After the US-led raid in Yemen that resulted in the death of a Navy SEAL and several civilians, Yemen is reportedly barring the US from further special-operation ground missions against terrorists in the region.
Get a group of people off the street, throw them in some cammies, make them do a ton of pushups, put TV cameras in front of them and see if they have what it takes to become Delta Team 6 Air Commandos.
Does anyone ever win those?
But the HISTORY network is trying it again, and this time they may just have gotten it right.
With a roster of no-joke pipe hitters serving as instructors, it’s as if HISTORY took BUD/S, Ranger School, Special Forces Qualification and SERE school, baked them in a cake and fed it to 30 wannabes with extreme prejudice.
That, combined with the fact that the show dubbed “The Selection: Special Operations Experiment” is backed by Peter Berg — the dude who directed “Lone Survivor” — and how can you go wrong?
“Throughout the history of our nation, Special Operations training tactics has played an integral part in our military endeavors and this series gives viewers a rare glimpse into what it takes to be selected among the elite,” said Paul Cabana, Executive Vice President and Head of Programming for HISTORY. “‘The Selection’ will offer civilians the unique opportunity to take part in an immersive, authentic course instructed by different branches leading together, while giving viewers insight into the origins of these challenges.”
With the instructors challenging them both mentally and physically, including tear gas, interrogation simulation, and psychological warfare among other tests, the participants are driven to the point of breaking and are able to remove themselves from the program at any stage. This is not a competition series – no cash rewards – only a test against oneself to see if the mind has the will and strength to push the body to complete the challenges.
“The Selection” will run for eight episodes and premieres December 8. Check out the trailer below and see full episodes on the HISTORY website.
She has managed to provide veterans with over 50 ELIX devices, each from a $210 donation, and now she’s eligible for an Amber Grant that would award her $25,000. All you have to do is click to vote — no sign-ups, no e-mails. Just click to support.
“We’ve learned that the reason people suffer form this pain is because of mixed signals that are being relayed to the nerve endings of the remaining limb and we found that we are able to overcome those mixed signals and disrupt them by using vibration technology,” she reported.
According to a recent report from the Department of Veterans Affairs’ Amputation System of Care, nearly 90,000 veterans with amputations were treated in Fiscal Year 2016.
“Phantom limb pain (PLP) refers to ongoing painful sensations that seem to be coming from the part of the limb that is no longer there. The limb is gone, but the pain is real. TheraV’s ELIX wearable specifically addresses phantom limb pain by stimulating periphery sensory nerves with vibrations. The vibrations activate large sensory nerve fibers, which carry touch and pressure stimulation to the brain. Activation of these large sensory nerve fibers closes the pain gate, thus inhibiting pain signals from reaching the brain.”
The Amber Grants began in 1998 to support women entrepreneurs. They have grown to a ,000 monthly grant and a ,000 annual grant. In March 2019, Amira won the Amber Grant and is now competing for the annual award.
With just two clicks, you can help her provide more devices for veterans with amputations.
Amira wants veterans to know that they can sign up on her website to get the device and is adamant about spreading the message that amputation doesn’t have to mean losing quality of life.
The Russian military recently tested a short-range ballistic missile interceptor that’s meant to detonate a small-yield nuclear warhead in the air over Moscow to prevent a nuclear strike.
But there are a couple of problems with that, mainly that a nuclear blast over Moscow would already provide an electro-magnetic pulse effect that would cripple the city’s electric grid.
The system, called the A-135 AMB, also highlights differences in philosophies between the US and Russia when it comes to missile defense. The US builds missile interceptors that hit to kill, requiring a high degree of precision and guidance. The US’s THAAD missile defense system, for example, doesn’t even have a warhead.
Russia’s solution to the complicated problem of hitting an incoming warhead at many times the speed of sound is to nuke a general area of the sky.
While the US tries to station its nuclear weapons far from population centers, Russia has 68 of these 10 kiloton interceptors all around Moscow, its most populous city. Unfortunately, even in the most careful settings, nuclear mishaps occur with troubling regularity.
Additionally, as Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk writes, interceptor misfires do happen, and with a nuclear tip, that could mean catastrophe.
“It is not clear to me that, if a nuclear-armed interceptor were used over Moscow against a flock of geese, that the Russian command-and-control system would understand it was one of their own or survive the EMP effects. Then all hell might break loose,” writes Lewis.
The fact that the Kremlin is willing to have 68 nuclear devices strewn about Moscow speaks to how much they fear an attack that would threaten its regime security.
