With all the advances in military clothing technology these days, there’s still one glaring holdover from the days of military uniforms gone by: boot laces. We have velcro work uniforms, and velcro body armor, zippers on work pants, and plastic buckles have replaced the old metal clasps on web gear.
Yet, every day, U.S. troops are lacing up their boots just like Arnold Schwarzenegger did in Commando 30-plus years ago. What gives?
Pictured: me before work every morning during my time in the Air Force… In my head.
The truth is that there’s actually a good reason for all the combat/work uniform gear that American troops wear every day. From the way it’s worn, to what it’s made of, to how it’s worn, it all actually has an operational value to it. The most enduring reason velcro isn’t used as a means to secure one’s boots is that shoelaces are built to last, like most other military-grade gear. Velcro wears out after repeated use and becomes less and less sticky with time.
Another reason for laces securing their boots is that if one of the laces does happen to wear out and snap, a spare boot lace can be secured pretty easily. All a Marine at a combat outpost in the hills of Afghanistan has to do to re-secure his boot is to get a lace and lace it up. If it were secured with velcro, both sides being held together would require a seam ripped out and new velcro patches sewn in its place.
“Cover me, this is a hemstitch!”
Speaking of austere locations, has anyone ever tried to use velcro when it was soaking wet or caked in mud? For anyone who’s ever seen a recruiting video for any branch of the military (including the Coast Guard), it becomes pretty apparent that mud, water, and lord-knows-what-else are occupational hazards for the feet of the average U.S. troop. Bootlaces don’t need to be dry, clean, or chemical agent-free to work their magic, they just work.
The whole idea behind clothing a capable, combat-ready force is to eliminate the worry about the clothing as long as each individual troop follows the clothing guidelines. Everything about military work gear and combat uniforms is that they can be worn relatively easily and their parts can be replaced just as easily – by even the least capable person in a military unit.
Even the new Second Lieutenant.
Finally, the most significant reason troops need laced-up boots instead of goofy velcro attachments is the most unique aspect to their chosen profession: the idea that they may be in combat at some point. Military combat medics will tell you that the easiest way to access a wounded foot area is to simply cut the laces away and toss the boot. That’s probably the biggest combat-related factor.
Besides, where would Marines string their second dog tag if they secured their boots with velcro?
All was quiet in the world of military memes until a Blue Star mom chimed in on Twitter about her yeoman son and the internet went freakin’ nuts. All political undertones aside, the most hilarious part of the meme was her bragging about her son being “#1 in boot camp and A school” and how he was awarded the coveted “USO Award” — pretty much every vet laughed because none of those are a thing.
The Navy vet took it all in stride. He and his brother verified themselves on Twitter and he set the record straight after his mom’s rant that turned into the latest and greatest copypasta. He’s down to Earth, loves his cat, and doesn’t seem like the kinda guy who’d brag about nonsense to his mother.
And, to be completely honest, it was kind of bound to happen. She had the best of intentions and military mommas embarrassing their baby warfighters is nothing new. Personally, I’m just glad my mom doesn’t know how to use her Twitter or else I’d be in the exact same situation.
In September 2005, Mexican Marines arrived under the Mexican flag to Harrison County, Miss. It was the first time in 159 years that Mexican troops operationally deployed inside the United States. There, they met U.S. Marines and U.S. Navy sailors. But they weren’t there to do battle; they were there to clear the debris.
Harrison County was hit by one of the most intense hurricanes ever to hit the United States. Harrison County was devastated by the strongest winds of the whole storm.
Hurricane Katrina making landfall on the U.S. Gulf Coast, August 2005.
Hurricane Katrina was the fourth most intense storm ever to hit the United States. The storm killed more than 1,800 people, making it the deadliest to hit the United States since 1928. It was also the costliest hurricane in terms of physical damage done to the areas affected by the hurricane. In all, the total price tag for Katrina’s damage came to a whopping 5 billion – but just throwing money at a problem doesn’t fix it.
Damage wrought on communities by storms like Katrina require an all-hands approach to recovery, especially in the immediate aftermath. Charitable organizations like the American Red Cross, Oxfam, and Habitat for Humanity responded. So did many members of the international community, even those considered to be at odds with American foreign policy at the time. Those who offered assistance included traditional allies Germany, the UK, and Canada. But even those who did not have the considerable resources of the West, like Mexico. That’s how Mexican Marines ended up clearing timber from schools around Mississippi.
Sailors from the Dutch and Mexican navies distribute water and Meals, Ready to Eat (MREs) to residents of D’Iberville, Miss.
(FEMA photo by Mark Wolfe)
In the immediate aftermath of the hurricane, then-President of Mexico Vicente Fox sent a message to the United States, saying:
“In the name of the people and of the government of Mexico, I assure you of my deepest and most sincere condolences for the devastating effects caused by Hurricane Katrina.”
Mexico’s Red Cross sent Rescue Experts to New Orleans while the Mexican Navy deployed off the American Gulf Coast with helicopters, ATVs, amphibious ships, tankers, medical personnel, and tons of food aid. The Mexican Air Force later flew 200 more tons of food in as a convoy of trucks from Mexico shipped hundreds of tons more. It was the first time since the Mexican-American War (which ended in 1848) that Mexico’s troops were inside the United States, and they were here to help.
The Mexicans also helped clear debris and distribute supplies to Harrison County, hit especially hard by Katrina’s intense winds. Gulfport, Miss. took the brunt of the damage, but the surrounding areas were devastated as well. The following month, having finished cleaning up and distributing supplies, the mission ended, and Mexico went home.
