We regularly read about wars both past and present. Yet there are few of us who truly know what it’s like to be there. The accounts below are told by the brave men and women who fought on the front lines, as well as those intrepid reporters who documented war in person. From World War II to the battlefields of Vietnam, these seven works provide insight into the triumphs and terrors of armed conflict.
7. We Were Soldiers Once… and Young
We Were Soldiers Once… and Young examines Ia Drang, one of the most significant and brutal battles of the Vietnam War. Written by Lt. Col. Harold Moore, with the help of journalist Joseph L. Galloway—the only journalist on the ground at la Drang—the book tells the harrowing tale of the American soldiers who never gave up, despite the devastation that surrounded them.
6. This Kind of War
The book that Defense Secretary James Mattis recently recommended in response to rising tensions in North Korea, This Kind of War analyzes the Korean War—as told by a man who was there. Often referred to as “the forgotten war,” Fehrenbach, who served as a U.S. Army officer during the war, provides a powerful reflection on its destruction and how unpreparedness led to the loss of so many lives.
5. Valor in Vietnam
Looking at the Vietnam War through the lens of those who were there, Valor in Vietnam offers 19 different stories of triumph and tragedy. Presented in chronological order, the accounts are emotional, intense, and personal.
4. Goodbye Vietnam
William Broyles’ memoir covers his life from the time he was a college student—hoping not to be drafted—to his service in Vietnam and his return to the country years later, in an attempt to come to terms with the bloody war. Though he was enrolled at Oxford when the Vietnam War began, Broyles realized he could not let his class or education stand in the way of his civic duty. He subsequently enrolled in the marines. And while he survived, he wasn’t able to move on until he confronted his past and returned to the former battlefields of Vietnam.
3. Eyewitness to World War II
This military bundle includes three books from Richard Tregaskis, a World War II reporter who bridged the gap between the soldiers on the front lines and those waiting at home. Including Guadalcanal Diary, Invasion Diary, and, John F. Kennedy and PT-109, Tregaskis, who travelled with the Allies during WWII, recounts the bravery and sacrifice he witnessed.
2. Special Ops
Orr Kelly, a journalist who served as a war correspondent in Vietnam, tells the stories of the military’s elite forces. The bundle includes Brave Men, Dark Waters; Never Fight Fair!; Hornet; and, From a Dark Sky. From the Navy SEALs to the US Air Force Special Operations, Kelly details the courage and resilience of these unique fighters. In Never Fight Fair!, the Navy SEALs tell us, in their own words, about the history of their special force and what it takes to be one of the elite.
1. In Pharaoh’s Army
A National Book Award finalist, In Pharaoh’s Army chronicles Tobias Wolff’s experiences as an army officer in the Vietnam War. Present during the Tet Offensive, one of the largest military campaigns that took place during the war, Wolff tells his story and how it has affected him both in and out of Vietnam.
The ongoing volcanic eruptions from Hawaii have been so massive that astronauts can see them from space — and the pictures are incredible.
Ricky Arnold and AJ Feustel, US astronauts stationed on to the International Space Station, posted dramatic photos to Twitter of the ash plume emerging from the Kilauea volcano on the east of the Big Island.
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
The volcano erupted on May 10, 2018, and is showing no signs of slowing down.
The crater is already emitting noxious fumes which can make breathing difficult for children and elderly people. The ash cloud has reached as high as 12,000 feet about sea level.
Feustal wrote: “It is easy to see the activity on Hawaii’s Kilauea Volcano from the International Space Station. We hope those in the vicinity of the eruption can stay out of harm’s way.”
(Ricky Arnold / Twitter)
Lava and molten rock bursting from the volcano’s fissures also destroyed at least 26 homes and four other buildings over the weekend, forcing 1,700 people to evacuate.
The US Geological Survey issued a rare “red alert” warning, which means a major volcanic eruptions is imminent or underway, and that the ash clouds could affect air traffic.
