in the show is now up for sale.
Bell 47 D1 s/n 263 was built in July 1951 at the Bell Aircraft Assembly Plant in Niagara, New York. The helicopter was assigned to the U.S. Navy where it was used as a training platform. During its naval career, s/n 263 was once shipped from NAS Alameda, California to a Navy base in Japan and flown with floats installed. The helicopter was eventually shipped back to NAS Alameda and surplussed out of the Navy in 1958. It was purchased by the San Bernardino Valley Junior College Aeronautical Division for use as a training aid.
In 1972, the aircraft was put up for sale again. This time, she was purchased by Adrian Grieve, the owner and operator of Pathfinder Helicopters at Flabob Airport in Riverside, California. S/n 263 was completely disassembled and rebuilt to Bell Helicopters specifications. The next year, it received a Standard Airworthiness Certificate from the FAA as Bell 47 D1, N5167V.
Flyable once more, N5167V served as a student trainer, aerial photography platform, aerial surveyor, banner tower, and fruit frost control aircraft. However, the helicopter’s claim to fame is its starring role in M*A*S*H.
In the opening scenes of the show, two helicopters fly together in close formation; N5167V is the ship closest to the camera in the shot. In the second scene, N5167V is the second helicopter on approach to the landing pads. During the ten years of filming, the helicopter was used numerous times both as a set piece and in flying scenes. The helicopter’s last on-screen appearance was during the final departure scene of the show’s series finale, one of the most-watched TV episodes of all time.
In 1981, N5167V was sold to a South Dakota farmer who used the helicopter on his ranch for counting and herding cattle and crop dusting. N5167V was eventually sold to its current owner who restored it to original its M*A*S*H configuration. During over 5,800 flight hours, the helicopter never sustained any damage. Bell 47 D-1 s/n 263 N5167V is up for sale by Platinum Fighter Sales. The company specializes in warbird and classic aircraft brokerage. A poke around their website will reveal plenty of interesting aircraft for sale like a 1959 McDonnell F4H-1F Phantom II, a 1943 Curtiss Wright P-40N-1 Kittyhawk, and even a rare 1944 North American XP-82 Twin Mustang. The M*A*S*H helicopter has no price listed, but offers can be made online. Given the aircraft’s history, it’s expected to sell for a pretty penny.
Hollywood loves to make sequels even from semi-successful films. Maybe that’s the reason why “Jarhead 2” was made or just because the world needs more movies about Jarheads — but who knows.
Released in 2014, the film follows a squad of supply Marines who get attacked by enemy forces and must fight their way to safety. Some other stuff happens along the way and spoiler alert — most of them eventually make it back safely.
There, we just saved you two hours.
This film is one of many that makes Marines grit their teeth and have to look away — that’s difficult to pull off.
So check out our list of moments that made us grit our teeth.
1. Priority during a firefight
In the opening scene of the film, the Marines at Patrol Base Cobra are under heavy attack from enemy forces. But this Marine is ordered to finish unloading supplies from a truck rather than firing his weapon to defend the area.
We guess hydrating is more important than laying down a base of fire. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
2. Jarhead shows biggest bullseye ever
Corpsmen and medics haven’t carried medical bags with the Red Cross stamped on it in decades — just saying. That’s a huge a** red cross to add insult to injury.
3. Camp Leatherwhat?
They could have done a better job rendering what Camp Leatherneck looked like a few years ago. That’s why we have Google images.
Not even close. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
The tent city of the real Camp Leatherneck. Much different, right?
4. Sleeves up and wearing the wrong undershirt
A senior officer would know better than to put on the wrong color undershirt, wear gunny sleeves and sport a cover that looks like a blooming onion. Plus he’s wearing a guard duty belt for some reason.
You could afford a talented actor like Stephen Lang, but researching Marine Corps uniforms wasn’t in the budget? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
5. At the rifle range without any protective gear
The Range Safety Officer would lose his qualification in a heartbeat if a superior saw this crap.
Safety isn’t a real issue. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
6. Jarhead 2 could have at least got collar device placement right
Oh, come on! Really?
Countless numbers of teeth have just broken after spotting this captain’s rank insignia placement. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
7. Worst secured perimeter ever
If you wanted to attack these fictional Marines, you could just walk right up from behind and they would never f*cking notice.
WTF? (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
8. Jarhead 2 features a scope mounted on the carrying handle
Nope. This film takes place in 2013, meaning RCOs were used and mounted in lieu of a carrying handle. No offense, but supply Marines do not rate those types of scopes.
For the love of God, do some research people. (Source: Universal/ Screenshot)
Retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott experienced two spaceflights and 104 days living and working in space on both the International Space Station and the Space Shuttle. She was the 10th woman to perform a space walk and, just for funsies, she painted the first watercolor in space (it’s now on display at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum).
In the video below, Stott breaks down scenes in classic space films, from Total Recall to Gravity to getting sucked into space in Alien: Resurrection. If you’ve ever wondered what would happen if an astronaut’s helmet cracks in space or what happens when a member of the crew is exposed to the vacuum of space (“there was a case of a guy who was doing a spacesuit test and somehow got exposed to the vacuum; he reports that he felt the boiling of his spit on his tongue…” she shared, to my horror), Stott has answers.
In Total Recall, a cracked helmet results in convulsions and eyes popping out of their sockets, emitting a laugh from Stott. “The helmet itself is really very durable. We try our best to avoid contact with anything, because they can scratch, too. When we do space checks, we’re always talking about doing a glove check or a crew member check where you look each other over and make sure you don’t see anything that might be a problem,” she explained. “But overall, the suits and helmets overall are really very durable and have done a great job of protecting us in space.”
She had a lot of great things to say about the realism in Gravity, although “there’s definitely not as much chatter as what you’re hearing [in the film]. We try very hard to keep it to what the tasks are about. We might be playing music inside the shuttle but that’s not something you’ll hear throughout all the comm that’s going on.”
She described how choreographed a space walk is, down to five minute increments. For safety, there’s always someone inside the shuttle during a space walk, as well.
“The thing that stands out the most to me is that you’d never have George Clooney, or any other crew member, just jet-packing around while the space walk was going on,” she clarified.
She went on to describe emergency procedures (and why unexpected debris in space is rather unlikely), as well as what she described as one of the greatest fears of any spacewalker: spinning out into space. She also commented on astronaut training, including simulation and virtual reality.