In case you haven’t heard, David Spade has a new show called Light’s Out with David Spade. And one of the bits on that show is “Secret Stand-up” where he feeds jokes to another person who performs on stage. And he got Robert O’Neill, the Navy SEAL who claims the bin Laden kill, onto the stage at the world-famous Comedy Store.
The Navy SEAL Who Killed bin Laden Makes His Stand-Up Debut – Lights Out with David Spade
The video is available above, and Spade and Whitney Cummings give him some seriously edgy jokes to say, going from his sex life to the raid on Abbottabad to 9/11 with barely a beat. (And children probably shouldn’t watch the clip, but we don’t actually have the power to stop you. If you do watch it and don’t understand a joke, avoid image search when looking for the explanation.)
And you can tell that O’Neill really enjoys some of the jokes, because he hears them through an earpiece right before he has to deliver the line. He sometimes has to fight through his own laughter to deliver the punch line that he’s just heard from the real comedians.
O’Neill has 11 awards for valor and served on SEAL Teams Two and Four before being selected for the Naval Special Warfare Development Group (commonly known as SEAL Team Six). He left the Navy in 2012 after 16 years of service and having shot bin Laden. Everyone wants to end their career on that kind of high note.
Now, O’Neill is a media personality and public speaker, usually appearing on Fox News where he provides military expertise.
David Spade is returning to TV. For anyone young enough to not remember him, you probably shouldn’t watch the clip. It includes a lot of adult language. But Spade is probably best known for his roles in Joe Dirt, Tommy Boy, and Saturday Night Live. He’s performed in dozens of other movies and shows including The Hotel Transylvania and Grown Ups series.
The US military, together with its coalition partners, is close to liberating the last of the ISIS-controlled territory in Syria, the Pentagon’s top official said Jan. 29, 2019.
“I’d say 99.5% plus of ISIS-controlled territory has been returned to the Syrians,” Acting Secretary of Defense Pat Shanahan told reporters. “Within a couple of weeks, it will be 100%.”
“ISIS is no longer able to govern. ISIS no longer has freedom to mass forces. Syria is no longer a safe haven,” Shanahan added.
The secretary’s update that the fall of the physical caliphate in Syria is imminent comes weeks after President Donald Trump declared victory over the terrorist organization.
“We have won against ISIS,” President Donald Trump announced in December 2018, as he called for the withdrawal of American troops. “We’ve beaten them, and we’ve beaten them badly. We’ve taken back the land. And, now it’s time for our troops to come back home.”
Despite the president’s claims, many observers argue that ISIS is far from defeated, despite the organization’s crumbling caliphate.
Direct of National Intelligence Dan Coats, commenting on the Worldwide Threat Assessment, stated Jan. 29, 2019, that ISIS “has returned to its guerrilla warfare roots while continuing to plot attacks and direct its supporters worldwide,” adding that “ISIS is intent on resurging and still commands thousands of fighters in Iraq and Syria.”
ISIS forces targeted a coalition patrol recently, killing two US service members, a Department of Defense civilian employee, and an American contractor.
Shanahan said, as others have, that there is still more work to be done, explaining that the planned troop withdrawal is still in the “early stages.”
Since Trump’s victory tweet, administration officials have said conflicting things about the timeline and full scope of the pullout, often indicating that this may be a long, drawn-out process.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
There’s something to be said for aggressively pursuing the job you want. For British Admiral Horatio, Lord Nelson, that opportunity came at the Battle of Copenhagen when the famous admiral disobeyed the orders of a less-famous, less successful one in the funniest way possible.
Lord Nelson was arguably England’s most famous military mind, and without a doubt, one of its most famous admirals. By the time the British engaged the Danes at Copenhagen, Nelson had been commanding ships for more than 20 years and had been in command as an Admiral for nearly as long. But Nelson wasn’t in overall command of the British at Copenhagen. That honor fell to Britain’s Sir Hyde Parker, but Sir Hyde wasn’t as aggressive as Lord Nelson, certainly not aggressive enough for Nelson’s taste.
Until the Battle of Copenhagen, Parker was considered a very good commander, commanding Royal Navy ships for some 40 years in fights from Jamaica to Gibraltar. But Hyde was more of an administrator than a battlefield leader, sticking close to the rules of naval combat. This wasn’t a problem for anyone until 1801, when he ordered the Royal Navy at Copenhagen to disengage.
Nelson wasn’t having it.
Unlike Parker, Nelson was known to flaunt the doctrine of naval warfare at the time. He is famous for saying, “forget the maneuvers, just go straight at them.” Nelson was aggressive without being careless and had a sixth sense for the way a battle was flowing. From his ship closer to the fight, he could tell that the attack needed to be pressed. Parker was further away from the fighting, in a ship too heavy for the shallower water closer to Copenhagen. So when he was ready to disengage – as doctrine would have him do – he raised the flag signal.
Nelson is said to have put his telescope up to his blind eye, turned in the direction of Parker’s flagship, and allegedly said:
“I have a right to be blind sometimes. I really do not see the signal.”
Nelson knew the battle would go his way, and even though some of his ships did obey the disengage order, most of the frigates did not. The battle began to turn heavily in favor of the British, with most of the Danish ships’ guns too heavily damaged to return fire. Denmark would be forced into an alliance with the British against Napoleonic France and received protection from Russia. For his actions, Nelson was made a viscount, and Parker was recalled to England, where he was stripped of his Baltic Sea command.