Here’s a shot of the volcano from a lot closer to the ground:
(Kevan Kamibayashi / US Geological Survey)
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
On stage, Gary thanked Second World War veterans for “defeating tyranny over 70 years ago”.
“Just imagine the world if we had not succeeded in defeating that tyranny all those years ago,” he said.
“I’m grateful for these heroes and all who continue to defend us. It’s a gift to be able to use some of the success that I’ve had in the movie and television business to try to do some good for those who serve and sacrifice each day for our precious freedom,” he added.
“It’s a great country. I’ve been so blessed over the years.”
General Robin Rand, head of the US Air Force Global Strike Command, described Gary as a “true American patriot”.
Addressing Gary on stage, he said: “My friend and brother Gary doesn’t stop. Like a tiger in battle, he doesn’t quit. He’s just there for us, quietly and without fanfare. You’re a humble servant and you’re a valued friend to American warriors who serve in ill forgotten places. Your star is a legacy of service and a legacy of love.”
Other guest speakers at the event included “Everybody Loves Raymond” actress Patricia Heaton and “Criminal Minds” star Joe Mantegna.
Gary was presented with the 2,606th star on the Walk of Fame.
ABOARD THE COAST GUARD CUTTER STRATTON, in the eastern Pacific Ocean — The drone is loaded onto a catapult on the flight deck. From a control room, a technician revs the motor until the go-ahead is given to press the red button. Then the ScanEagle lifts off with a whoosh and, true to its lofty name, soars majestically over the wide blue sea.
The U.S. Coast Guard cutter Stratton is steaming more than 500 miles south of the Guatemala-El Salvador border, along the biggest narcotics smuggling corridor in the world.
Its mission: intercept vessels hauling cocaine bound for America’s cities.
It is a monumental task that has grown even larger in the past few years because of a boom in coca production in Colombia. But the Coast Guard is bringing more intelligence and technology to bear.
Deep within the 418-foot Stratton, which is based in Alameda, California, specialists crunch data from radar, infrared video, helicopter sorties and now the Boeing-made ScanEagle, which was deployed aboard the Coast Guard cutter for the first time during this three-month mission.
“In the earlier days, when you wouldn’t see or catch anything, we used to pat ourselves on our back and say we must’ve deterred them,” said Adm. Paul Zukunft, commandant of the Coast Guard, with more than four decades at sea. “Now rarely 72 hours go by when you don’t have an event or we send a ship down there that doesn’t come back with multiple interdictions.”
The Associated Press spent two weeks in February and March aboard the Stratton, the most advanced ship in the Coast Guard fleet, as 100-plus crew members patrolled the eastern Pacific, through which about 70 percent of the cocaine consumed in the U.S. passes.
With three to five Coast Guard cutters covering 6 million square miles — from the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico to the eastern Pacific Ocean — it’s like having a few police cars watch over the entire lower 48 states.
Just after lunch on the second day of deployment, the Stratton’s PA system starts piping out acronyms. A TOI, or target of interest, has been detected by the ScanEagle with the support of aircraft radar, and a go-fast boat slides down a rear ramp into the blue waters to begin the chase.
In just a few minutes it catches up with a fishing boat, called a panga, with two outboard motors.
Sometimes smugglers frantically dump their cargo over the side or try to make a run for it, forcing their pursuers to fire warning shots or shoot out their engines. But this time, the boat’s crewmen, some of them barefoot, offer no resistance.
The four suspected smugglers sit handcuffed as a Coast Guardsman takes out some vials to conduct a chemical test. The results come back positive for cocaine, and the two Colombians and two Ecuadoreans are put aboard the cutter.
Hidden in the bales of cocaine is a GPS tracking device in a condom, a sure sign the drug bosses behind the shipment knew right away it didn’t reach its destination.
At sunset, the Stratton’s crew proudly poses for a picture with the haul while a black plume rises above the sea where the boat was set ablaze by the Coast Guard. A few hours later, the Stratton fires its cannon and sinks the vessel.