Stott giggled a bit before breaking down the ludicrous speed in Spaceballs, comparing it to the 17,000 miles per hour (5 miles per second!) that the Space Shuttle travels.
The topic of training came up again with the Armageddon training montage. “The underwater work looks just like what we would do if we were training to do a space walk. Thankfully, in space, it’s easier to move around in those suits! You just have to figure out how to stop if you start moving too fast!” she recalled with a bit of wistfulness in her voice. Check out the video above for more Armageddon and everything from pulling G’s in Interstellar tothe artificial intelligence of 2001: A Space Odyssey.
Actor and former Army Ranger Tim Abell brings a unique approach to his profession where he has worked with some of Hollywood’s finest producers and directors. Abell joined the Army on the Delayed Entry Program while still attending high school. After graduating Abell served 4 years active duty from December 1976 through December 1980 with the elite units of the 2/75th Ranger Bn (now the 75th Ranger Reg) and the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) Caissons. He additionally served 3 years in the reserves while attending the University of Maryland College Park.He became skilled as a horseman through his duty with, “The Old Guard” where he portrayed General Robert E. Lee and President and former Major General Andrew Jackson in dramatic reenactments such as “History of the United States Torch Light Tattoo” and a longer version titlted “The Spirit of America.” He has since acted in films such as “We Were Soldiers”, “Substitute 2: Failure is Not an Option”, and on TV shows including Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Soldier of Fortune”, “JAG”, “Criminal Minds”, “CSI:Miami”, “CSI:NY”, and “Sons of Anarchy.” He continues his work in the industry as an actor, producer and providing voice over work as well.
Can you share about your family and your life growing up?
At the age of 8 his parents divorced. Tim, his sister Debbie and brother Jay chose to stay with their father. Tim’s sister soon married and moved away, and Tim and his brother Jay grew up as “Latch Key kids.” Their Dad worked long hours at the Cadillac dealership while Jay and Tim were given the responsibility of making their own meals, vacuuming, and dusting the house, washing their clothes, and all of the years’ work too. They spent most weekends with their grandparents Pappy & Granny Abell where they learned to cook. Pap Abell , a WWI veteran, also taught them how to catch herring with a bamboo rod and a treble hook, how to pitch good motor parts at the junk yard, how to find and pick wild Blackberries quickly and efficiently so Granny could make us Blackberry pie and how to truly laugh and have a good time!
Abell says he wouldn’t change a thing growing up but, believes kids should have both a Mom and Dad in the growing up if possible… he often wonders what his childhood would’ve been like had his parents stayed together.
Abell became self-sufficient at an early age. While growing up he reluctantly helped his Dad and brother work on cars over the weekend which his Dad called “Shade Tree” work to make extra money. His brother Jay loved helping his Dad work on cars, but Abell’s real passions lie elsewhere. His mind was on building large battlefields with his plastic army men or cleaning his old shotgun and hunting with his buddies in the nearby woods.
Abell does come from a family rich in military service where his grandfather served in World War I and his great, great grandfather was a blacksmith for the 49th Virginia Infantry on the Confederate side in the Civil War. He found even more history on his grandfather’s mother’s side where his great, great grandfather named Jerome Laurence fought for the 65th Volunteers from Pennsylvania, which was a part of the 5th Regiment on the Union side in the Civil War. He has relatives that served even in the Spanish-American War and the Revolutionary War, which Abell describes as “cool.” Surprisingly, his brother tried to talk Abell out of going into the military even with such a rich military history in the family.
Abell’s brother Jay, whom he always idolized, became an outstanding carpenter and gifted woodworker. Abell recalls his father being an awesome father and role model, who taught him responsibility, integrity and respect for his elders.
Abell played trombone and trumpet in elementary school but never really put the time and effort required to learn because he was so much more interested in hunting, shooting, and fishing with his pals and with his hunting mentor his “Uncle Bruce” a former Marine during the Korean War.
In junior high school Abell faced a new reality…. he faced adversity stemming from the racial tensions on the time exacerbated by school bussing. Abell’s hatred of bullies came from that troubled time…. seeing 12-year-old kids beaten, robbed and humiliated and enduring some of the same himself just because of the color of one’s skin made Abell grow up in a different way. It made him learn to fight back and not be a victim, especially when his father told him to deal with it himself. So many life lessons learned from that era… “…you just go screw it I am taking this shit anymore. I am not letting myself get beat up without taking a couple of guys down with me. You know, pay the price….it’s wasn’t just about black and white it’s also about bullies in general. People that are unsavory people that can pick on the weak. I learned that across the board. I took that same experience into the Army.”
He remembers a fellow private in the Army at boot camp that would get picked on because he was, “easy prey.” While at boot camp the private would get bullied and beat up all the time. Abell did not like this kind of behavior. He came across the private being beaten up while in the bathroom at the rifle range complex. He confronted the attackers and told them to stop. He sent the private out of the bathroom and broke up the fight. Later that night the assailants from the bathroom confronted Abell outside of the barracks while he was walking with his fellow soldiers back from the Post Exchange. A fight ensued that was eventually broken up by the drill sergeants. It came to light what was happening among the platoon where the drill sergeants put a stop to it. Abell recalls the volatility of the situations he was in and how racial tensions flared going through entry-level indoctrination in the Army. As new soldiers all the men were still learning their new Army identity and to work as a team regardless of skin color or ethnicity.
Abell during his time in the Army. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What made you want to become a Ranger and what was your experience like?
Abell attributes his desire to become a Ranger from his avid reading habit and loving military biographies where he read a book in his junior year of high school named “The Green Berets” by Robin Moore. The movie starring John Wayne titled “The Green Berets” is based on Moore’s book where Abell loves the film as well. He initially wanted to be a Green Beret where told the Army recruiter the same thing. He wanted to the join the Army to do something he could only do in the Army, “…like be a Special Forces guy.” The recruiter could get him a slot as a Ranger, but not as a Green Beret, so he went with going in the Army to be a Ranger. Abell wanted to be tested as a man and see if could he handle that stress. He says, “…I loved being in the Ranger Battalion.” He describes it as a “wonderful experience” in his life with “camaraderie” and enjoyed the “people he met” where he was “pushed to be his best.”
Robin Moore’s book “The Green Berets.” Photo courtesy of Wikipedia.com.