The next villain of the Star Wars franchise also happens to be a military veteran.
Meet Adam Driver, the apparent villain of “Star Wars Episode VII: The Force Awakens,” set to be released in December 2015. He’s 31, a graduate of Juilliard, and you’ve seen him in the HBO series “Girls,” along with films such as “J. Edgar,” “Lincoln,” and “Inside Llewyn Davis.”
But before his acting career took off, he was U.S. Marine Lance Cpl. Adam Driver. Shortly after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the San Diego-native decided to enlist.
“I was having an argument with my stepfather, and he was like, ‘Why don’t you join the Marine Corps?’ And I was like, ‘Noooo! Well, maybe, actually … ‘” Driver told Rolling Stone. “I went and saw the recruiter, who was like, ‘Are you on the run from the cops? Because we’ve never had someone want to leave so fast.’ I was like, ‘I’m going to be a man.'”
Stationed at Camp Pendleton with 81s Platoon, Weapons Co. 1st Battalion 1st Marines, the infantry mortarman began training for an eventual deployment to the Middle East. From Military.com:
Unfortunately for the young Marine, Driver injured his sternum in a mountain biking accident before deploying. He attempted to mitigate his debilitated state by training harder than before, if for no other reason than to show off that he was okay. However, after two years of service with no time in the field, Driver was medically discharged.
He served for two years and eight months, but was unable to finish his enlistment in the Marines. Still, Driver has continued to serve the military community. He runs a non-profit called Arts in the Armed Forces, which brings contemporary theater performances to troops free of charge. For now, we can speculate on exactly what his role in Star Wars will be, and of course, be sure to check out the movie on Dec. 18.
When Charles Monroe Baucom returned home in 1919 after his third and final tour of duty with the Army, he struggled to cope.
He had apparently been exposed to a mustard gas attack during World War I, and when he began losing his hearing and vision, he worried he’d also lose his job with the railroad.
Baucom died by suicide five years after he returned to his home in downtown Cary, N.C., leaving behind five children and a cloud of silence around his military record.
Nearly a century after his death, Baucom’s granddaughter, Joy Williams, has worked to restore his legacy to the place of pride she believes it should have always held.
Williams, who lives in Dunn, contacted the Veterans Legacy Foundation, a North Carolina-based nonprofit that tracks down military histories and awards mislaid medals during ceremonies around the country. Williams, 70, showed the organization letters her grandfather had written and asked what it could find out.
On March 26, Baucom, who served as a lieutenant in the Army, was finally awarded the recognition he had earned. During a ceremony in Raleigh, the Veterans Legacy Foundation gave Williams two medals for her grandfather – one for his service in the Spanish-American War and one for service in World War I.
“Most people get so wrapped up in the day that they don’t appreciate the past,” Williams said. “I wish he could have received these when he was living, but I’m proud to have them now in his honor.”
It was tough in the early 20th century for the military to track down veterans, said John Elskamp, who served in the Air Force for 24 years and founded the Veterans Legacy Foundation in 2010. As a result, many soldiers never received their medals.
For Baucom’s family, the foundation bought the Spanish-American War medal from a private collector and received the World War I victory medal directly from the Army.
Thirteen other families were also honored during the event in March. Some received original medals unearthed from a state government building in Raleigh, commissioned in 1919 for North Carolina veterans of World War I.
“People are curious,” Elskamp said. “They want to know, and it’s their family’s legacy. And we think it’s important for everyone to remember that legacy, that this country was built, in my opinion, by veterans and their families. They did a lot of the work.”
No one in Baucom’s family knew if he had ever received medals from his service. He fought in the Spanish-American War in 1898 and then took part in the China Relief Expedition during the Boxer Rebellion in 1900. During that effort, the military rescued US citizens and foreign nationals.
He volunteered when he was 38 to serve in World War I.
Williams’ mother, who was Baucom’s daughter, was 9 when her father died. So Williams, a semi-retired insurance agent who moved to Dunn from Cary 25 years ago, never knew much about her grandfather.
“She never spoke of him,” Williams said of her mother.
Her great-aunt told her the pastor at Baucom’s funeral said the lieutenant’s decision to end his own life would keep him out of heaven. Thinking about that still puts a lump in Williams’ throat.
“My mother, that probably affected her greatly,” she said. “Instead of being proud, they were kind of quiet about their father. It’s really a shame. When you die on the battlefield, that’s honorable. But if you die afterwards, it’s not as much.”