The next morning the ever-rising Narcometer in the on-board newsletter reflects the size of the bust: 700 kilograms (over 1,500 pounds) of pure cocaine with a wholesale value of $21 million. On the streets in the U.S., it could be worth more than five times that.
The Stratton’s biggest bust — a Coast Guard record — came in 2015, when it found more than 16,000 pounds of cocaine worth $225 million before the smuggling craft, a hard-to-detect semi-submersible vessel, sank with some of its cargo still aboard.
As good as the Coast Guard gets, its victories seem doomed to be short-lived. That’s because hundreds of miles to the south, in the jungles of Colombia, there’s a bumper harvest taking place. And Colombia is virtually the only source of cocaine smuggled by sea in small vessels.
That, along with better technology, may help explain why the Coast Guard has been coming back with ever-larger hauls. It set a record in 2016, seizing more than 240 tons of cocaine with a wholesale value of $5.9 billion and arresting 585 smugglers.
Last year, the amount of land devoted to coca cultivation in Colombia climbed 18 percent to an estimated 188,000 hectares (465,000 acres), according to a White House report. That is more coca production than at any time since the U.S. in 1999 began investing billions in an anti-narcotics strategy known as Plan Colombia.
“What we know here out at sea is that the business has been really good in the last couple of years,” said Capt. Nathan Moore, the Stratton’s skipper.
The surge is being driven in part by Colombia’s decision in 2015 to suspend aerial spraying of crop-destroying herbicides because of health concerns.
At the same time, there was a rush among peasant farmers to start growing coca so they could take advantage of generous payments to switch to legal crops being offered as part of a peace deal between the government and Colombia’s rebels.
Thus far, 55,000 families have signed pledges to rip up 48,000 hectares of coca in exchange for as much as $12,000 over two years. The government is also expanding manual eradication of coca, a slower and far more dangerous task, with the goal of destroying 50,000 hectares this year alone.
But many experts are skeptical that poor farmers will renounce coca growing, especially as criminal gangs fill the void left by the retreating rebels. Also, a successful drug run can net each smuggler a small fortune that makes it well worth the risk of a long prison sentence for many.
Such dynamics help explain why, despite the Coast Guard’s technological superiority, four drug-running boats are thought to get through for every one caught, Zukunft said.
Those taken into custody for smuggling are put in white hazmat suits, given health exams and then led into a converted helicopter hangar aboard the Stratton, where they are shackled to the floor and issued a wool blanket, toiletries and a cot or a foam mat. Eventually they are flown to the U.S. and prosecuted at American expense.
The alternative would be to seek prosecution in Central American countries such as Honduras, where the vast majority of crimes go unpunished.
More than a dozen nations in Central and South America have essentially outsourced their drug-interdiction efforts to the U.S.
“Imagine you’re out at Ocean City, Maryland, and then out of nowhere comes this foreign helicopter and it starts peppering a U.S. recreational boat with automatic machine gun fire and sniper fire. We would say it’s an act of war,” Zukunft said.
“But that’s the faith and confidence these countries have in the U.S. and our Coast Guard.”
There’s nothing more irritating to troops and veterans than sitting down and watching a military film only to be distracted by inaccuracies. We’re not just talking about uniform infractions or other minor goofs — everyone makes mistakes. Sometimes, however, the scripts are just so fundamentally flawed that us veterans can’t help but start chucking things at the screen.
Thankfully, for every stinker that insists on ignoring the on-set military advisor, there’s a great film that gets it right.
The team here at We Are The Mighty recently got a chance to sit down with Gerard Butler, star and producer of the film Hunter Killer, to discuss the production crew’s commitment to portraying the lives of U.S. sailors as accurately as possible in the upcoming thriller.
The wardrobe department pulled off some outstanding attention to detail. From the bottom of our hearts at We Are The Mighty, BZ, ‘Hunter Killer’ wardrobe department! BZ!