He still remains close with his pals from that time period and he felt invincible as a young Ranger. Abell believes life is about testing yourself and finding out about what you are made of. He remains grateful of his success and his place in life the older he gets. Words of wisdom he lives by are, “How you perceive a situation influences how you respond to it.” He remains grateful in situations, even those that may seem arduous, which allows him to keep a level head. He goes by a phrase, “…embracing the suck,” when it comes to facing tough times on set or in life.
Abell center of picture (to the left of the African American Ranger in the center) with his Ranger class RC 5-78. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
And Abell still embraces the Ranger Creed which he had to learn by heart as a Ranger.
The Ranger Creed
Recognizing that I volunteered as a Ranger, fully knowing the hazards of my chosen profession, I will always endeavor to uphold the prestige, honor, and high esprit de corps of the Rangers.
Acknowledging the fact that a Ranger is a more elite soldier who arrives at the cutting edge of battle by land, sea, or air, I accept the fact that as a Ranger my country expects me to move further, faster and fight harder than any other soldier.
Never shall I fail my comrades. I will always keep myself mentally alert, physically strong and morally straight and I will shoulder more than my share of the task whatever it may be, one hundred percent and then some.
Gallantly will I show the world that I am a specially selected and well-trained soldier. My courtesy to superior officers, neatness of dress and care of equipment shall set the example for others to follow.
Energetically will I meet the enemies of my country. I shall defeat them on the field of battle for I am better trained and will fight with all my might. Surrender is not a Ranger word. I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy and under no circumstances will I ever embarrass my country.
Readily will I display the intestinal fortitude required to fight on to the Ranger objective and complete the mission though I be the lone survivor.
Rangers Lead The Way!!!
What are you most proud of from your service in the Army?
What I’m most proud of stems from Gen Abrams and the Abrams Charter. The Abrams Charter stated that the obligation for Rangers is to “Lead the Way” for the entire Army. In the Ranger Bn., the more senior Rangers set the example for the younger Rangers who had just graduated from RIP (Ranger Indoctrination Program) to follow. Always leading by example. The new Rangers learned very quickly what was expected of the in order to be a part of this elite group of Soldiers. To live up to the high standards and esprit de corps was not always an easy task. But more importantly the Abrams Charter spoke to those 75th Rangers who would set the example for the soldiers in the big Army after they left the Rangers.
So, when Abell was assigned to the 3rd US Infantry (The Old Guard) Caissons, he knew that he could be an asset as well as a role model to his fellow Old Guard soldiers. He was able to share his Ranger training and experience while being the NCOIC of the Expert Infantry Badge (EIB) Movement Under Direct Fire course at Ft. AP Hill. Abell’s station was a highlight of the EIB training due to the rigorous and realistic training Abell put the Old Guard soldiers through.
Abell (center) in “Sniper: Special Ops.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What values have you carried over from the Army into Hollywood?
Abell is grateful for his life experiences…especially in the Army. He brought discipline over to his Hollywood career. W/O discipline he has seen people fall off into the abyss of drinking, drugs, partying and sex…. some with fatal consequences.
He believes good judgement is vital. Character integrity and leadership are important as well. Abell says as a civilian he always refers to the Ranger Creed in tough times, which helps carry him forward and stay on track.
Abell hosted the “Grateful Nation” tv series on the Outdoor Channel for 10 seasons where he helped tell the story of our returning war veterans…. many of whom needed to find a new Mission & Purpose in life after the military in order to find happiness… if not then it was a slippery slope for many veterans who find it too easy to just take their meds, drink a fifth of booze, play video games and start thinking stupid thoughts…. but Abell found that many veterans who found that new mission and purpose saved their own lives as well as inspiring other veterans to do the same.
Abell (right) while serving with “The Old Guard.” Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What project did you most enjoy doing while working in Hollywood?
Abell most enjoyed playing USMC Scout/Sniper SSG Benny Ray Riddle in Jerry Bruckheimer’s syndicated tv series “Soldier of Fortune inc.” It was a role where Abell could utilize all of his military and even use some of his old Ranger gear to bring and authenticity to Benny Ray whom was an amalgamation of more than a a few of the hardcore leaders he was led by as a young Ranger.
Abell also loved playing SFC Vic Mosby in the action film “Sniper Special Ops” starring Steven Seagal and Dale Dye, directed and written by his pal and Navy Veteran Fred Olen Ray. This was a role the director had written specifically for Abell who was quite honored by his friends’ trust to carry his film in a starring role.
“ Circus Kane ” was Abells first foray into a feature length horror film directed by Navy Veteran Christopher Ray. Abell underwent 5 plus hours of prosthetics makeup to create Balthazar Kane. Abell felt like he was channeling Rob Zombie in a Circus of Horrors as the Ringmaster! The director allowed Abell to use all of his creative abilities to bring Kane to life on the screen.
And Soldier of God is still one of Abell’s favorite projects that he starred in and helped produce. He plays Rene’ a Knights Templar who is separated from his men after the Battle at The Horne\s of Hattin… Rene becomes a warrior
in search of a war… a warrior questioning his faith. It’s a film with so much beauty yet so much darkness.
Abell in “Soldier of God.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
Abell as “Balthazar Kane” in “Circus Kane.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
Abell (far left) for MOH Dinner and Gala, with Special Agent Tim Clemente, MOH Col. Bruce Crandall, USA and with Matthew Mardsen. Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What was it like working on such projects as We Were Soldiers, Soldiers of Fortune, JAG, NCIS, CSI:NY, CSI: Miami, Criminal Minds and the like?
As Benny Ray Riddle in “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” Abell played a USMC Scout/Sniper. Abell did extensive research for his character who was the quintessential sniper and Marine. A stoic man who loved his job and was the best at what he did . Navy SEAL Harry Humphries who was the Technical Advisor for SOF series linked Abell up with SEAL Steve Bailey at NSW Coronado for some training. Abell’s SF buddy, Matt Anderson, created Benny Ray’s Sniper Range book that Abell used on the show. It all came down to attention to detail in creating Benny Ray so that if military types watched the series Benny Ray would be believable and authentic to them. Abell recently did a short film called “Father and Sons” with pal Michael Broderick, Vernon Mortenson and Ryan Curtis. All veterans. The film was based on characters from author and Navy SEAL Jack Carr’s books. Abell says, “what is cool is Jack sent me a few of his books and sent a note saying he was a fan of the “Soldier of Fortune, Inc” series especially Benny Ray Riddle who was also a sniper like him! Jack said he and his pals would watch the show to get fired up!” That was a great compliment to hear from a SEAL sniper and operator like Jack Carr…. Abell’s preparation was not in vain.
