Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life - We Are The Mighty
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Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

It’s no secret that Hollywood has a knack for getting the military wrong in war movies. Whether it’s diverging from reality in movies that are “based on a true story” or it’s pretending grenades create massive fireballs when they explode, the movie industry will always favor drama and spectacular visuals over realism… and to be totally honest, I’m cool with that.

Over the years, I’ve devoted a great deal of my professional life to analyzing the way narratives take shape in the public consciousness. I’ve dug into how different nations leverage media to affect public perceptions (I even wrote a book about it). I’ve explored the ways cultural touchstones like exchanging engagement rings manifested inorganically in corporate board rooms. I’ve even pointed out the ways World War II propaganda still shapes our dietary choices. That’s a long-winded way of saying that my professional interests have long been tied to exploring the undercurrent in mass communications, and further analyzing the ways that undercurrent can shape our perspectives of the world.


With the understanding that I’ve devoted so much of my time to exploring the narrative behind messaging, you can probably imagine that I can be a real party pooper when it comes to watching war movies. Like most vets, I get frustrated when I see uniforms worn incorrectly or when dialogue between service members feels forced or clunky… but unlike many vets, I also can’t help but look past the surface level messaging to try to figure out what filmmakers are trying to say with their choices in presentation.

Film, like any art form, is really an exercise in evoking emotion. When we really love a movie, it’s almost always because we loved the way the movie made us feel as we watched it. Whether we were excited by incredible action sequences or we were enraptured by a budding romance, it’s the experience, our experience, that we actually cherish. Good filmmakers know that, so they often choose to place a larger emphasis on creating an experience than they do on recreating a realistic event. Good movies aren’t good because they’re real–in other words–they’re good because the feelings they create are.

When a movie sucks, however, it’s usually because the director fails to evoke real emotions in the viewer. Bad filmmaking can be just as realistic or unrealistic as good filmmaking. Warner Brother’s famously bad “Green Lantern” movie, as a good example, is often made fun of for its use of an entirely CGI costume on Ryan Reynolds. You might think that’s because CGI costumes are just too unrealistic to be taken seriously… until you realize that most of the costumes you see in the wildly successful Marvel movies are entirely CGI as well. The difference isn’t that one is realistic while the other isn’t–the difference is that the Marvel Cinematic Universe is better at making you care about its characters. Iron Man’s CGI suit simply becomes set-dressing for the character that you’re emotionally invested in.

Marvel isn’t the only studio to get the feeling right, even when it gets facts or realism wrong. In fact, there are a number of war movies that manage the same feat.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life
(Warner Brothers)

 

Full Metal Jacket (the first half)

Marines, in particular, tend to hold the first half of Stanley Kubrick’s “Full Metal Jacket” in high esteem, and we tend to disregard the second half of the movie as an auteur opining about Vietnam (in a way that doesn’t leave the audience nearly as invested in the characters). Depending on who you ask, they’ll tell you that Marine recruit training is exactly like the movie or not like it at all–and that likely has a lot to do with individual experiences and feelings from one’s own time at the depots.

But whether you ever had to choke yourself with a drill instructor’s hand or not, most Marines feel a distinct kinship with J.T. “Joker” Davis’ platoon. It’s safe to say that most of us didn’t see a fellow recruit shoot our drill instructor in the bathroom (or head, as we call it), but that scene does capture something about recruit training that’s not easy to articulate. For many of us, Marine Recruit Training is the first place we’d ever been where violence is a commodity. We’re learning to fight, to kill, and when you begin broaching the subject in your mind, the experience can be jarring. I recall distinctly the first time I ever truly thought about taking another person’s life and what it would entail, and it was inside a squad bay just like the one you see in “Full Metal Jacket.”

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life
(Paramount Pictures)

 

The Hunt for Red October

If we’re grading war movies on realism, it would be tough to gloss over the fact that Sean Connery’s Marko Ramius is a Russian submarine captain that talks with a thick Scottish accent. But in terms of capturing the reality of the Cold War as a feeling, “Red October” hits the nail right on the head.

In real life, would we pull a CIA analyst out of his cubicle and drop him into the ocean to climb aboard a nuclear submarine hot on the tail of a rogue Russian captain? Probably not–but by doing so in the film, “The Hunt for Red October” effectively captured the sense of urgency, confusion, and distrust that characterized so much of the Cold War for both American and Soviet officials. Many defense initiatives in the U.S. were driven by concerns that the Soviet’s had developed a technological or strategic advantage, and in a real way, intelligent men and women like Jack Ryan devoted their entire lives to both offsetting those perceived capability gaps, and of course, to preventing nuclear war amid an international, nuclear-fueled, staring contest.