There really isn’t any better way for filmmakers to faithfully capture the essence of military life than by deferring to those who serve — and that’s exactly what Gerard Butler and the crew of Hunter Killer did throughout pre-production and rehearsal.
Butler spent three days aboard a real Virginia-class submarine, carefully watching every detail and nuance of actual submariner life to better tell their story. Even the tiny details — like the order in which commands are given — were analyzed, written down, and implemented when it came time to shoot. And when they put theory into practice, the authenticity was immediately apparent.
That extra step helped put all the actors into the frame of mind they needed to truly portray submariners in the heat of combat. Butler told us,
“We actually wrote [the details of submariner life] into the script and we realized it was a whole other character in the story. And when we started — the difference that it made!”
Butler knows full-well that the devil’s in the details when it comes to military movies. He told us about his time aboard the USS Houston, when he sat down to watch a much-beloved naval film with the sailors. It was the eye-opener to say the least.
“When I sat to watch… with the submarine crew, and they’re all like taking ownership of the movie and they’re like, ‘that’s bullsh*t!’ while the captain is like, ‘That’s sh*t! You think that’s good, but that’s bullsh*t! He’d never wear that hat! What are those stripes? He wouldn’t say that!'”
Needless to say, Butler and the rest of the Hunter Killer crew recognized how important these details are for us and our community.
Be sure to check out Hunter Killer when it’s released on October 26th.
Iran has made waves announcing new weapons, like the Bavar 373 and Qaher 313 in recent years, and they’ve been conducting a lot of tests. Iran even claimed to have copied the RQ-170 “Beast of Kandahar” reconnaissance drone after one of the American spy planes made a forced landing in Iran.
But are these systems paper tigers? According to the National Interest, the Iranians may not have thought through their Qaher 313 very well. In fact, the Qaher 313 may be in the pantheon of “most useless combat planes” that includes such luminaries as the Boulton-Paul Defiant and the Brewster F2A Buffalo.
In fact, when Iranian-made versions of the Chinese C-802 missile were fired at American ships on multiple occasions this past October by Iranian-backed Houthi rebels, they failed to score any hits, and drew a retaliatory strike.
The Qaher 313 is touted as Iran’s fifth-generation stealth fighter, capable of carrying 2,000-pound bombs, Chinese PL-12 missiles, and other weapons. That’s the hype. But what is the reality?
The claim drew skepticism, with the National Interest reporter recalling a comparison of the Qaher 313 to a GI Joe toy. One of the reasons is that the Iranians appear to only have the option of using reverse-engineered versions of the J85 engine, which is used on their inventory of F-5E Tiger fighters.
The aircraft’s size has also caused some discussion, with some believing that the Iranians displayed a small-scale mock-up. Others, though, have claimed that the plane is just a propaganda exercise — and a poorly executed one, at that. Haaretz.com called the plane a “glorified mock-up” that “won’t cause any panic in the Israeli Air Force’s intelligence wing.”
This isn’t the only such dispute. Iran’s claims to have copied the RQ-170 also drew skepticism, with some claiming the Iranians had built a static mock-up. It should be noted that Iran has successfully built naval vessels, notably the Jamaran-class frigates and the Peykan-class missile boats, as well as an indigenous coastal submarine.
The Kremlin says Russian President Vladimir Putin is open to searching for compromises with his U.S. counterpart on “all” issues except the status of Ukraine’s Crimea region, which Moscow claims is part of Russia.
Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov made the comments on July 2, 2018, ahead of a planned summit between Putin and U.S. President Donald Trump in Helsinki on July 16, 2018.
Relations between Moscow and Washington have deteriorated to a post-Cold War low over issues including Russia’s seizure of Crimea in March 2014, its role in wars in Syria and eastern Ukraine, and its meddling into the 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Peskov said on a conference call with reporters that Putin “stated multiple times and explained to his interlocutors that such an item as Crimea can never appear on the agenda, considering that Crimea is an integral part of Russia.”