Tim has played a member of every armed forces branch in film and tv …. he even played a Coast Guard pilot in a commercial. He finds a lot of similarities among military roles and in the research he has done. It is in the little differences between each branch he finds diversity. He supports veterans as a member of VME to help those new to the acting biz.
Abell loved working on “We Were Soldiers.” It was his first big studio film and working with Mel Gibson and Sam Elliott was a dream come true.
Working on JAG was an outstanding experience! Abell loved working with Jon Jackson and Catherine Bell!
Abell said, “Mark Harmon was a real pleasure to watch work and work with…. I’ve learned so much from working with and observing great actors like Joe Mantegna on “Criminal Minds” and Gary Sinise.”
Abell as “Benny Ray Riddle” in Jerry Bruckheimer’s “Soldier of Fortune, Inc” TV show.
Abell in “Angels and Fire.” Photo courtesy of IMDB.com.
What leadership lessons in life and from the Army have helped you most in your career?
Abell has also brought a perspective of maturity over from the Rangers. If he auditions for a part and doesn’t get it, he moves on. He focuses on the positive, processes what he needs to, and refuses to let a rejection be a devastating blow to his career. When in acting classes, he takes notes from the acting teacher, integrates them as needed and moves forward. He won’t argue with the acting teacher over opinions or comments, he takes the note and stays professional. Same as would be done in training where constructive criticism is taken in stride and you improve your performance the next time around. He appreciates honesty and directness in his professional work. While studying acting at the Studio Theater in DC, he most appreciated the feedback from Joy Zinoman, who was one of the professors at the theater. He shies away from talking about his abilities on or off set, where he prefers to assess the situation and quietly lead by example where it counts. He sets a standard like how he did as an NCO in the Rangers in his work in Hollywood.
He overlooks negative reviews where some of the critics have bad things to say about the projects he works on. He keeps complaints to himself and tries to find ways to fix challenges that are ahead. Abell wants to accomplish the mission on set. He still uses his military discipline in preparing for roles and in his work as an actor. He likes to ask the question to young actors on set, “What have you done today to be a better actor?” Where many times the young actors don’t have a coherent or logical reply to the question. Preparation is key to Abell’s success and stems from his upbringing and time in the service. Abell said, “…I take all those things I learned being in the military and being a Ranger. It’s like being prepared, not being a whiner, taking responsibility for myself, having a mission and purpose everyday when I wake up in the morning.”
Abell (center, left) with his fellow castmates on “Soldier of Fortune, Inc.” Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
As a service, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
Abell believes having more writers with military experience are needed to get veteran stories told more in the industry. He relies on his belief that a person may be a veteran, but that does not preclude them to only writing stories on the military. They are an individual with military experience that can write anything they want to write. Writers with military experience have a vast life experience from which to draw upon, some of which may come from having served. Abell references fellow veteran and Army Ranger Brian Hanson’s film “The Black String” which is a horror film without any ties to the military. The film was produced by Grindstone and has been released on VOD and DVD starring Frankie Muniz from “Malcolm in the Middle” fame. Just because a writer is a veteran does not mean they are not capable of writing a story completely independent of the military.
Abell (second from the left) and his squad mates training while serving with the 2nd Ranger Battalion on an artic field operation near the Canadian border. Photo courtesy of Tim Abell.
What would you like to do next in your career?
Abell says, “I would love to be on a network or HBO or Showtime series and get to play a character again for three, four or five years where you just get to develop that character over the long haul.” He wants to delve in and build a character with depth. He also looks forward to working on a series again with great people where they make a show that moves people.
He recalls fan mail from across the world for his role on “Soldier of Fortune” where the show affected people’s lives. Abell has received fan mail that would be up to five pages long about how people were inspired by his character to become a sniper in the military in their country. People created a life based on a character Abell portrayed, which surprised him. Playing evil or hard characters are what most actors are remembered for where it is difficult to develop such characters and find redeeming traits to portray on screen in them.
Abell with MOH recipient SFC Leroy Petry, USA.
What are you most proud of in life and your career?
Abell is proud of service to the United States to serve as a Ranger and serve with “The Old Guard.” He is proud of his children and their successes in life as well. He is grateful for having made men out of his boys and for the example they set today. He is proud of being an American as well. Abell says, “…I have been all over the world and this is the greatest country in the world…that we have so many young men and women that are willing to join the military and sign that blank check for their life… I applaud them all.”
When a locked-down America tunes into the May 25 premiere of NBC’s “The Titan Games”, sports-starved viewers may notice a familiar face competing for the title and $100,000 grand prize: Chantae McMillan Langhorst, the track and field Olympian and nude high-jumper for The BODY Issue of ESPN The Magazine.
“One of the biggest reasons I wanted to do “The Titan Games” was its challenges that I have never faced before and will never face again,” McMillan said. “I’m doing obstacles on the show that are strength and cardio all at one time. Each event is over in five minutes, but you’re so fatigued afterward.”
The 32-year-old from Rolla, Missouri knows all about pushing through fatigue. McMillan is not only an elite athlete, but an Army wife to Warrant Officer 1 Devon Langhorst, a helicopter pilot stationed at Fort Rucker, Alabama and mom to 18-month-old Otto. She is also the daughter of two career soldiers.
McMillan competed in the 2012 Olympics in London as a heptathlete and was training for the 2020 Olympic Trials as a javelin thrower when the coronavirus pandemic caused mass cancellations of sporting events. After competing in one track meet in March, organizers of future meets canceled their competitions.
At first, McMillan was unruffled.
“I thought, okay, my next meet will be in May, then trials in June,” she said.
The Tokyo Olympics and its trials were postponed until 2021. The initial disappointment turned out to be a “blessing in disguise,” she says.
“I was like, ‘Alright, let’s go,'” McMillan said. “It takes a lot of weight off my shoulders, because from March to June I didn’t know if I could be where I wanted to be, so I was kind of stressed out.”
McMillan lost her 64-year-old father in 2015 to appendectomy complications, right before failing to qualify for the 2016 Olympic games. She bounced back, becoming an Army wife and mom in 2018 and switching from heptathlon to javelin, one of her strongest events.
She’s still aiming for Olympic glory — just a year later than originally planned. She and her coach, two-time Olympic hammer thrower Kibwe Johnson, are training her body as if she were throwing her way through a normal season.