The biggest problem facing bomber pilots during the Cold War was the fact that they were dropping massive nuclear bombs, bombs that could easily engulf their planes in a ball of fire, killing them and their crews.
They eventually came to rely on a maneuver called an Immelman, or “idiot’s loop,” which would allow them to drop their nuclear payload over the target while giving them an excellent chance of survival. The biggest issue with the maneuver is that it could stress the plane enough to take it down.
Despite the danger to the fuselage, anything would be preferred over getting killed by one’s own nuclear weapons. The problem was that aircraft technology had a hard time keeping up with nuclear payload technology.
When the Enola Gay and Bockscar, both B-29 Superfortresses, dropped their atomic bombs on Japan during World War II, the pilots probably worried about their chances of survival. The payloads of the bombs, 15 kilotons for Little Boy and 21 kilotons for Fat Man, were such that Enola Gay was 11 miles away before it felt the shock wave. The crewmen said the nuclear bomb drops were just like any other bombing run for them.
With the nuclear bombs that followed, the pilots’ concern grew more and more as payloads increased. The Boeing B-47 Stratojet could fly almost twice as fast as the B-29 Superfortress, but it was dropping megaton nukes that could have mushroom clouds of fire as high as 40,000 feet and a radius of hundreds of miles. This kind of nuclear device would have completely engulfed the B-29 bombers.
So Air Force pilots developed a tactic called a “LABS Maneuver,” or Low-Altitude Bombing System. As the name implies, the aircraft would come into the target area at a low altitude, and then quickly pull up. Then it performed the Immelman, dropping its nuclear bombs so that the trajectory of the nuclear bomb took it on a parabolic arc toward the target.
This means the bomb would be flipped over backward, landing behind the plane as the plane itself backflipped.
The B-47 Stratojet would continue pulling up until it was at a higher altitude before rolling over. It was only possible to perform this maneuver due to the B-47’s design but it would leave cracks in the airplane’s frame and they couldn’t bear the repeated strain on the fuselage.
Also called a “toss bombing,” the LABS maneuver allowed for bombing runs that didn’t fly directly over the target. It would also have allowed bombers to hit targets that were in heavily-defended areas. Planes came in at a low altitude to avoid being tracked by enemy radar systems.
The Stratojet also came equipped with a toss bomb computer to assist the pilots in releasing the bombs at the right time and at the correct angle. All the pilot would have to do is allow the computer to release the bomb and then make the “idiot’s loop.” The computer would release the bomb at its predetermined ballistic path.
Some modern aircraft still have similar computers developed for the purposes of “toss bomb” runs, even without nuclear payloads. The F-15E Strike Eagle and the F-16 Fighting Falcon both have Fire Control Computers that will do the complex calculations required for a dive-toss release.
The Disney Company is known around the world for its ability to bring magic to life and make dreams come true. This is possible thanks to the work of their imagineers. Combining technical expertise with creative vision, the imagineers come from all walks of life to continue building Walt Disney’s Magic Kingdom. One of the most influential imagineers, and a close personal friend of Walt’s, was Rear Admiral Joe Fowler.
Fowler hailed from Maine and graduated second in the Naval Academy’s 1917 class. Following graduation and commissioning, Fowler immediately went to war as a navigator on submarine-patrol duty during WWI.
In the interwar period, Fowler found his calling for building and design. He attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and received a Master’s Degree in Naval Architecture in 1921. Afterwards, he was posted to Shanghai where he built gunboats. During this time, he roomed with future King of England, Edward, Prince of Wales, on a British gun ship steaming up the Yangtze River.
Fowler was later assigned to the Navy Department in Washington where he oversaw ship modernization efforts, including design changes to the aircraft carriers USS Saratoga (CV-3) and USS Lexington (CV-2). He also supervised the construction and repair of submarines at the Portsmouth Naval Yard in his home state of Maine. During WWII, Fowler took command of the San Francisco Naval Shipyard where he oversaw the assembly and launchings of the Kaiser cargo ship fleet.
In 1948, Fowler retired from the Navy at the rank of Rear Admiral. He took his building and management expertise to the civilian market as a private consult. In 1951, he was recalled to active service during the Korean War to help streamline the military’s supply and acquisition chains. The next year, President Truman appointed Fowler as the civilian director of the Federal Supply Management Agency to eliminate waste in the military.
Fowler’s work and efficiency in federal service earned him praise by Congress. It also attracted the attention of Walt Disney who needed help turning an orange grove in Southern California into the happiest place on earth. Disney hated to hear “no” for an answer, and Fowler was a no-fail solution finder; the two men made a perfect team.
Disneyland’s construction was overseen by Fowler who kept the project on track while constantly incorporating every one of Disney’s new ideas. “Walt turned to Joe and said, ‘I’d like to part the water[fall on the Adventureland stage] and let the entertainers come out, and then have the waterfall close behind them,'” recalled fellow Disney legend Bob Matheison. “Joe never batted an eye. He just said, ‘Can do, can do.’ I know he had no idea how he was going to part the water, but he said it without hesitation—’Can do.’ And, by golly, he did it.” This affirmative spirit earned Fowler the nickname “Can-Do Joe.”
Following the opening of Disneyland, Fowler served as General Manager of the park’s operations. He went on to serve as a technical advisor on the ground-breaking and award-winning film 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. However, Fowler’s biggest Disney challenge was yet to come.