“The Hunt for Red October” may not be the most realistic exploration of Cold War tensions, but it expertly crafts the feeling that permeated the defense community throughout the conflict.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life
(Universal Pictures)

 

Jarhead

I won’t lie to you, I still take great issue with certain elements of “Jarhead” — specifically its depiction of Marines as singularly driven by the desire to take lives. However, as an exploration into the emotional ride that is Marine training and service, the desire to get a confirmed kill in “Jarhead’s” second act that I find so abrasive actually perfectly captures the feelings so many service members and veterans have about not seeing combat.

The vast majority of people in the military never take that “kill shot” “Jarhead’s” Anthony Swofford (Jake Gyllenhaal) is so focused on, and to be honest, lots of service members wouldn’t want to–but therein lies the point. “Jarhead” is a war movie that tells the story of training extensively for a job that you never get to do, and then returning to a world full of other people’s expectations that you know, inside your head, you’ll never amount to.

Lots of veterans find that they don’t feel “veteran enough” after their time in uniform is up. Maybe they didn’t see combat, or they didn’t see as much combat as others. Maybe their job had them mopping floors in Japan instead of kicking in doors in Iraq, or maybe they never left the wire during their time in the sandbox. Whatever the reason, many veterans (and even active service members) carry a chip on their shoulder created by society’s expectation that we all return home like John Rambo. The truth is, every veteran is veteran enough–but “Jarhead” does an excellent job of sharing that insecurity on film.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life
(Sony Pictures)

Tears of the Sun

This nearly forgotten 2003 action drama starred Bruce Willis as Lieutenant Waters, a U.S. Navy SEAL charged with leading his team into Nigeria to evacuate a U.S. citizen and medical doctor amid a bloody coup d’etat. When Waters and his SEAL team arrive, however, the doctor refuses to leave without the rest of the members of her small community who will likely be wiped out by rebel soldiers in the area.

What follows is a fairly unrealistic depiction of how military operations are carried out, complete with bloody last stand on the nation’s border in which many of the SEALs ultimately give their lives to protect the fleeing civilians. The movie is, to be honest, some pretty heavy handed American military propaganda (honestly, some of the best war movies are), but it’s precisely because of that arguably jingoistic idealism that this movie so effectively captures the feeling that drives so many of us to sign our enlistment papers.

Most folks in the military chose to join because of a combination of personal interest and idealism. We could use a good job, some help with college, and benefits for our families–but we also want to make a difference in the world. We want to help protect not just our nation’s people, but the ideals our nation represents. “Tears of the Sun” is a story about American service members giving up their lives to do what’s right, and because of that, it strikes the patriotic chord in many of us in a way that resonates deeply, even if the movie itself isn’t a masterclass in filmmaking.

This article by Alex Hollings originally appeared on Sandboxx News. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

Articles

Just-released ‘Battlefield’ trailer shows new game set in World War I

After a rather unexceptional outing in cop-and-robbers shenanigans, the Battlefield franchise is returning to its military warfare roots by exploring a setting that may as well be uncharted territory in the modern shooter genre.


The ‘Battlefield 1’ reveal trailer confirms existing rumors of a WWI setting, while clearly seeking to dispel concerns that the entrenched stalemates of the Great War are a poor choice for Battlefield’s signature fast-paced, vehicle-centric gameplay. After all, who wants to spend the majority of a multiplayer match ducking machine gun fire and waiting to die of trench foot?

Instead, the trailer presents a visceral montage of bi-plane dogfights, lumbering tanks, and shovel-to-shovel melee combat, accompanied by the thrumming bass of The White Stripes’ “Seven Nation Army.”

Check out the trailer below:

MIGHTY CULTURE

I Am Not Invisible campaign highlights women Veterans

March is Women’s History Month


The I Am Not Invisible (IANI) campaign began in February 2017 in Portland, Oregon. The vision was to bring awareness to the barriers and challenges that women Veterans face in obtaining health care and other services. The program, started by then-Oregon Woman Veterans Coordinator and Army Veteran Elizabeth Estabrooks, also helped recognize Women Veterans.

With support from the Center for Women Veterans this project has crossed 50 States, 75 cities, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and 27 Indian Tribes and Nations to capture more than 3,053 women Veteran images.

This initiative means different things to different women Veterans. Often, women Veterans express that they are not a Veteran. In recognizing this, and to change cultural mindset, the Center has changed how we ask the question, “Did you serve?” To further change the culture, Center for Women Veterans is sharing the message with as many women Veterans as possible. This includes I Am Not Invisible to #BringWomenVeteransHome2VA, so that all women Veterans can receive the benefits and services they have earned.

In December 2020, photographer Gene Russell took the last IANI photograph in Oahu, Hawaii.

“It is one thing to honor Women Veterans, something completely different and inspiring to show them in the light they so richly deserve,” Russell said. EUGENIA WOODWARD UNITED STATES ARMY VETERAN 1943 - 1946 ARIAL PHOTOGRAPHY - WWII VETERAN  ROMAY DAVIS UNITED STATES ARMY WWII VETERAN 1943 - 1945 6888th CENTRAL POSTAL DIRECTORY BATTALION  IKUMI HIRASHIMA UNITED STATES AIR FORCE VETERAN 2009 - 2014 NURSE

“How very fortunate am I?”