“A couple weeks ago, coach asked me where my strength is, and I feel the strongest I’ve felt in years,” McMillan said. “I feel very powerful. Now it’s just translating onto the field. I feel so strong.”
That strength has not gone unnoticed by those outside the track and field world. In November, a casting producer for “The Titan Games” asked McMillan to audition for the show’s sophomore season after seeing her training photos and videos on Instagram.
McMillan auditioned alongside thousands of others to be a competitor. She succeeded and spent the first two weeks of February filming in Atlanta. Not only did she get to meet Dwayne Johnson, the show’s host, McMillan also connected with plenty of fellow athletes.
“It was very amazing, being around so many people who are likeminded and striving to be the best they can,” McMillan said. “It has still carried on to this day to motivate me to be better.”
The show’s obstacles, designed for 13 episodes with entertainment in mind, were vastly different than the pure “run-jump-throw” actions McMillan said she is used to in track and field.
“They’re just weird obstacles that challenge you in ways you never thought you could be challenged,” McMillan said.
This season of NBC’s show pits professional titans like Super Bowl champion Victor Cruz, UFC fighter Tyron Woodley and “American Ninja Warrior” star Jessie Graff against “everyday” athletes like McMillan. Four of the 36 competitors are active-duty military members.
Viewers can expect to be surprised at who makes it to Mt. Olympus, the show’s ultimate event, McMillan said.
“I think people will be able to connect with all of us, the way our stories are going to be told,” she said. “It’s not every day you’re around motivated people like that.”
Whether or not you agree with the popular theory that the 1988 action picture “Die Hard” is really a Christmas movie, you’ll have to admit that NYPD detective John McClane is Bruce Willis’ greatest role.
There have been four sequels of varying quality over the past decades, but it had been seven years since Willis had played the part. That changed over the weekend when a new “Die Hard” movie showed up on YouTube.
“Die Hard” 2020 is actually a commercial for DieHard, the iconic battery brand formerly owned by Sears and now sold by Advance Auto Parts. The spot brings back a pair of iconic characters from the original movie.
McClane’s car won’t start and he heads to an auto parts store for a new battery. He runs into the original movie’s computer hacker Theo (Clarence Gilyard Jr.), who’s still out for revenge 32 years later.
Theo sends a posse of musclebound thugs to finish off the detective, who crashes through the store window to buy his new battery. After escaping through the ventilation system, he runs into limousine driver Argyle (De’voreaux White), who’s finally paid off the same car he was driving in the first movie.
As they try to get back to McClane’s broken-down muscle car, Theo runs them down and crashes into the limo. The DieHard battery takes a bullet but still works when installed and they crank up the car for an escape.
Will Theo get his revenge or will McClane escape again with a few more scars but still in one piece? You’ll have to watch for the result.
If you’re shocked that Bruce was willing to play John McClane in a commercial, he’s got some thoughts for you.
“I’ve never done any sort of commercial with the John McClane character, but Advance Auto Parts brought an idea to integrate DieHard the battery into the ‘Die Hard’ story through a short film that’s authentic to McClane and both brands,” Willis said in a press release.
“Advance approached this like a motion picture — the script is clever, the production intense and the spot is entertaining,” he continued.” This is what ‘Die Hard’ fans expect. I think they will dig the DieHard –‘Die Hard’ mashup.”
Back in the day before its release, the movie title was a clever play on an iconic brand name. Over the years, the movie became a brand that’s probably bigger than the battery ever was. And now we’ve come full circle: A battery looks to get a boost from a movie that once got a boost from the battery.
Enjoy the spot and don’t get your back up. Bruce’s movie career got jump started by DieHard back in the day and now he’s returning the favor.
Here’s the classic DieHard battery commercial that the movie title was supposed to evoke for audiences back in 1988.
Diehard Battery Ad – Sears Roebuck Auto Center (1976)
Gary Sinise has had a very successful film and television career spanning over four decades.
Sinise starred on the long-running TV series “CSI: NY” and worked on major motion pictures such as “Apollo 13” and “Ransom.” Sinise is a big supporter of the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. He frequently tours across military bases all around the world entertaining troops with his cover band “The Lt. Dan Band.”
Of course, the actor is most remembered for his portrayal of Lt. Dan Taylor in the 1994 Academy Award winning film “Forrest Gump.”
In the movie, Lt. Dan is a straight-forward Army officer who comes from a long line of military tradition. In the film, it was said that every one of his relatives had served and died in every American war.
Throughout the picture, we see the character evolve into various stages showing anger, depression, acceptance and redemption.
The character is an important part of Forrest Gump’s life and his own development throughout the film. The role earned Sinise his only Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Here are eight valuable life lessons from our favorite Lieutenant:
1. Take care of your feet
The first time we see Lt. Dan is in Vietnam when Gump, played by the legendary Tom Hanks, and his best friend Bubba report to their new unit.
Lieutenant Dan comes out of his quarters and introduces himself to the duo. After some small talk, the officer tells them that there is one item of GI gear that can be the “difference between a live grunt and a dead grunt.” He then say “socks” and he stresses the importance of keeping their feet dry when out on patrol.
Clearly Lt. Dan was a student of history. In World War I, many Soldiers suffered from trench foot, a serious problem when feet are damp and unsanitary. If left untreated trench foot can lead to gangrene and amputation.
Our feet are so vital in our everyday life. Listen to Lt. Dan! Change your socks and keep your feet dry.
It was Lt. Dan’s destiny to die in combat for his country. As morbid as it may sound, this is what the character envisioned as his life’s purpose.
Many people do not know what they were put on this earth to do. Many people give up on their dreams never achieving them. Say what you want about Lt. Dan’s destiny, but it was clear what he wanted to achieve in his life.
3. Overcoming self-doubt
After Forrest Gump saved Lt. Dan’s life, Sinise’s character felt cheated out of his purpose. Laying in a hospital bed after his legs were amputated, Lt. Dan holds a lot of self-doubt asking Gump “what am I going to do now?”
His feeling of hopelessness is something many of us experience in life for various circumstances and situations. His doubts remain throughout the movie as the character goes through changes in his life and gathers new perspectives along the way.
Eventually Lt. Dan recognizes that he cannot let his insecurities hinder him. As you will see later on, Lt. Dan sets out new goals to accomplish and eventually stops his self-loathing.