When Disney went looking for a place to build his next Magic Kingdom, he brought Fowler along with him. With other Disney executives, they selected Orlando as the new build site. Fowler was given the enormous task of turning thousands of acres of swampland into more Disney parks. Following the groundbreaking in 1967, Fowler supervised the engineering and construction of Disney World. Naturally, the project finished on schedule in 1971.
Fowler wore many hats during his time at Disney, some of them simultaneously. At one point during the Florida construction, he was senior vice president, engineering and construction, for Walt Disney Productions; chairman of the board of WED Enterprises, known today as Walt Disney Imagineering; and director of construction for Disney’s Buena Vista Construction Company. Fowler retired from the Disney Company in 1978, though he continued to consult on projects.
Admiral Joe Fowler was inducted as a Disney Legend in 1990. He passed away on December 3, 1993 at the age of 99. In true Disney fashion his legacy includes namesakes at the both Disneyland and Disney World. The dry dock at Disneyland’s Rivers of America is named Fowler’s Harbor and features a building named Fowler’s Inn. At Disney World, one of the ferries on the Seven Seas Lagoon is named the Admiral Joe Fowler.
Peter with his platoon at Army boot camp. He is third row from bottom, far right. Photo credit Peter Markle.
Peter Markle grew up during a period of intense change for the country with the Civil Rights Movement and the Vietnam War etched into his mind. His father proudly served in WWII in the Pacific where he brought those hard-learned lessons and values back to the family, which greatly impacted Peter. After time in the U.S. Army Reserves and on the USA Hockey Team, Markle decided to become a filmmaker. He has directed many great films, especially military and historical ones, to include Bat 21, Faith of my Fathers, Flight 93, Saving Jessica Lynch, Nightbreaker and Youngblood. Markle has also directed numerous episodes for hit shows including the X-Files, CSI, Without a Trace, Life, NYPD Blue, Burn Notice, Rescue Me, ER and Homicide: Life on the Street.
WATM: Tell me about your family and your life growing up?
I was born in Danville, PA. in the Geisinger Hospital that my mother’s father started. We lived on a farm outside Hazelton, PA. I have vivid memories from my first years there. The barn and particularly the hay loft, the fresh fruit that was picked daily in season, the creek where one of the workers killed a water moccasin one day. In first grade we moved to Minneapolis where my father got a job at a bank and I was introduced to a real winter. And the rink directly across the street in the park where I discovered ice hockey.
When I grew up there was no social media and absolutely no restrictions what you did with your free time when not in school. We had a black lab that left the house in the morning with us, went on his own way when he got bored with our activities which included exploration, sports, fishing etc. My dad hung a huge bell that could be heard
a half a mile away which was rung for lunch and dinner. The dog was always the first one back. Times have changed. We had enormous freedom and there was no temptation to bury our faces in smart phones. All activity was self-created.
I distinctly remember being fascinated the movies and got completely lost in them at the local cinema which is still there today. One of my favorites was Shane with Alan Ladd. Years later his son, Alvan Ladd, Jr. greenlit one of my films (Youngblood).
Markle with Flint Generals (IHL). Photo credit PM.
I continued hockey throughout high school and my senior year was asked to join the Olympic Hockey development program which ran through the summer. I played at Yale, had a tryout after my senior year with Boston, played minor league hockey and then three years with the US National team participating in two World tournaments.
Markle with the USA team. First row second from the right. Photo credit PM.
WATM: What is the most distinct memory of your mother and your father?
My parents were very social and community involved. My dad was one of the founders the youth hockey program in our area which started with one team and expanded in a few years into 500 participants. My mother worked throughout her life for hospitals concentrating on rehabilitation. Her interest in health care no doubt emanated from her father who was first assistant surgeon to Will and Charlie Mayo and at one point in his career became President of the American College of Surgeons. They were both extremely social and the vast majority of their best friends served in some way during WW2, many as Naval pilots. My dad was interested in everyone he met. He was the best listener I’ve known. That did not imply he didn’t have a point of view. His advice was judicious and more than often accepted. My mother was a community organizer. That would include in her community as well as her hospital work. Her friends would call her in the morning for their marching orders for the day.
WATM:What values were stressed at home?
It was the traditional ‘Golden Rule’. It’s a timeless aphorism and sometimes hard to follow in a competitive world like film but being honest and empathetic wins out in the short and long run. My mother also told me that lying not only was reprehensible but far more difficult to keep track of than the truth. Both underscored that failure was the inevitable pathway to success. It all depends on how you react to it.
WATM: What influenced you to join the US Army, what was your experience and what lessons did you take away from your service?
I graduated from college at the height of the Vietnam conflict and joined the rest of my class in deciding what was the next move. A significant number of the class including myself applied for the Naval OCS (officer candidate school) in the language division which was in Monterey, Ca. The sample copy of the test which was based on a made-up language was circulated around the campus. I remember looking at it and getting the gist of the concept. Apparently, the other students there got the gist as not one of several hundred who took it missed a question. There was some sort of investigation by the Navy, but it was dropped. I did not attend OCS and assumed upon graduating I would be drafted. I was playing professional hockey when I was told to report to Fort Snelling where the Minnesota Army Reserve was located. I was with four other players at the end of a 200-person line when our names were called, and we were told to report to the front. We were all inducted into the Reserves and told that we would all get time off when playing for the US National hockey team including world tournaments. A month later I was in Stockholm.