“All the rest are matters [subject to] consensus, discussion, and a search for possible points of contact,” he added.
Trump, asked on June 29, 2018, whether reports about him dropping Washington’s opposition to the Russian annexation of Crimea were true, said, “We’re going to have to see.”
White House national security adviser John Bolton, who met with Putin in Moscow on June 27, 2018, later ruled out the possibility of abandoning Washington’s opposition to the takeover.
“That’s not the position of the United States,” he told CBS on July 1, 2018.
The European Union, the United States, and other countries have imposed sanctions against Russia over actions including its seizure of Crimea and its role in a war that has killed more than 10,300 people in eastern Ukraine.
Writing a five paragraph order is boring. Who really wants to sit there and write, by hand, 20 pages of a battle plan for the sole purpose of showing your platoon leadership you have some tactical sense and that you’re not a moron? Nobody! It sucks and you’ll almost never get to see how your plan plays out.
If you want to develop a strategy, actually see it unfold beautifully, and revel in sweet, sweet victory, you should play a real-time strategy game.
RTS games have been around for decades now and you can play them either on a console or a computer (though we strongly recommend you use a computer). They’re not for everyone, but if you’re a team leader itching to use your tactical knowledge in a more immersive sense, playing one might be good for you. Here’s why:
If you can find a worthy opponent, it’s an extremely rewarding experience.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Chris Hubenthal)
You can go up against other people
If you want to practice against a computer AI, by all means. But if you get one of your buddies at the barracks to go up against you, the two of you can turn it into a competition and see how it feels to put your skills to the test against someone else. Pitting yourself against some AI is fun, but nothing’s quite as dynamic as a human opponent.
If you own the skies, you can own the battlefield.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Aaron D. Allmon II)
You can implement realistic strategies
Though every game is different, no matter which you pick, you’ll likely need to consider avenues of approach and utilizing forces to create blocking positions to restrict enemy movement. These are real-life strategies, yes, but they’re also things you must do to find success in most RTS titles.
Another common theme is the use of explosives and air assets to dominate, softening targets to push your enemy to a breaking point.
There’s no risk in burning fictional currency.
Build up your forces using fake money
In real life, it costs millions of dollars to build a functional and efficient military. So, it makes good fiscal sense to not give to give a Lance Corporal the reins for a week just to see how they do. In an RTS, you can harvest resources and burn them on any desperate gambit without staring down a massive bill.
It’s kinda like this.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman First Class Rylan Albright)
There’s no real blood involved
Loss of life in real war is tragic but, in an RTS game, your troops aren’t real people — so who cares? That being said, you still get a glimpse into how big of an effect losing a small unit can have on your efforts at large. As a leader, learning the value of every single troop is essential.
With practice, getting to this point won’t be much of a challenge.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. David N. Hersey)
You get to see the consequences of your choices
Making a mistake in real life can be costly in a lot of different ways. In an RTS game, you can make all the mistakes you want, see the consequences of your actions, and not have to worry about the loss of resources or lives. It’s a good idea to learn these lessons before the end result is tragedy.
Back in May, the Army Times ran a piece announcing that the Army was officially looking to replace the M16 family of weapons and the 5.56mm cartridge with a weapon system that is both more reliable, and has greater range.
As the article states, they’re taking a hard look at “intermediate rounds,” or rounds with diameters between 6.5 and 7mm, that have greater range and ballistics than either the 5.56 x 45 or the 7.62 x 51, both of which are old and outdated compared to the crop of rounds that have sprung up in the last decade or so. The thinking is, with these newer rounds, you can easily match the superior stopping power of the 7.62 without sacrificing the magazine capacity afforded by the tiny 5.56 cartridge, while still giving troops better range and accuracy.
Coupled with a more reliable platform, preferably one that doesn’t jam up if you so much as think about sand getting in it, this could potentially be a game changer for the US Army.