4. Sticking up for your friends
While it seemed Lt. Dan always gave Gump a hard time, deep down he valued the friendship of his former Soldier.
This is clear in a scene where Lt. Dan sticks up for Gump during a New Year’s Eve after party in a New York hotel room. The character backs up his friend after two women start to mock Gump by calling him “stupid.”
Lieutenant Dan kicks them out of the room and tells them to never call him stupid. That is a true friend!
5. Keeping your word
During their time in New York, Gump told Lt. Dan he was going to become a shrimp boat captain in order to keep a promise to his friend and fallen comrade Bubba.
Lieutenant Dan vowed if Gump became a shrimp boat captain the wounded warrior would become his first mate. As the movie progress, we find Gump on board his very own shrimp boat.
The new captain sees his longtime friend on the pier one day while on his boat. In one of the most iconic and hilarious scenes in the Academy Award winning picture, Gump jumps from his boat while it’s still steaming forward to greet Lt. Dan.
When Hanks’ character asked Lt. Dan what he was doing there, he said he wanted to try out his “sea legs” and would keep his word to become Gump’s first mate. It is important to keep your promises!
6. Making peace with himself
The Lt. Dan character lived in a world of bitterness and hatred for so many years. But serving as Gump’s first mate made him appreciate his life. Although the Lt. Dan character always seemed to be a bit rough around the edges, he showed his heartfelt side when he finally thanked Gump for saving his life during the war.
After thanking him, Sinise’s character jumps into the water and begins to swim while looking up to the sky. The symbolism in the scene is clear here as he washing away all of those years of hate and accepted a new path.
7. Invest your money
Lieutenant Dan invested the money from the Bubba Gump Shrimp Corporation in a “fruit” company. That company of course was Apple. This life lesson is pretty simple. If you can invest some money wisely go for it! You just might become a “gazillionaire.”
8. The joys of life
At the end of the film, we see a clean shaven Lt. Dan walking with his prosthetic legs, which Gump referred to as “magic legs.” With his fiancé by his side, Lt. Dan has a new lease on life.
Much like Lt. Dan, we all encounter ups and downs throughout our lives in one form or another. However, all of those experiences are part of the journey that can make life joyful in the end.
This is clear when Sinise’s character looks at Gump and gives him a big smile.
“Ranger Games,” by former Seattleite Ben Blum, is something of a genre mashup, part journalism and part family memoir.
The journalistic part pieces together, in high definition, the brazen 2007 robbery of a South Tacoma bank by a group of Army Rangers from Fort Lewis. The robbery, Rick Anderson’s coverage of which for Seattle Weekly gets brief mention (“Soldiers of Fortune,” Nov. 29, 2007), is a stranger-than-fiction tale in which a possibly psychopathic Army specialist convinces a “cherry” private and a small group of others that their training makes them well-suited to take out a bank.
As Blum describes it, the robbery sounds like something that would have been fun to watch were you not facing the barrel of one of the AK-47s the robbers hoisted: Rangers vaulting over barriers, calling out precise time checks, and then respectfully thanking everyone when it was done, all within 2 minutes. Astoundingly, the elite soldiers’ dexterous robbery was undone when they drove away, with security cameras watching, in one of their own cars with the license plates in full view. Arrests were made within a day.
None of these details are spoilers, by the way; so rich is this book that the facts of the robbery are dealt with quickly in the first few pages.
Which brings us to the family memoir part of the book: Blum’s insight into this piece of local history is sharpened by the fact that his cousin was one of the robbers—or the get-away driver, to be precise. Pfc. Alex Blum’s Audi with Colorado plates was the team’s undoing, and a large portion of Ranger Games is devoted to Ben Blum trying to figure out how Alex wound up involved in such a fiasco. As described by the author, the Blum family is an all-American sort, which is not necessarily a flattering look: they are wealthy, white, apathetic toward the Iraq War Alex would soon be fighting in, and sitting ducks for the looming housing crisis.
Blum’s portrait of his cousin is unsparing, peppered with quotes that make you kind of hate him. “I play a tough guy on the exterior, but a kid gives me a card, I hang it in my office. He signed it himself, in his little retard writing,” Blum quotes his cousin at one point in full bro mode.
Indeed, it is Ben Blum’s love-hate relationship with his cousin that is the driving tension of the book. The central question is how willing a participant in the robbery Alex was. Through breezy explanations of Ranger culture and prisoner psychology, Blum builds a plausible case that Alex was completely at the mercy of his military chain of command, and so when a superior told him to drive to a bank with a bunch of guns in the back seat he had no choice but to follow orders.
This theory was endorsed by none other than Philip Zimbardo, the psychologist who orchestrated the Stanford Prison Experiment in 1971. At one point, Zimbardo and Alex appeared on the Dr. Phil show to explain how it all worked in Alex’s brain. “So what you’re telling me,” Dr. Phil says at one point, speaking for the entire world, “is that you did not know that you were involved in an armed. Robbery. Of a bank.”
Blum shares Dr. Phil’s skepticism. The author is careful to note the holes in this explanation, and as the book progresses those holes grow and shrink. The book reaches its climax when Blum has an 8-hour interview in a federal penitentiary with Luke Elliott Sommer, the ranger who orchestrated the heist. Blum contemplates whether Sommer is a psychopath—with the help of a clinician from Washington’s McNeal Island—to uncertain results.
What’s clear is the guy is highly manipulative and fucking nuts, a dangerous combo if there ever was one. He was prone to forcing subordinates to do “suicide checks” at Fort Lewis, which entailed giving soldiers a gun and demanding they hold it to their head and pull the trigger, to prove loyalty and trust. Blum writes that he could empathize with those who obeyed the crazy orders.
“At the distance of a small table from Elliott, there was a strange double quality to my consciousness,” Blum says in describing falling into Sommer’s trap, “one half telling myself I could see right through him, the other half helplessly interacting on his terms.”
More than anything else this is a book about uncertainty: Uncertainty in one’s consciousness, in one’s family lore, in Dr. Phil, in what we can call free-will. Uncertainty in why the robbers didn’t cover up the Audi’s license plate.
Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond, served with British Naval Intelligence during World War II, and his service influenced the character and his stories.