Peter lining up for the action shot even before becoming a director. Photo credit PM.
I did basic training at Fort Leonard Wood in the middle of the summer. It was incredibly hot and humid. I made fast friends in my platoon and had a great drill sergeant. It was a lot like summer football camp but with longer hours. Up at 4am for a 5-mile run in army boots to lights out at 10pm. I was told that you had to learn how to stand in formation while asleep. Done. We had soldiers who gained 80 pounds (never had more than one meal a day) and others who lost 80 (never ran over 10 yards in their lives before). It was a very different mix from my fraternity in college where we had 4 Olympic Swimmers (including Don Schollander who won 5 gold medals and Calvin Hill who was All Pro in the NFL. As a footnote The President of the frat my sophomore year was Fred W. Smith, founder/CEO of FedEx and decorated US Marine in Vietnam, and for my senior year it was George W. Bush who also ended up in the Air Force Reserves.
The harassment was handed out pretty democratically until the PT contest. Parallel bars, low crawl, 100-yard man carry, the 6-minute mile in army boots, push ups etc. I scored the only perfect score in my company (200 men) and was given the weekend off. That would not have happened if my 98-pound roommate, Eddie Pragg, didn’t let me use him for the man carry.
I have to underscore that my boot camp experience on every level was positive. It was tough but extremely well organized. The officers were exacting but fair. The staff was totally professional. It ran like clockwork at a time when so many were going through the turnstile each day. There are some correlations to making a film where it demands a unified front and an ability to make quick adjustments according to the situation at hand. I was just a grunt in the machine but there were numerous examples among the staff on every level as well as my fellow platoon mates that have stayed with me my entire life.
No one knew other than a small handful of reservists as to whether they would end up in Vietnam. I did not have to confront the prospect of being shipped out. I realized that I was uniquely privileged. I did OJT (on the job training) at Fort Ord in Chicago before ending back in Minneapolis for weekend duty once a month at Fort Snelling. Motor pool, clerical work, city public projects. No riots or disasters to contend with. We did summer camp at Fort McCoy in Wisconsin and in addition to my normal duties and drills I was an editor of the camp newspaper distributed the last day. I decided to take a somewhat satirical angle on the experience and was surprised at the reception. There was laughter, soldiers reading bits out loud and fortunately no reprisals from the brass. I was encouraged to write by my freshman English professor in college and never took it seriously until listening to the reception of my version of ‘The Onion’ distributed around camp.
I would be remiss not to mention that it was my father who was the real soldier. He dropped out of the University of Pennsylvania to join the Navy. He got his pilot license at 17 and became one the youngest flight instructors in the armed forces during WW2. He was assigned to the USS Bataan, a light aircraft carrier, and fought in the last years in the Pacific through the surrender which he witnessed being docked next to the Missouri in Tokyo Bay. Because of his flight experience he was put in charge of the CIC (combat information center) directing planes when airborne, spotted bogies (enemy planes) and skunks (unidentified surface ships) basically directing aerial combat operations along with the brass. They were in the middle of the kamikaze blitz and had numerous close calls. He witnessed both the Bunker Hill and the Franklin take direct hits some less than 200 meters away with the loss of over 1000 sailors. During one Kamikaze attack a sister ship got hit and 19 soldiers were thrown overboard. Dad marked his ship’s position using the DTR (dead reckoning system) and he convinced the brass to take 8 ships after dark for a search. They implemented a staggered zig zag course for six hours and miraculously found the sailors within 10 minutes of the search stop order. To be noted as well, his brother, Alvan, landed on Omaha Beach, fought 5 major battles in the Bulge as an artillery captain and was honored the Chevalier of the Legion of Honneur by the French. He attended the 70th Anniversary of Normandy.
Peter’s father (Thomas) during WWII. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
Pictures from Peter’s father during his time in the Navy. Photo credit PM.
WATM: What values have you carried over from the Army into directing and writing?
It’s a tiresome analogy but it would be teamwork. I’ve been on series where one show had 4 stages in use at the same time. One devoted primarily to build sets designed for a particular episode, another three with sets for shooting a current episode, pickups from previous episodes and for the next one. Well over 100 people will be working to accomplish the same goal. Each department head is crucial to the mission (production; accounting; director and assistant directors; art; camera; casting; catering; construction; costume; lighting; grip; locations; makeup/hair; medic; post-production; property; publicity; research; script supervision; set dressing; sound; special effects; stand-ins; stunts; transportation; video playback; visual effects. The similarity to the chain of command in the military is obvious. Lots of departments. Lots of personnel. And all interdependent with one another. I guess the ‘weakest link in the chain’ is a prevalent dynamic in both film and the armed forces. I was shooting a film in Borneo (Bat 21) and the special effects department head had set a series of explosions along a path through the jungle Gene Hackman and Danny Glover would run by. This was primarily done using a nail-board which each nail represented an explosion. After going hot contacting the individual nails with metal (could be a screwdriver) set off the blast. The department head said that he was going to use a computer program instead of the old system, the ‘eyeball approach’. I questioned whether it made sense to switch now but he said it was safer. I called action and Danny and Gene started running along a riverbank. An explosion (representing a bomb) goes off so close to them that they both instinctively duck and cover their faces but continue running. The second explosion is closer, and we get the same reaction for the talent. I look over at effects and he is white as a ghost. The shot was incredible, but we almost lost two actors. Back to the nail board. We never told Gene or Danny.