IANI 2.0

With the completion of the photography, it is not the end of IANI. The I Am Not Invisible Campaign 2.0 kicked off in December 2020. The overarching goal is to change the culture of gender-based harassment by strategically placing them in VA medical facilities. This will help ensure women Veterans feel welcome in their own spaces.  IANI 2.0 supports the center’s ongoing mission of recognizing the service and contributions of women Veterans and women in the military, raising awareness of the responsibility to treat women Veterans with dignity and respect, and helping to advocate for positive cultural transformation.

Photos will be in facilities VA-wide soon. Veterans can take a picture and tag @VAWomenVets on FB and Twitter. Also, the library of IANI pictures is available here.

The Veterans Canteen Service supported the effort and the center’s outreach initiatives.

This article originally appeared on U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

7 hysterical realities of being a ‘Zoom Soldier’

It’s finally here — the point in which playing Call of Duty might actually become relevant to your military career. In the extra weird era of “Zoom soldiers,” virtual training (to no one’s surprise) isn’t as great as it likely sounded when some general in the Pentagon thought it up (sorry, sir). Get soldiers together over their computer screens and execute training as usual. What could go wrong? Well, a lot actually.


Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

Virtual missions

Congratulations, you have been selected to lead today’s attack on a Taliban stronghold. You are in charge of a 40-man infantry platoon and have at your disposal the most lethal and casualty-producing weapons available to the U.S. Army. Ready? Oh, one more thing: The Taliban stronghold is imaginary and your platoon is ten of your peers linked up over computers. Welcome to combat training in the Zoom era.

Everyone’s a super soldier

You are handed a map with your location and the location of the enemy and after planning, start your movement. Cue the unrealistic battlefield conditions and superhuman feats by you and the enemy. Do you have a 5-click movement to the objective? Too easy, you can “walk” that in two minutes over Zoom for “time constraints.” Need to call for air support? They arrive within 15 seconds tops and damn, your grid is on point.

Cadre are unsurprisingly biased

Recocking sucked before but reaches a whole new level of stupid in a virtual training lane. Unfortunately for you, the guy running the Zoom room is being a really d-bag today and all 20 rounds you fired on your pre-planned targets were misses. Instead of safety violations or hitting the wrong building, getting a pass depends on who’s feeling bored AF in their pajamas this morning.

There’s a mute button for that

The best thing ever just happened to safety briefs, newly promoted monologues from Sergeant Smith, and all the other pointless crap you had to listen attentively to before…a mute button. Is there anything more satisfying than muting your superior while playing COD on silent under the desk? I think not.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

No one’s looking this put-together every morning anymore.

What grooming standards

We’re not saying it’s true, but grooming accountability may or may not be as easy as a few outfit changes after you finally get around to shaving. No fresh haircut? Sorry, my camera function isn’t working today for the call.

Dang, my internet broke 

Have you ever had to face the wrath of showing up late, oversleeping or just plain forgetting? Virtually, there’s an excuse for that. Due to “unforeseen” circumstances, that 7 am phone call I missed was because of the Wi-Fi going down. Definitely not because I overslept, no way.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

When did PT become a group fitness class?

“PT is the most important part of every soldier’s day” – Every CSM in history. Oh, you thought COVID19 would let you slack off a little on working out? Well you thought wrong. Your Platoon Sergeant has made it very clear you will still execute PT every day and you have to show proof of doing the exercises. Better be ready to both hold your phone for video and do push-ups at the same time. You haven’t experienced true horror until you hear the words “the bend and reach” over a Zoom call and realize it’s not a joke.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This radio show is one trigger for a British nuclear attack

Deep underwater, on submarines equipped with nuclear missiles, British crews are constantly prepared to fire their weapons, and potentially play a part in bringing about the end of the world.

Sailors on the four Vanguard-class submarines which patrol the waters and hold the UK’s nuclear deterrent operate under strict protocol for working out when to act and what to do — part of which is said to include listening to BBC radio.

According to a prominent British historian, the broadcast of BBC Radio 4’s “Today” programme is one of the official measures the Royal Navy uses to prove that the United Kingdom still exists. “Today” has been broadcast at around breakfast time since 1958 and is the highest-profile news programme in British media.


Lord Peter Hennessy, a history professor who joined the UK’s House of Lords in 2010, said that if it can’t be heard for three days in a row, then it could signify Britain’s demise, and trigger their doomsday protocol.

According to Politico, Hennessy says: “The failure to pick up the BBC Today program for a few days is regarded as the ultimate test.”

If no sign comes through, the commander and deputy will open letters that contain instructions from the prime minister and execute their final wishes.