Fleming was recruited into the Royal Navy in 1939 by Rear Admiral John Godfrey, Head of Naval Intelligence. Fleming entered as a lieutenant and quickly promoted to lieutenant commander. Although initially tasked as Admiral Godfrey’s assistant, Commander Fleming had greater ambitions. He is widely believed to be the author of the “Trout Memo” circulated by Godfrey that compared intelligence gathering to a fisherman casting for trout. In the memo, he independently came up the plan to use a corpse with false documents to deceive the Germans, originally conceived by another agent and later used in Operation Mincemeat.
Fleming was obsessed with collecting intelligence and came up with numerous ways to do so, some seemingly right out of spy novels. One such mission, Operation Ruthless, called for acquiring a German bomber, crashing it into the English Channel, and then having the crew attack and subdue the German ship that would come to rescue them. Mercifully, it was called off. Fleming was also the mastermind of an intelligence gathering unit known as (No. 30 Commando or 30 Assault Unit, 30 AU). Instead of traditional combat skills, members of 30 AU were trained in safe-cracking, lock-picking, and other spycraft and moved with advancing units to gain intelligence before it could be lost or destroyed.
Fleming was in charge of Operation Goldeneye and involved with the T-Force. These would also influence his work. Operation Goldeneye was a scheme to monitor Spain in the event of an alliance with Germany and to conduct sabotage operations should such an agreement take place. Fleming would later name his Jamaican home where he wrote the James Bond novels “Goldeneye.” It would also be the title of seventeenth James Bond movie. As for the T-Force, or Target Force, Fleming sat on the committee that selected targets, specifically German scientific and technological advancements before retreating troops destroyed them. The seizure by the T-Force of a German research center at Kiel which housed advanced rocket motors and jet engines was featured prominently in the James Bond novel “Moonraker.”
In the actual creation of the character James Bond, Fleming drew inspiration from himself and those around him. Fleming said the character of James Bond was an amalgamation of all the secret agent and commando types he met during the war. In particular, Bond was modeled after Fleming’s brother Peter, who conducted work behind enemy lines, Patrick Dalzel-Job, who served in the 30 Assault Unit Fleming created, and Bill “Biffy” Dunderdale, who was the Paris station chief for MI6 and was known for his fancy suits and affinity for expensive cars. Fleming used his habits for many of Bond’s. He was known to be a heavy drinker and smoker. Bond purchased the same specialty cigarettes Fleming smoked and even added three gold rings to the filter to denote his rank as a Commander in the Royal Navy, something Fleming also did.
Bond’s code number, 007, comes from a means of classifying highly secretive documents starting with the number 00. The number 007 comes from the British decryption of the Zimmerman Note, labeled 0075, that brought America into World War I. Bond received his name from a rather innocuous source, however, an ornithologist. Bond’s looks are not Fleming’s but rather were inspired by the actor/singer Hoagy Carmichael, with only a dash of Fleming’s for good measure.
Fleming did draw on those around him for other characters in the James Bond novels. Villains had a tendency to share a name with people Fleming disliked while other characters got their names from his friendly acquaintances. The character of M, James Bond’s boss, was based on Fleming’s boss Rear Admiral Godfrey. The inspiration for the single-letter moniker came from Maxwell Knight, the head of MI5, who was known to sign his memos with only his first initial, M. Also, the fictional antagonistic organization SMERSH, takes its name from a real Russian organization called SMERSH that was active from 1943-1946. In the fictional version, SMERSH was an acronym of Russian words meaning “Special Methods of Spy Detection” and was modeled after the KGB; the real SMERSH was a portmanteau in Russian meaning “Death to Spies” and was a counterintelligence organization on the Eastern Front during WWII.
Finally, the plots for many of the Bond novels came from real-world missions carried out by the Allies. “Moonraker” is based on the exploits of the 30 AU in Kiel, Germany, while “Thunderball” has loose connections to Fleming’s canceled operation Ruthless. Fleming also ties in his fictional world to the historical one after the war and during the Cold War.
Fleming’s novels became very popular during his life and have remained so long after his death in 1964. His work spawned one of the most successful movie franchises in history.
It was announced last year that Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas would be a main character in FX’s new series, Mayans M.C. This week, at San Diego Comic Con, fans got to see a little bit more of the series and, in short, it looks amazing. Yes, it’s awesome that the series is going to take off where Sons of Anarchy ended (Spoiler alert:The series that was basically a modern retelling of Shakespeare’s Hamlet ended in pretty much the same way as Shakespeare’s Hamlet) — but the fact that one of the veteran community’s own made the cut is a win for all of us.
There’s a long history of veterans taking up acting careers after serving. Steve McQueen, Chuck Norris, and Morgan Freeman all served before becoming on-screen legends. Even several post-9/11 veterans have graced the big screen, like Adam Driver and Rob Riggle.
Now, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas joins that list.
Vargas has been making a name for himself ever since leaving active duty. He became the Chief Operations Officer of Article 15 Clothing and has appeared in many of their YouTube videos. He also appeared in a bit role in Ross Peterson’s Helen Keller vs Nightwolves before both of them went on to star in Range 15.
Vargas also appears in many episodes of the YouTube series, Dads in Parks, created by Navy veteran and comedian Jamie Kaler.
Vargas is set to play Gilberto “Gilly” Lopez, a good-natured MMA fighter that rides for the Santo Padre chapter of the Mayans Motorcycle Club. Unfortunately, he’s only listed as being in two episodes on IMDb, but we’ll still count this as a win.
Not much else is known at this time about the series, but we do know it’ll star JD Pardo as a potential recruit to the Mayans M.C. Check him out when the series premieres on September 4th on FX.
Having more veterans in Hollywood is a win for every veteran who wishes to take on more artistic and creative roles after service. Just as Adam Driver’s work with the Arts in the Armed Forces proves, Vincent ‘Rocco’ Vargas is also showing the world that veterans are capable of much more than just grunt work.
All of his videos, blogs, podcasts, and films are proof that the world wants to hear the veteran’s voice. But for further proof that Vargas has the interests of the veteran community at heart, watch this short film he wrote and starred in calledThe Long Way Back.
Chappy poses in front of an F-4 Phantom II during the Vietnam War. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
Airmen and 80s movie buffs are likely to be familiar with the 1986 cult classic Iron Eagle. Sometimes called the “Top Gun of the Air Force,” Iron Eagle did not have the big budget, box office success or star power that its Naval-based counterpart did (although the soundtrack did have its fair share of great songs). However, the film did feature Academy Award winner Louis Gossett Jr. (of An Officer and a Gentleman fame) as Colonel Charles “Chappy” Sinclair, the wise Vietnam Veteran fighter pilot who gave Top Gun‘s Jester a run for his money. Chappy serves as a mentor to the main character, teenager Doug Masters played by Jason Gedrick, and guides him throughout the film.