WATM: What is the most fulfilling project you have done and why?
I guess it’s always the first one because you actually pulled off the impossible. It was a low budget comedy called The Personals where no one was paid. It got great reviews and a crazy learning experience. Bat 21 was up there for the subject matter, the location and working with Gene and Danny. Flight 93 was the first 9/11 film and it was done for AE TV. It was nominated for and won a bunch of Emmys. It was also a challenge to write because the majority of the account took place on the plane. The 9/11 Commission report had just come out and had a great deal of information that I was able to incorporate into the film. We covered not only the drama on the plane but also the families as well as the air traffic controllers and military involvement on the ground.
WATM: What was your experience like in working with such talents as Gene Hackman, Danny Glover, Senator John McCain, Kiefer Sutherland, Dennis Hopper, Daryl Hannah, Rob Lowe, Patrick Swayze, Keanu Reeves, Cynthia Gibb, John Candy, Jerry Reed, Joe Pantoliano, Ed Lauter and the like?
After a tryout with the New York Islanders and being assigned to a farm team I made the abrupt decision to become a filmmaker. A good friend of my parents told me something that I never forgot – ‘If you do something you love you increase the odds a hundred-fold that you will be happy and successful.’ I gave it a shot. I ended up doing several military related projects including Bat 21 with Gene Hackman, Faith of my Fathers with Scott Glenn and Shawn Hatosy, Saving Jessica Lynch, Flight 93 and Nightbreaker with Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez.
All were based on true stories. Bat 21 chronicled the rescue of a 52-year-old Air Force Colonel who was flying a mission to identify through electronic surveillance SAM missile sites that would be knocked out by fighter jets prior to a B52 carpet bombing. His plane was hit by a SAM and he ended up in enemy territory with no ground combat experience. He was guided to his rescue by a spotter plane that flew daily missions tracking him. Gene Hackman played the Colonel and Danny Glover the pilot. Both actors were terrific to work with. Gene prepped at night and arrived early in the day to walk the ‘set’ (only locations in our case). I don’t think I ever did more than 3 takes with him in a scene. Danny is a natural and had great insights into his character. All day aerial shooting was done with him in the plane. It was 95 degrees, humid and our takes had to be limited to seconds in some cases. It was major hazard duty, but Danny embraced it. At times he had control of the stick and relied on our stunt pilot in the other seat to let him know when to bank away.
On the set of Bat 21 with Gene Hackman and Peter. Photo credit Peter.
Clayton Rohner and Danny Glover in Bat 21. Photo credit IMDB.com
Faith of my Fathers was based on John’s McCain’s early days at Annapolis through his release from the Hanoi Hilton where he was imprisoned for 5 years. Shawn Hatosy was remarkable as he had to age 20 years over the course of the film in portraying John. Scott Glenn was perfect, giving an understated yet powerful performance as his father who was commander of all U.S forces in the Vietnam theater. McCain himself visited the set in New Orleans where we reconstructed an abandoned brewery into the prison. One day I watched him walk over to a cell by himself and enter. I joined him and asked him what he thought. His reply, ‘it’s identical. But you know at times I actually miss it.’ Perplexed, I asked, ‘miss what?’ John replied, ‘being there. I made some great friends. It was one of those shared experiences that forms you for the rest of your life.’ That summed up John McCain for me.
Peter, Shawn Hatosy and Senator John McCain on the set of Faith of my Fathers. Photo credit Peter.
Saving Jessica Lynch was a jingoistic, short of the facts script when I received it. I did extensive research which included interviewing soldiers who were in Iraq and one we hired as an extra who was part of the actual rescue effort. The final product told the real story: A convoy consisting of essentially non-combat personnel (cooks and clerks) made a couple of bad decisions and ended up driving through a town inhabited by Fedayeen. The New York Times and other reputable news outlets broke stories that our film debunked. Lynch did not shoot back during the attack. Eleven American soldiers died. She was taken to a hospital and was on her back through her rescue. The Times wrote a retraction after the film aired praising the film for its authenticity.
Laura Regan in Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com
Pete and Laura on set. Photo credit PM.
A scene from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com.
Peter directing a scene of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.
Just before filming starts on the set of Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit IMDB.com
An action sequence from Saving Jessica Lynch. Photo credit PM.
Nightbreaker was a pet project of Martin Sheen. It chronicled the use of army soldiers as guinea pigs to determine the short- and long-term effects of being exposed to a nuclear blast. This was a story from the 50s when nuclear proliferation was at its apex. Emilio plays Martin role as a young man during the actual tests. It tracks the character in middle age trying to come to terms with his involvement. Both actors were terrific to work with and inhabited the pervasive guilt from being involved in the malignant endeavor. Joey Pantoliano played a Sergeant who was in charge of a platoon of guinea pig soldiers and brought the entire range of conflicted emotions to his part.
Peter with Martin Sheen on the set of Nighbreaker. Photo credit Peter.
Joe Pantaliano, Peter and Emilio Estevez on set for Nightbreaker. Photo credit IMDB.com
Peter and Martin on set. Photo credit Peter.