These letters, each known as a “Letter of Last Resort’ are secret instructions, written when a prime minister enters the office and sealed until an apocalypse. They tell the UK’s submarine commanders what to do with the country’s nuclear weapons if the country has been destroyed.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

HMS Victorious photographed in the Clyde estuary

(LA(phot) Mez Merrill/MOD photo)

Writing these letters is one of the first tasks undertaken by any new prime minister. They are locked inside a safe inside another safe, and placed in the control rooms of the nation’s four nuclear submarines, Politico reports. The safes will only be accessible to the sub’s commander and deputy.

Matthew Seligman, Professor of Naval History at Brunel University,told BBC Newsbeat that there are “only so many options available.”

“Do nothing, launch a retaliatory strike, offer yourself to an ally like the USA, or use your own judgment.

“Essentially, are you going to use the missiles or not?”

The UK has four submarines that are capable of carrying the country’s Trident nuclear missiles. At least one of these has been on patrol at all times since 1969, the government says.

There are 40 nuclear warheads and a maximum of eight missiles on each submarine.

Only the prime minister can authorize the launch of the country’s nuclear weapons.

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

US troops who suffered TBIs in missile attack recommended for Purple Hearts

An unspecified number of the more than 100 troops who were treated for traumatic brain injuries suffered in a January missile attack on Al Asad air base in Iraq have been recommended for Purple Hearts, the Pentagon confirmed Wednesday.

Officials have previously stated that Purple Heart recommendations have come from unit commanders and the individual military branches for those injured in the Jan. 8 Iranian missile strikes on the air base.


“The Purple Heart submissions remain under review and are being processed in accordance with Defense Department and military service regulations,” Pentagon spokeswoman Jessica Maxwell said in a statement Wednesday. “Upon completion, service members entitled to receive the Purple Heart will be notified by their leadership.”

She gave no timeline for the process, but CNN, citing three defense officials, reported that “final decisions” on awarding possibly dozens of Purple Hearts could be coming soon from Combined Joint Task Force-Operation Inherent Resolve and the Defense Department.

At a Feb. 3 news briefing, Pentagon chief spokesman Jonathan Hoffman cited general standards for awarding the Purple Heart — standards that appeared to qualify most of the troops who were treated for TBI after the Iranian missile strikes.

He said Purple Heart eligibility for TBI required a doctor’s diagnosis and confirmation that the injury forced the service member to miss at least two days of duty for treatment.

Some of those injured in the Al Asad attack were evacuated to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and to the states for treatment and would appear to qualify for Purple Hearts.

Hoffman said recommendations for Purple Hearts were mainly “a question for the services” with final approval coming from the Defense Department.

“The process is going to play out,” he said. “Fortunately, all the cases to date have been characterized as mild TBI, which is the equivalent of concussions.”

In the early years of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the military appeared reluctant to award Purple Hearts for TBI, but awards have been made more regularly as TBI from improvised explosive devices and other blasts became known as the “signature” combat injury of the wars.

In 2011, DoD updated the criteria for awarding the Purple Heart in cases of TBI, stating that the injury had to be caused by enemy action or suffered in action against an enemy, and had to require treatment by a medical officer or certification that it would have required treatment if available.

The Iranian missile strikes on Al Asad were in response to the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that killed Iranian Quds Force leader Qasem Soleimani.

President Donald Trump and Pentagon officials initially said there were no U.S. casualties from the missile strikes on Al Asad, but symptoms of TBI can often take days to appear.

On Jan. 16, U.S. Central Command stated that several of the troops at Al Asad “were treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed.”

When asked about the growing number of concussions, Trump told reporters in Davos, Switzerland, on Jan. 22 that, “I heard that they had headaches and a couple of other things, but I would say and I can report that it’s not very serious. I don’t consider them very serious injuries relative to other injuries that I’ve seen.”

The Pentagon has since said that at least 109 troops at Al Asad on the night of the attacks suffered mild TBI.

In the early morning hours immediately after the missile attacks, and after briefing Trump at the White House, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Mark Milley said off-camera at the Pentagon that the launches “were intended to cause structural damage, destroy vehicles and equipment, and to kill personnel. That’s my own personnel assessment.”

His initial judgment was that the missiles carried 1,000-2,000 pound warheads.

On April 7, Air Forces Central Command published accounts from more than 20 Airmen at Al Asad testifying to the ferocity of the attacks that lasted an estimated 90 minutes.

Capt. Nate Brown recalled taking cover with others in a bunker.

Then, “the next wave hits. Then the next, and the next. I have no idea if anyone is alive outside this bunker.”

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

MIGHTY TACTICAL

This chest holster is the perfect backcountry rig for your sidearm

The bear stood about 20 feet to our left on the hillside. In that instant the world around us became still, the river didn’t seem so loud, and, for the first time in my life, I drew my sidearm from its holster. We stood there — me, my father, and a lone cinnamon black bear — for only a few seconds. The bear huffed at us, seemingly unphased by our presence on the trail, and then it was over; the bear walked away, leaving us alone and a bit confused on the trail. We were not far from the Eagle River Nature Center in south-central Alaska, and when the bear was finally gone, I returned my pistol to my Diamond D Chest Holster.