Now, me personally, I think this is great. I’ve had a chance to play around with a couple of these intermediate calibers, and I quickly fell in love. I’m not one of those guys who despises the 5.56, because, for what it is, it’s not a bad little round. It’s got decent ballistics out to a decent range, and you can carry a lot of them. But, when you compare it to something like the 6.5 Creedmore, one of the rounds reportedly being considered as a replacement, it’s like comparing a Mazda Miata to a Lamborghini Aventador.
And hey, a new rifle would be pretty great, too. The M16 platform has been around for ages, and while its modular nature means that it’s endlessly adaptable, the direct gas impingement operating system is a right pain in the ass. Advances in firearm technology over the past half century have given us plenty of options, and it’s high time we took a look at them.
But giving soldiers a more reliable weapon with greater range is kinda pointless if we don’t address one of the Army’s most persistent and glaring faults: its marksmanship program sucks. There’s no one part of the thing we can point to as being problematic. It’s not just the BRM taught at Basic, or the qualification tables. The whole thing, from start to finish, really, really, sucks.
What’s the point of giving soldiers a shiny, new rifle if they can’t hit the broadside of a barn with the one they’ve got?
Now, before you break out the pitchforks and your Expert qualification badges, sit down and think about what I’m saying. Unless your MOS directly involves shooting things in the face, when was the last time you went to the range during the workday for something other than qualification? When was the last time you broke out the rifles for anything other than to qualify, or to clean them for inspection?
For most of you, that answer will be either the last time you deployed, or never. And that’s a huge problem.
Over the last ten-and-a-half years in the North Carolina Army National Guard, I’ve spent more time being told not to kill myself or rape people than how to shoot. I don’t have a problem with qualification myself; I can reliably shoot high sharpshooter to low expert. But I also make a point to shoot recreationally whenever I can. Not everyone has that option, and plenty of folks who do don’t take advantage of it.
For most folks, the entirety of their marksmanship training will consist of three weeks in Basic, the few days out of the year when they go qualify, and maybe a few days or even a week or two of extra training when they mobilize. And that simply isn’t enough.
Nevermind that the Army’s qualification system is stupid and outdated. Shooting static popup targets at ranges between 50-300 meters is a good start, but to rely on that as the sole measure of a soldier’s ability to engage the enemy is insane. According to the Army Times article linked up at the top, one of the driving forces behind looking for a new round is the fact that something like half of all firefights occurred at ranges greater than 300 meters. Meanwhile, your average soldier doesn’t even bother shooting at the 300 meter targets, because they know they can’t hit the damn things.
If the Army’s quest for a new sidearm is any indication, the search for a new rifle will take at least a decade, untold millions of dollars, a half-dozen Congressional inquiries and investigations, and probably a few lawsuits before they settle on the final product. Which means there’s plenty of time to teach soldiers how to shoot before the new gear ever starts filtering its way through the system.
As a starting point, come up with a comprehensive training plan that utilizes Basic Rifle Marksmanship, then build on that foundation throughout the soldier’s career. Get soldiers to the range more often. Update the qualification tables to more accurately represent the threat they’re expected to face. Enforce qualification standards like PT standards, and offer regular remedial training for folks who fail to meet those standards.
Or just carry on before and put a shiny new rifle in the hands of a kid who barely knows which end goes bang. I watched a guy from out battalion’s Forward Support Company shoot a 6 this year. That’s good enough, right?
When veterans of World War II returned home to McMinn County, Tennessee, they probably weren’t surprised to find that many of the same politicians from before the war were still running the place. A local political machine run by Paul Cantrell had been suspected of running the county and committing election fraud since 1936.
However, when the sheriff’s deputies began targeting the veterans with fines for minor arrests, the vets suspected they were being taken advantage of. One veteran, Bill White, later told American Heritage magazine:
“There were several beer joints and honky-tonks around Athens; we were pretty wild; we started having trouble with the law enforcement at that time because they started making a habit of picking up GIs and fining them heavily for most anything—they were kind of making a racket out of it.