Flight 93 was the first film about 9/11. Obviously, there was a military component as soon as it was discovered that it was a coordinated terrorist attack. I remember someone seeing the film and mentioning that it must have been harrowing to make. I noted that our fuselage (the real interior of a 757) was flying at an altitude of one meter, zero knots and within a 15 second walk to craft services (snacks). The best we could do would imagine how we would have reacted in the situation. Would we have been that heroic? Would we be at the head of the conga line attacking the cockpit or hiding in the bathroom in the back? Maybe somewhere in the middle? The coordination between the military and the civilian air services was impressive even though three of the four targets were hit. The passengers on 93 had more time to gather information and communicate with ground control so enable them to coordinate an attack.
Peter on the set of Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com
What the outside of the set looked like. Photo credit PM.
Peter working with the cast on Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com
More on set work for Flight 93. Photo credit IMDB.com
93 was an intense journey as are all films. Lots of moving parts, decisions, conflicts and compromises. But ultimately it is teamwork that wins out.
Rob Lowe, Pete and Patrick Swayze on set for Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com
Pete (bottom center) with the cast and some crew of Youngblood. Photo credit IMDB.com
Youngblood was a passion project and a blast to make. It was about a young hockey player from the US trying out for an elite Canadian junior team. Rob Lowe, Pat Swayze and Cindy Gibb were the leads. Keanu Reeves played a goalie and it was his first job in a film. Goalies are characters because it’s such an insane position and he was totally quirky in the audition. Rob was great to work with. He had no previous experience skating but progressed quickly enough for us to make it work. He had two doubles who filled in the action scenes who were both elite players.
Pat was a figure skater and quickly adjusted to hockey skates. Rob would agree with me that Pat was a force of nature. He’d be working on 10 other personal projects when not on the set. He composed the song ‘She’s like the Wind’ in his hotel room using a portable mixing setup. We had two scrimmages a week during prep with crew and our hockey extras. Our extras were elite players (two went into the NHL a month after wrap and had huge careers). An executive from MGM came up to make sure I wasn’t participating in the games for obvious reasons and was taken to the rink and just as he sat down, he saw me collide with another player. Pat who knew the exec was there skated over to me and said ‘stay down. He’ll have a heart attack.’
Rob, Peter, Ed Lauter and Ken James. Photo credit PM.
Pete on the ice with his DP Mark Irwin. Photo credit PM.
Tony Danza, Pete, Nick Tuturro and Samuel L. Jackson on the set of Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com
Frank Vincent, Tony Danza and Pete on Dead and Alive: The Race for Gus Farace. Photo credit IMDB.com
Danny Glover and Pete sharing a moment. Photo credit PM.
Dayton Callie, Michael Madsen, Pete and Dennis Hopper on the set of The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com
Pete on the set of “The X-Files” with David Duchovny. Lily with the poncho, Pete, David and Melinda (Pete’s wife) Photo credit IMDB.com
Peter and Louis Gossett Jr. on the set of El Diablo. Photo credit IMDB.com
Pete and Daryl Hannah taking a break on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com
WATM: As a veteran, how do we get more veteran stories told in the Hollywood arena?
There are so many diverse stories that can be told. The multiple perspectives include what branch of service, when, the mission, the soldiers involved, fact or fiction etc. Like any project it depends on the strength of the narrative and its ability to attract the actors that help finance the project and the studio/production company to green light it. Personally, I think the number is infinite. All conflicts are different just like every individual is different.
Dennis Hopper, Pete and Kiefer Sutherland on The Last Days of Frankie the Fly. Photo credit IMDB.com
Gillian Anderson and Peter on the set of “The X-Files”. Photo credit IMDB.com
WATM: What are you most proud of in life and your career?
First would be having a family which I did at an advanced age. I met my wife, Melinda, while casting a television film. I guess you could call it an acceptable version of the casting couch. That is to say I wasn’t the only one in the room and it wasn’t at the Peninsula Hotel. She was the best actress for the part, and I was immediately attracted to her by her performance and presence. We laughed and argued (about the role) in the room. I knew she was going to be a challenge, but it has made our lives infinitely interesting. And, of course, I’m a guy and like most of our species have not progressed that much from the stone age. We have two kids, Lily and Lucas. As moms and dads know, when children make an appearance, life as you knew it evaporates. But in a good and challenging way. When they got into their teens, I learned so much. Such as I was a horrible dresser and not to yell at basketball or soccer officials. We taught them both to ski and the progression of literally carrying them down the hill to not being able to ski any of their favorite double black runs with them is humbling. You realize that you can give them some direction but that they are on their own paths and need to fumble and fall and learn to pick themselves up again.
Per career I think it would be not willing to quit. To keep trying. I never had a film gross 100 million and did not play one game in the NHL, but I was rewarded in countless ways for my efforts. I have met so many wonderful, dedicated, talented people along the way which is one of the most valid ways to judge one’s life. And I can say that my time spent in the Army was an integral part of the on-going journey.
Snipers are considered one of the most dangerous warfighters in the battlefield, taking out targets from concealed and undisclosed locations while homing in on prey that has no clue that they’re even in the crosshairs.
So who in their right mind would challenge a highly-trained sniper to a duel without having a weapon?
You ever imagine the guts it takes to be an infantryman trying to kill a tank? Sure, we develop a new missile to make the job easier every few decades, but that still leaves a dude in 35 pounds of body armor going up against a 41-ton tank. And the infantryman often has to get within 2.5 miles of a tank that can kill him from 5.5 miles away. Luckily, Raytheon has a new plan for that.
Unsurprisingly, that plan includes buying lots of Raytheon’s Javelin missiles. But if you can forgive us some enthusiasm, we’re willing to give them a pass if it means America is getting remote-controlled tank killers.