Iron Eagle movie poster. (Credit to TriStar Pictures)
As a mentor, Chappy shares his knowledge and experience, gained in the unforgiving skies above Vietnam, with teenage Masters. An accomplished fighter pilot, Chappy helps Masters to acquire intelligence, create a rescue plan and steal two F-16 fighter jets to attack the fictional Middle Eastern country of Bilya where Masters’ father is being held. While these fictional feats are impressive, they pale in comparison to the accomplishments of the real-life Chappy.
Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. was born on February 20, 1920 in Pensacola, FL. He graduated Tuskegee University in 1942 and received his pilot wings and commission as a 2nd LT at Tuskegee Army Airfield, Alabama on July 28, 1943. He remained at Tuskegee to train pilots for the all-black 99th Pursuit Squadron. Having completed training in the P-40 Warhawk fighter, Chappy trained on the B-25 Mitchell bomber and was stationed in Kentucky and Ohio until the end of the war.
Chappy first saw action during the Korean War. In 1949, he went to the Philippines as a flight leader in the 12th Fighter-Bomber Squadron, 18th Fighter Wing at Clark Field. In July of the next year, he left for Korea where he also flew with the 44th and 67th Fighter-Bomber Squadrons in P-51 Mustang and F-80 Shooting Star fighters. During the war, Chappy flew a total of 101 combat missions.
Chappy poses with his P-51 Mustang in Korea. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
After the war, Chappy continued his Air Force career, holding commands and serving at a number of bases. In 1954, while stationed at Otis Air Force Base, Massachusetts, Chappy was given the “Young Man of the Year” award by the Massachusetts Junior Chamber of Commerce for his outstanding community relations efforts. In June 1957, he graduated from the Air Command and Staff College.
After serving on staffs, and later as assistant director and director of operations for a number of wings, Chappy went to Thailand in 1966 to support combat missions in Vietnam. He became the 8th Tactical Fighter Wing vice commander under triple (then double) ace Col. Robin Olds. Flying from Ubon Air Base in Thailand, the two men created a strong and effective tactical command, earning them the nickname “Blackman and Robin.” In total, Chappy flew 78 combat missions into North Vietnam during the war.
Following his service in Vietnam, Chappy became the commander of the 7272nd Fighter Training Wing at Wheelus Air Base in the Libyan Arab Republic. Following the coup by radical Libyan military officers, including Muammar Gaddafi, the U.S. announced plans to close Wheelus Air Base. Wanting to see how far he could push the Americans, Gaddafi sent a column of armored half-tracks through the base housing area at full speed. Unamused by the stunt, Chappy closed the base gates and confronted Gaddafi. During their confrontation, Gaddafi kept his hand on the pistol in his hip holster. “I told him to move his hand away,” Chappy recalled having had his own .45 strapped to his hip. The future Libyan dictator complied. “If he had pulled that gun, his hand would have never cleared the holster.”
Chappy’s Air Force career saw him serve as principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense, vice commander of the Military Airlift Command, commander in chief of NORAD/ADCOM, and special assistant to the Chief of Staff, U.S. Air Force. Chappy retired in 1978 as a four-star general, the first African-American to achieve the rank.
General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr. Command Photo. (Photo from the United States Air Force)
The next time you watch Iron Eagle, remember General Daniel “Chappy” James, Jr., the trailblazing African-American pilot who served in three wars, stared down Gaddafi, and dared to see just how far he could go.
Hollywood filmmakers go to extreme lengths to produce bouts of nail-biting hand-to-hand combat and on-screen firefights. These sequences are exceptionally thrilling and, with the right choreography and camera movements, can be lifelike and intense.
Now, add in a monstrous armored vehicle, like a tank or two, and you’ve officially kicked your movie up a notch. Sure, some films do a great job of showing a tank destroying everything in its path, but few are able to tell a story in a way that makes the well-protected vehicle into its own unique character.
In 1995, James Bond teamed up with a survivor of a destroyed Russian research center to stop a former agent from taking over a nuclear space station. To rescue one of the notable Bond girls (this time, Natalya Simonova), 007 tactically acquires a Russian tank.
Next, our favorite British spy makes smashing a Russian tank through a brick wall and steering it down the streets of St. Petersburg look easy. If you can suspend your disbelief a little, this is an awesome scene.
Speedster cars versus a beast of a tank in ‘Fast & Furious 6’
The Fast and the Furious franchise isn’t known for its military authenticity. That being said, moviegoers expect over-the-top action and director Justin Lin provided: this time, in the form of a cool tank scene that literally popped out of nowhere. Suddenly, the film’s heroes must improvise a way to take down a well-armed tank using their clever wit and outstanding driving skills.
Sticky bombs against a couple of tanks ‘Saving Private Ryan’
There’s probably nothing scarier than being out-manned, under-supplied, and having to fight a tremendous force of German soldiers headed your way. But, in 1998, a squad of Army Rangers took on that near-impossible task head-on in Saving Private Ryan.
During the film’s memorable final battle, the young squad had to defeat not one, but four tanks before they broke through their defenses using what they called “sticky bombs.” It’s an incredible scene.
Indy takes on a Nazi tank while on horseback in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade’
If any Hollywood director appreciates a solid tank battle, it’s the legendary Steven Spielberg (it’s no coincidence that he’s made this list twice). In this scene, Hollywood’s most exciting archaeologist must battle a group of Nazis riding in tanks while on horseback.
We know, those odds aren’t exactly fair, but Indiana Jones (somehow) pulls through and wins this epic duel, rescuing his father in the process.
While trying to clear their names, four brave Soldiers, better known as The A-Team, take over a massive cargo plane that happens to have a fully loaded tank in the back. Now, before the plane gets blown up, the crew deploys the tank and attempts to direct it toward a safe landings via a few parachutes .
This original idea makes for a great cinematic experience for the audience, and it’s for that reason (not military authenticity) that it successfully touched down on our list.
If you set out to make a modern day film dedicated to the brave tankers of World War II, you’ll need to include some epic battle scenes to truly do the story justice. In 2014, director David Ayer did exactly that in Fury.
If you want a taste of the intensity, check out the scene below.