I’ve owned and used three of these holsters over the years, one for each sidearm I’ve carried, and now these holsters are in my closet, sweat-stained and scratched but in perfect functional condition. Made of thick leather, these holsters are meant to withstand a serious beating out in the field. I have never seen one fail in any way, and to be totally honest, I can’t think of any real improvements on the design. The holster body fits snugly, even after hard use softens the leather. The holsters made for semi-automatic handguns come with a small snap to secure the firearm, while revolver holsters have a small leather thong to fit over the hammer.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

Photo courtesy of Diamond D Custom Leather.

Diamond D Custom Leather, based in Wasilla, Alaska, makes these holsters by hand, and of the three I’ve owned, I’ve never found a single defect in manufacturing — not a single bad stitch or badly cut edge on the leather. This quality comes at a cost though. The chest holster retails for 5 or more, depending on options like a magazine or speed loader pouch.

And then there’s comfort. I have used this holster for long backpacking expeditions into the wilderness, and after a few miles on the first day, I no longer feel the weight of the holster. The shoulder strap is wide and distributes weight well. Also, I make sure to properly adjust the holster to my frame before setting out, making sure the holster is snug but not too tight. The best holster is the one you don’t notice, and this holster passes that test in spades.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

When drawing, the holster is smooth and graceful. The holster body covers the entire trigger guard for safety, and the holster is one of the safest I’ve ever used. Just be careful not to muzzle yourself as you reholster, but that’s a concern with most every holster on the market. With practice, I found that I can draw and fire faster from this holster than from anything else I’ve used — though I’ve admittedly never tried out a 3-Gun race holster.

Diamond D chest holsters withstand abuse, comfortably and safely secure a sidearm, and stand out as one of my favorite pieces of gear while backpacking. This is one piece of kit that I highly recommend if you plan to venture into the wilder places … the places that put you a little lower on the food chain.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

(Photo by Garland Kennedy/Coffee, or Die Magazine)

This article originally appeared on Coffee or Die. Follow @CoffeeOrDieMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Defectors living openly in US happens ‘far more often than people would think’

A former Russian official whose background matches descriptions of a high-level CIA spy hurriedly extracted from Russia has been living openly outside Washington, DC, under his own name.

According to documents from a 2017 real-estate purchase reviewed by Insider, Oleg Smolenkov bought a house in the DC area in 2018 for $925,000.

Intelligence sources told Insider that such a situation — a former agent living under his own name — was less unusual than it might at first appear, partly because of precedent and the unique personality type of high-level sources.


Smolenkov was named in Russian media Sep. 10, 2019, as a possible identity of the extracted spy. Reuters and the BBC were among Western outlets to also report the name.

A spokesman for the Kremlin said Smolenkov had worked for the Russian state but reportedly dismissed reports that a high-level spy had been extracted as “pulp fiction.”

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

Smolenkov was named in the wake of reports by The New York Times and CNN that described an unnamed Russian official who worked for the CIA for decades before fleeing to the US in the wake of the 2016 presidential election.

The descriptions from Russia of Smolenkov’s work for the Kremlin, the timing of his disappearance in 2017, and his presence in the suburbs of Washington, DC, appear to match the reports.

When an NBC News reporter knocked on the door of the Smolenkov house Sep. 9, 2019, he was intercepted by unidentified men asking what he was doing.

Two former FBI officials told NBC News that they thought the man in Virginia was the intelligence asset.

That asset is reported to have supplied critical information that helped shape the US government’s understanding of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

The asset’s identity remains unconfirmed. Among assets in a similar position, however, the practice of living openly in a Western country under a real name would not be unusual, according to a former US Drug Enforcement Agency agent who regularly ran intelligence and drug-cartel sources.

“Not shocking at all to those of us who have been there,” said the former member of the DEA’s special-operations division, which handles high-level investigations and sources.

“A guy like Smolenkov spent decades working his way to the top of the Russian government and succeeded while also being an asset for the CIA,” the source said. He asked for anonymity to protect former sources and assets around the world.

“That level of political success at the same time he knew every day for decades he could be revealed and arrested usually requires a special level of ego and appetite for risk,” the source said.

“So it’s not shocking that the first reports said he turned down a chance in 2016 to escape before being convinced by the media coverage that he finally had to go in 2017. Getting him to give up that level of status inside his own homeland along with the status he secretly held with the CIA … it’s a powerful combination.”

Three other former intelligence agents contacted by Insider were less willing to talk about the story, which immediately grabbed the attention of the media and intelligence circles Sep. 9, 2019.