“After long hard years of service—most of us were hard-core veterans of World War II—we were used to drinking our liquor and our beer without being molested. When these things happened, the GIs got madder—the more GIs they arrested, the more they beat up, the madder we got …”
By early 1946, the vets and the townspeople were tired of what they saw as corrupt practices by Paul Cantrell and his lackeys. The vets started their own political party with candidates for five offices. The focus of the contest was the race for sheriff between Paul Cantrell and Henry Knox, a veteran of North Africa.
Everyone knew that the election could turn violent. Veterans in nearby Blount County promised 450 men who could assist in any need that McMinn County had on election day. In response, Cantrell hired two hundred “deputies” from outside the county to guard polling places.
What happened next would go down as the “Battle of Athens,” or the “McMinn County War.”
Tensions built on election day as the veterans faced off with the special deputies. By 3 p.m., an hour before the polls closed, violence broke out. Deputies beat and shot a black farmer who tried to vote and arrested two veterans who were then held hostage in the Athens Water Works. Other veterans responded by taking hostage deputies who were sent to arrest them. Still, Cantrell was able to fill most of the ballot boxes with purchased votes and get them to the jail, ensuring he would win the election.
While the sheriff and his lackeys counted the votes in the jail, White and the other veterans were getting angry. Finally, sometime after 6 p.m., White led a raid on the National Guard armory to get guns.
White said in a 1969 interview that they “broke down the armory doors and took all the rifles, two Thompson sub-machine guns, and all the ammunition we could carry, loaded it up in the two-ton truck and went back to GI headquarters and passed out seventy high-powered rifles and two bandoleers of ammunition with each one.”
The veterans set siege to the jail, firing on deputies that were outside the jail when they arrived. One deputy fell wounded into the building while another crawled under a car after he was hit in his leg. But, Cantrell and others were safely locked behind the brick walls of the jail. The veterans needed to get through before other police or the National Guard arrived.
Molotov cocktails proved ineffective but at 2:30 in the morning, someone arrived with dynamite. At about the same time, an ambulance arrived and the veterans let it through, assuming it was there for the wounded. Instead, Paul Cantrell and one of his men escaped in it.
A few minutes later, the vets started throwing dynamite. The first bundle was used to blow up a deputy’s cruiser, flipping it over. Then, three more bundles were thrown. One landed on the porch roof, one under another car, and one against the jail wall. The nearly simultaneous explosions destroyed the wall and car and threw the jail porch off of its foundation.
The deputies in the jail, as well as some hiding out in the courthouse, surrendered immediately. The veterans were then forced to protect the deputies as local townspeople attempted to kill them. At least one deputy had his throat slit and another of Cantrell’s men was shot in the jaw.
The veterans established a patrol to keep the peace. To prevent a counterattack by Cantrell, the vets placed machine guns at all the approaches to Athens, where the jail and courthouse were located.
The rest of the incident played out without violence. Henry Knox took over as sheriff Aug. 4, 1946 and future elections dismantled what was left of Cantrell’s machine.
It’s 7:12 p.m. You’ve got a soggy McDonalds cup sweating sweet tea in your cup holder. You’re driving home after a long day, and the sun is dropping golden light on the horizon. Your sore right foot is pinning down the gas pedal. The fuzzy country FM radio station sharpens a bit, and you hear the beginning chords of a song you know every single syllable of. Maybe it reminds you of your brother overseas. Maybe it reminds you of your spouse’s deployment. Maybe they’re with you listening to it. Maybe they’re not. Chances are, if you have any ties to military service, you’ve had one of these still car ride moments, and been caught off-guard by misty eyes and a head full of thoughts about our nation’s heroes, while a solemn guitar and Southern twang underscore your drive home.