Basically, Raytheon put its missile into a Kongsberg remote launcher and mounted that on the Titan unmanned ground vehicle. The advantage would be clear. Infantrymen who need to kill a tank would no longer need to expose themselves to enemy fire.
Instead, they can send out the Titan, line up on the tank, and fire the missile. And since it’s a Javelin, they don’t even need line of sight on the enemy to kill the tank. Javelins, as the name implies, can fire up into the sky and then dive back down onto their target.
And the Javelin is “fire-and-forget.” So once the missile is launched, the firer can start re-positioning the drone. And if the tank or another enemy combatant manages to get a shot at the drone before it gets hidden away again, that’s still way better than the current situation where that counter fire would hit a U.S. Marine or soldier.
Veterans are a diverse group filled with all sorts of different types of people. Much like any other group, there tends be a lot of disagreements among its members over all sorts of things, like if growing a beard means you’re no longer a Marine or whether Okinawa is a real deployment (it’s not). But, at the end of the day, some people get out of the military acting a lot like they did when they first showed up.
When you first get out of boot camp, you’re called a “boot.” You’re the new employee — the FNG, if you will. As a freshly minted service member, there are some traits you likely exhibit, like being covered head to toe in overly-moto gear or telling every single person you meet that you’re a part of the military.
Most of us outgrow these tendencies as we settle into the routine of life in service. But we’ve observed a strange phenomenon: After service, some veterans regress to their boot-like behaviors. Specifically, the following:
You can make fun of them, but remember that it’s just that — fun.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)
Insulting other branches
It’s one thing to joke around with other veterans by calling the Air Force the “Chair Force” or the Coast Guard “useless,” but it’s another thing entirely to be a genuine a**hole because you actually think your branch is best.
As a boot, you might really feel this way — after all, you just endured weeks of pain to get where you are and pride fools even the best of us. But if you still feel this way after you get out… You’re still a boot.
Dismissing someone else’s status as a veteran or a patriot because they don’t share your views is just dumb. Boots think people aren’t real patriots if they don’t join the military, but there are plenty of other ways to be patriotic outside of joining the armed forces.
Neither of these two are superheroes — but both might think so.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Samuel King Jr.)
Talking up your service
Being in the military doesn’t make you some kind of superhero. You’re not the supreme savior of mankind because you’re a veteran. You’re a human being who made a noble choice, but that doesn’t make you Batman.
Telling everybody you meet about your service
Boots, for some reason, will tell every man, woman, child, and hamster that they’re in the military.
Some veterans are guilty of this, too, but it usually comes in the form of replying to any statement with, “well, as a veteran…” It’s not any less annoying.
You know this is where most of your time went.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. M. Bravo)
Exaggerating your role
Some veterans love seeing themselves as modern-day Spartans or Vikings. In reality, a lot of us ended up cleaning toilets and standing in lines. Boots have the same tendency to over-glorify what they do in the military, making their role in the grand scheme of things seem much more important than it actually is.
On April 1, 2001, a U.S. Navy EP-3E intelligence-gathering aircraft hit a Chinese J-8II fighter in mid-air, forcing the Navy intel plane to make an emergency landing on nearby Hainan Island – on a Chinese military installation. One Chinese pilot was killed, and the American crew was held captive and interrogated by the Chinese military.
Meanwhile, a trove of Top Secret American intelligence and intel-gathering equipment was sitting in Chinese hands.
A Chinese J-8 fighter.
The EP-3E Airborne Reconnaissance Integrated Electronic System, also known as ARIES, aircraft is used for signals intelligence gathering. Much of what these planes do is a close secret, and no one except its crew members really know how or what information they track, which makes what is now known as the “Hainan Island Incident” all the more damaging. When the crew of the EP-3E was forced to land – without permission – on the Chinese military base, it was basically handing China some of the U.S. military’s most secret equipment.
At the end of the EP-3’s six-hour mission, it was intercepted by Chinese jets near Hainan Island, itself an extremely important signals intelligence base for China. One of the Shenyang J-8 interceptors made three passes on the EP-3E, accidentally colliding with it on the third pass. The hit damaged the Navy plane and tore the Chinese fighter in two. After recovering from a steep, fast dive, the Navy crew tried to destroy all the sensitive equipment aboard. Sadly, they had not been trained on how to do that. Protocol for such an event would have been to put the plane into the sea and hope for rescue. Instead, the crew poured coffee into the electronic equipment and threw other sensitive documents out a hatch.
The EP-3E spy plane was flown out by a third party in an Antonov-124 cargo plane, the world’s largest.
The crew conducted an emergency landing on Hainan Island’s Lingshui Airfield, where they were taken into custody by the People’s Liberation Army. They were interrogated and held for ten days as the United States negotiated their release. The Chinese demanded an apology for both the illegal landing and for their dead pilot, which the U.S. publicly announced. The plane required extra negotiation, as the Chinese wouldn’t let the United States repair it and fly it out. The Navy had to hire a Russian company to fly it away.
When the Russians came to pick up the plane, they found it torn apart by the Chinese. It was returned to the Navy in pieces months later – and the Chinese presumably learned everything about America’s most sensitive signals intelligence equipment. A later inquiry didn’t fault the crew. In fact, the pilot received the Distinguished Flying Cross for saving the crew and the aircraft. Documents later released by Edward Snowden revealed the Navy didn’t know how much sensitive material was aboard and inadequately prepared the crew for this eventuality.