But all three noted that Russian intelligence assets tended to keep their identities intact after defection despite usual pleas from their handlers to adopt fake names and go into hiding.

All three noted that the Russian defectors Sergei Skripal and Alexander Litvinenko lived openly in the UK after fleeing Russia and continued to consult for intelligence services and private companies under their own names.

Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

Footage of Sergei Skripal’s 2006 trial.

(Sky News)

Both men were poisoned in cases where UK has blamed the Russian state.

Skripal and his daughter narrowly survived a nerve-agent poisoning in 2018, while Litvinenko died in 2006 after drinking tea laced with radioactive poison.

“It’s unlikely that someone with the level of ambition to rise that high in the Kremlin while working as an agent for the Americans would want to easily drop the social status that came with both sides of their double life,” the former DEA agent said.

“And it gets even harder to convince them they’re actually threatened and need to go into deep witness-protection programs if they have families that probably didn’t know they were working for another country on the side.

“Then you add that these are people rather used to risk and living off their wits and so ego plays a huge role.”

When asked how often high-level defectors refused to completely abandon their old life and identity, the former DEA agent said “far more often than people would think.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Areas of Fort Sill on lockdown in response to an unknown, “serious incident”

Editor’s Note: This page was last updated at 1:29p.m. PST.

Reports of a “serious incident” are surfacing from Fort Sill, located north of Lawton, Oklahoma. Currently, several buildings are on lockdown and official channels are advising people to “stay away from [these] areas at this time.”


As of 9:39 a.m. PST, according to the Fort Sill Provost Marshal’s Office and Directorate of Emergency Services Facebook page, locked down areas include:

  • McNair Hall
  • Taylor Hall
  • Knox Hall
  • Sheridan Hall
Unrealistic war movies that still nail military life

The locked-down buildings mentioned above are located within the encircled area.

[Update – 11:39 a.m. PST] According to Stars and Stripes, a public affairs officer has reported that the situation is “all clear.”

[Update – 1:29 p.m. PST] Official reports have surfaced that explain a former Fort Sill employee was detained and his vehicle was searched. The previously mentioned buildings were locked down as a security measure and the situation has been resolved.

At present, all we know is that it was not a bomb threat.

This page will be updated as the situation develops and details emerge.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Of course Jason Momoa fixes up old motorcycles with his kids

Jason Momoa is a bona fide action star, a buff, bearded (most of the time) beast of a dude best known for playing fierce warriors of the Dothraki and underwater varieties. Off-screen, it seems that he takes the strength and free-spiritedness of his characters and combines it with an unapologetic commitment to his family.

In a new video – presumably for Harley-Davidson, though that’s not ever made explicit — Momoa talks about his lifelong love of motorcycles. Over scenic desert landscapes, a well-worn motorcycle shop tells the story of the very special way he shared that love with his kids.

“Fierce and proud I put my hand on the throttle and with a twist it rumbled and howled like I held the power to control its breathing,” he says, sounding like a muscled, tattooed Bruce Springsteen as slowed-down footage of his kids touching a motorcycle with wonder in their eyes plays.


“It was the first time I really felt speed. It was the awakening.”

In what sounds apocryphal, Momoa talks about finding an old, broken-down Harley motor in a garage and being seized with a dream to fix it up and build a bike around it.

Where the Wild Stomped In – Happy Papa’s Day!

www.youtube.com

“Reality sunk in, and that young man’s dream, it had to wait. For my life,” he says. Translation: he had kids and didn’t have time to spend fiddling around in the garage for hours on end. That part is definitely relatable.

But the video is about motorcycles, so Momoa finds the time — with what looks like a very able, affable motorcycle-fixing dude — to make his dream come true.

“It has taken three decades in the making. The longest dream I have ever held onto. And now, the best part is that I get to share that dream with my children and the people that I love.”

More beautiful shots of sparks flying, dirt getting kicked up, scenic vistas, and Momoa and his crew drinking beers follow. The motorcycle is fixed up and taken all over the desert.

“We built our family heirloom. We’re the Momoas. We’re the knuckleheads. And with every ride, whether it’s me, my daughter, my son, or even a grandchild I don’t know yet. They will share in the miles and memories we were creating.”

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

This is what those ‘metal things’ were on Normandy beaches

Joshua T. asks: What were all those metal things you see on the beaches in pictures of the Omaha landing?

The Normandy Invasions represented one of the single largest military maneuvers in history. Beginning on June 6, 1944, the invasion was the largest amphibious assault of all time and involved what basically amounted to the collective might of a large percentage of the nations in the industrialized world working in tandem to defeat the Nazi war machine. One of the most iconic images of the invasion was that of a French beach covered in oppressive-looking metal crosses. As it turns out, those crosses were merely a small part of an expansive network of sophisticated defences the Allies managed to somehow circumvent in mere hours.