This is about the letter many have written, and fewer have had to read. Tim McGraw sings, from the perspective of a soldier, writing a potential farewell letter. We don’t know if the soldier comes home. All we know is he wrote it to his wife. Like so many others have done, and will continue to do. It’s a testament to those who have been willing to make the sacrifice for those they love, as much as it is a testament to those loved ones who hopefully won’t have to read. “So lay me down, in that open field out on the edge of town/ And know my soul, is always where my momma always prayed that it would be.”
John Michael Montgomery – Letters from Home Official Music Video
The first time you hear this song, it catches you by the throat in the third verse. John Michael Montgomery builds us in the walls of a world that feels gritty but perseverant in the first two verses. We hear of men finding gallows humor overseas. Then comes a letter from the old man… “But no one laughs, cause there ain’t nothin funny when a soldier cries.”
Tracy Lawrence paints the picture of a soldier talking to his buddies. These aren’t necessarily family members, they feel somehow more intimate to the solider in the story. They share beer together, he jokes, and they laugh. He doesn’t ever want to get his buddies down, he wants them to raise hell and drink and remember him with love, not with sadness. We can all remember a conversation over a couple dozen beers ending with the same altruistic, tough, sentiment. Plus—high school football. “On Friday night sit on the visitor side, and cheer for the home team.”
This song was actually written and performed by Bruce Robison first. The song was then optioned and made famous by the Dixie Chicks. Although the Dixie Chicks politically polarized country music fans in 2003, the rendition of the song is unquestionably impactful. There is a vulnerable broken to its performance. The female vocals also lend another layer to the song, as the song is about a high school girl after all. “Our love will never end/ Waitin’ for the soldier to come back again.”
David Ball’s tone feels a little bit lighter than the other songs on the list in “Riding with Private Malone.” In that lightness though, there is deep feeling. The casual nature that he delivers the story of a soldier knowingly bestowing his ride to whoever picked it up next, shadows how selfless the act of service can be. It’s discreet. It’s quiet, it’s between two people. It has gas pumping through it, and life, and it is passed down from generation to generation. “Though you may take her and make your own, you’ll always be ridin’ with Private Malone.”
Lee Brice – I Drive Your Truck (Official Music Video)
Lee Brice belts onto our list with the most recent entry into tearjerking country ballads. Here we find a brother left to find meaning and reason to his life after his brother makes the ultimate sacrifice. He connects with him by tearing up fields and peeling out in his old truck, blaring the same country station he left it on, highlighting the connective power of country music in the lives of people around the military. “People got their ways of coping, Oh and I’ve got mine/ I drive your truck.”
One thing that has always struck me as disappointing in songs about soldiers is that the survivors get forgotten somewhere along the line. This ain’t the case with Toby Keith’s “American Soldier.” It captures perfectly the duty that soldiers are responsible for. It brings to mind the simple, tough, resiliency of the military life, and it exalts those who answer its call. “And I can’t call in sick on Mondays/ When the weekend’s been too strong.”
The late Merle Haggard knew his way around storytelling. A soldier telling his momma not to scold him for having shaky handwriting on a battlefield is a tragically human moment. We can guess how young the soldier is. We can guess how long he’s been overseas. We can’t guess how desperate his momma felt. It captured the feeling of an era, the generation of young boys lost in Vietnam, and the hole that was left back home in their wake. “Then the mother knelt down by her bedside/ And she prayed Lord above hear my plea/ And protect all the sons who are fighting tonight/ and Dear God, keep America free.”
Man, you cut yourself off from the outside world for one extended weekend and you miss everything. Apparently, lettuce is now dangerous and, supposedly, generals carrying “assault” weapons in Afghanistan are dangerous, and some tribe in the Indian Ocean that’s capable of firing a metric f*ckload of arrows into moving airplanes is dangerous, too.
So, if you’ve managed to not die from tainted lettuce or North Sentinelese archers this week, congratulations! You’ve earned yourself some memes.