Dubbed “the Atlantic Wall” and constructed under the direct orders of Adolf Hitler himself in his Directive 40, the formidable defences stretched and astounding 2000 miles of the European coast. Intended to ward off an Allied invasion, the Atlantic Wall consisted of endless batteries of guns, an estimated five million mines (of both the sea and land variety) and many thousands of soldiers who occupied heavily fortified bunkers and fortresses along its length.

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German soldiers placing landing craft obstructions.

The wall has been described as a “three-tier system of fortifications” where the most valuable and vulnerable locations were the most heavily fortified while positions of lesser importance became known as “resistance points” that were more lightly defended but would still pose an imposing obstacle to any invasion force.

In the rush to create defences, gun batteries were haphazardly thrown together, consisting of basically whatever the Nazis could get their hands on. As a result, everything from heavy machine guns to massive cannons cut from captured French warships were utilized in the construction of fortresses and bunkers. Though they looked threatening, this “confusing mixture of sizes and calibres” proved to be an issue for the Nazis when they couldn’t scrape together the ammunition to arm them all. Still, the guns, in combination with the several other layers of defences, were believed to make the coast of Europe “impregnable”.

The largest of these guns represented the first line of defence of the Atlantic Wall and the Germans spent countless hours practise shelling “designated killing zones” experts predicted Allied ships would most likely use to invade. After this were expansive submarine nets and magnetic mines chained to the ocean floor to deter submarines and ships. In shallower water, the Nazis attached mines to sticks and buried large logs deep in the sand pointed outwards towards the ocean — the idea being boats would either be taken out by the mines or have their bows broken against the poles.

After this was a defensive emplacement known as the Belgian gate which were large heavy fences attached to steel rollers which could be positioned in the shallows. Following this were millions of mines lying just beneath the sands waiting for soldiers who managed to make it ashore.

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Czech hedgehogs.

Along with all of this, there were also those metal cross thingies — or to give them their proper name, Czech hedgehogs.

As the name suggests, the Czech hedgehog was invented in Czechoslovakia and was mostly designed to serve as a deterrent for tanks and other armoured vehicles, as well as in this particular case if the tide was right, approaching ships attempting to land on shore.

Originally designed to sit along the Czechoslovakia-Germany border as part of a massive fortification effort conducted in the 1930s, the hedgehogs never ended up serving their original purpose when the region was annexed by Germany in 1938.

It’s reported that the Czechs originally wanted to build a large wall between the two countries, but a cheaper solution was found in the form of these hedgehogs, which could be mass-produced by simply bolting together beams of steel.

So what purpose did they serve? Put simply, if a tank or other such vehicle tried to drive over one, the result was inevitably it becoming stuck on the thing, and even in some cases having the bottom of the tank pieced by the hedgehog. When used on a beach like this, as previously alluded to, they also had the potential to pierce the hulls of ships approaching the shores if the tide was high at the time.

On top of that, particularly the anchored variety of hedgehogs proved difficult to move quickly as even massive explosions didn’t really do much of anything to them.

Speaking of anchored hedgehogs, it isn’t strictly necessary for the hedgehogs to be anchored to anything normally. It turns out that tanks trying to drive over the unanchored ones had a good chance of getting themselves stuck just the same. In these cases what would usually happen was the hedgehog would roll slightly as the tank tried to power its way over, with then the weight of the tank often causing the steel I-beams to pierce the bottom of the tank, completely immobilizing it. In fact, in testing, unanchored hedgehogs proved slightly more effective than their anchored variety against heavy vehicles.

Czech Hedgehog (World War II Tech)

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However, because of the tide issue in this case, to keep the hedgehogs in place, those closest to the water did have thick concrete bases anchoring them in the sand.

Using about a million tons of steel and about 17 million cubic meters of concrete, the broken wall these Czech Hedghogs created was a much more viable option than trying to create a solid wall over such a span, while also not giving the enemy forces too much cover, as a more solid wall would have done.

That said, while initially a deterrent, the hedgehogs ended up helping the Allies after the beaches were secured, as they proved to be a valuable source of steel and concrete that was repurposed for the war effort. For example, almost immediately some of the steel beams were welded to tanks, turning them into very effective mobile battering rams.

Yes you read that correctly — the Allies cut up dedicated anti-tank fortifications and welded them to their tanks to make them even more badass of weapons.

The Soviets also made extensive use of Czech hedgehogs, often using the concrete to literally cement them in place in cities and along bridges to halt German armored divisions in their tracks. As you can imagine, just one of these in a narrow street proved to be an extremely effective barrier that also left the enemy trying to get rid of it open to weapon fire.

While some Czech hedgehogs were constructed to specific factory specifications, which stipulated exact measurements (usually 1.4 meters in height) and materials (anything sturdy enough to survive around 500 tonnes of force), most were made of scavenged materials.

In the end, the hedgehogs along with the countless other fortifications proved to be a formidable, but not impassable obstacle for the Allies. In fact, thanks to a massive, concerted bombardment effort from the naval and air-based forces of the Allies, strategic commando strikes, and the bravery of the hundreds of thousands of troops who physically stormed the beaches all those years ago, all of the defences were bypassed in a matter of hours, though at the cost of several thousand lives on D-Day alone.

Bonus Facts:

  • The beaches of Normandy were shelled so heavily and so thoroughly mined that to this day it’s estimated that 4% of the beach still consists of shrapnel.
  • Czech hedgehogs are near identical in design (save for their massive size) to caltrops — a tiny metal device designed to always land with a jagged spike pointed straight into the air used extensively throughout history to hinder advancing enemy, particularly effective against horses, camels, and elephants, but also foot soldiers.

This article originally appeared on Today I Found Out. Follow @TodayIFoundOut on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why John McCain accused Trump of emboldening Assad in Syria

US Senator John McCain, on April 8, 2018, criticized President Donald Trump for recently saying he is in favor of pulling US troops out of Syria.

McCain said Trump’s comments, that he wants to “get out” of Syria and “bring our troops home,” emboldened Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad to launch a suspected chemical attack against civilians on April 7, 2018.


“President Trump last week signaled to the world that the United States would prematurely withdraw from Syria,” McCain, who is also the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in a statement.

“Bashar Assad and his Russian and Iranian backers have heard him, and emboldened by American inaction, Assad has reportedly launched another chemical attack against innocent men, women, and children, this time in Douma. Initial accounts show dozens of innocent civilians, including children, have been targeted by this vicious bombardment designed to burn, and choke the human body and leave victims writhing in unspeakable pain,” he said.

According to reports, at least 40 people suffocated to death and hundreds more were injured from a suspected chemical attack in the rebel-held town of Douma in eastern Ghouta on April 7, 2018. Some estimates put the death toll closer to 150.

Local pro-opposition group Ghouta Media Center said the attack was carried out by a helicopter, which dropped a barrel bomb containing sarin gas. The US State Department confirmed reports of the attack and “a potentially high number of casualties” on April 7, 2018.

Graphic images from the attack have been posted on social media.

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President Trump was quick to call out Assad for the violence in a tweet on April 8, 2018: “President Putin, Russia and Iran are responsible for backing Animal Assad. Big price … to pay.” It was also the first time Trump has called out Putin by name on Twitter.

In his statement, McCain acknowledged Trump’s quick response on Twitter but said, “the question now is whether he will do anything about it.”

McCain said the president needs to “act decisively” in his response to Assad’s alleged involvement in the chemical attack, and to “demonstrate that Assad will pay a price for his war crimes.”

Some US lawmakers have called on the president to respond militarily to the use of chemical weapons, and have suggested a “targeted attack” on chemical weapons facilities.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China is spying on the South China Sea like never before

China is fielding a far-reaching reconnaissance system reliant on drones to strengthen its ability to conduct surveillance operations in hard-to-reach areas of the South China Sea, the Ministry of Natural Resources said in a report Sept. 10, 2019.

The system, which relies on drones connected to mobile and fixed command-and-control centers by way of a maritime information and communication network, stands to boost Chinese information, surveillance, and reconnaissance capabilities over what was previously provided by satellites and regional monitoring stations.

The highly maneuverable drones can purportedly provide high-definition images and videos in real time they fly below the clouds, which have, at times, hindered China’s satellite surveillance efforts.


“It is like giving the dynamic surveillance in the South China Sea an ‘all-seeing eye,'” the MNR’s South China Sea Bureau explained. “The surveillance ability has reached a new level.”

The bureau added that the application of the new surveillance system “has greatly enhanced the dynamic monitoring of the South China Sea and extended the surveillance capability of the South China Sea to the high seas.”

The system is currently being used for marine management services, the MNR said vaguely. While the MNR report does not mention a military application, the ministry has been known to work closely with the People’s Liberation Army Navy, and there are certain strategic advantages to increased maritime domain awareness.

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Sailors of the People’s Liberation Army Navy.

China claims the vast majority of the South China Sea, a contested waterway also claimed by a number of countries in the region that have, in some cases with the support of the US and others outside the region, pushed back on Chinese assertions of sovereignty.

China has built outposts across the area and fielded various weapons systems to strengthen its position. At the same time, it has bolstered its surveillance capabilities.

“The drones have obvious use to improve awareness both of what is on the sea and what is in the air,” Peter Dutton, a retired US Navy officer and a professor at the US Naval War College, wrote on Twitter.

Greg Poling, a South China Sea expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained that Chinese surveillance upgrades could help China should it decide to declare an Air Defense Identification Zone in the region, something Dutton suggested as well.

China is also developing the Hainan satellite constellation, which will be able to provide real-time monitoring of the South China Sea with the help of two hyperspectral satellites, two radar satellites, and six optical satellites. The constellation should be completed in two years, according to the South China Morning Post.

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

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