Williams saw a newspaper article about the Veterans Legacy Foundation two years ago and decided to reach out to the group. It appealed to her sense of duty to those forgotten and misremembered by history.
She and her husband, Martin, who are white, are part of a years-long effort in Dunn to preserve and maintain an old cemetery where many of the town’s black residents were buried. Until 1958, it was the only cemetery that would accept them.
Her home in Dunn – her husband’s childhood residence – is full of photos, artifacts and heirlooms from her family, which she said has “been in North Carolina since before it was North Carolina.”
“I don’t like home decor,” Williams said. “I like to be around things that have some kind of meaning.”
Among the items are original letters Baucom wrote while stationed at various military bases and while abroad in Cuba, China, and France. Those, as well as letters he and his wife received, have been painstakingly preserved by Williams.
A letter from Baucom’s attorney gives a sense of the former soldier’s state of mind in the days before he died. The attorney and longtime friend wrote to Baucom’s widow in the days after his death, recounting a meeting less than two weeks earlier.
“He seemed very interested and very much worried over his physical condition,” the attorney wrote of Baucom, “realizing that if he did lose his hearing and his eyesight, that the position he now held (with the railroad) he could not hope to keep.”
Another, from Baucom to his wife, reveals more of what Williams hopes will be remembered about her grandfather – his love of family and pride in his service.
“Tell the boys we will play catch and I will tell them stories when I get there,” Baucom wrote from Camp Merritt, New Jersey, as he awaited a train home to Cary. “Expect to get home in a week or two. Much love from Pop.”
After so many years, Williams is happy to feel pride where her mother felt shame, to have something in her house she can point to as proof that her flesh and blood had something to do with securing the life she now enjoys.
On October 14, 1947, U.S. Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound.
Yeager, a West Virginia native, was a combat pilot during World War II, flying 64 missions over Europe. He claimed 13 Axis kills and was shot down over France. He evaded the Nazis on the ground with aid from the French Underground. After the war ended, he was one of the pilots to test-fly the experimental X-1 rocket plane, built by the Bell Aircraft Company specifically to attempt to break the sound barrier, something many thought impossible.
Many thought the drag from supersonic speed would tear an airplane apart until Yeager flew his X-1 over Rogers Dry Lake in Southern California. A B-29 carried his X-1 to 25,000 feet and then released it through the bomb bay, blasting to 40,000 feet and then to 662 miles per hour which is the sound barrier at that altitude. The rocket plane, nicknamed “Glamorous Glennis,” was designed with a .50 caliber bullet in mind.
The project was still classified however, and Yeager’s speed was not announced until June 1948. He retired from the U.S. Air Force in 1975 with the rank of brigadier general. Yeager, now 92, tweeted this on the 2015 anniversary of his first supersonic flight:
Today, 68 years ago, at 10:24am,I broke the sound barrier w/ only 1.5 minutes of fuel. I told Ridley: Something wrong with this Mach meter
Graduating with a degree or certification is an important milestone and a huge accomplishment. Right now, though, you may be facing some economic challenges as you look for a job during a time of fierce competition and high unemployment rates.
Good news: VA is still hiring. New, open positions are posted daily on our career site, www.vacareers.va.gov.
“VA is always looking for motivated, highly qualified candidates in direct patient care and support positions to help us achieve our mission of providing the very best health care to our nation’s Veterans,” said Darren Sherrard, associate director of recruitment marketing at VA.
At VA, we support new graduates through tuition reimbursement and loan forgiveness programs, and provide pathways to continue your education if you choose.
Pay off your loans faster
At VA, you don’t have to let student loan debt hold you back. We provide many programs to help you pay off your debt faster, from several types of tuition reimbursement to federal loan forgiveness for those working in the public sector.
Through the Student Loan Repayment Program (SLRP), some employees may be eligible for up to ,000 in debt repayment assistance. Be sure to ask about eligibility for SLRP when submitting your application.
Medical professionals in hard-to-fill direct patient care positions might be able to receive up to 0,000 in student loan repayment through the Education Debt Repayment Program. Check job descriptions to see if positions are eligible.
Federal jobs, like those at VA, are also eligible for loan forgiveness. After making 120 payments on your loans while employed full time in public service, you could have your remaining debt balance waived.
Continue your education
Gain marketable skills, valuable training and hands-on work experience through the Pathways Recent Graduates Program. You’ll receive a mentor and a supervisor for dedicated guidance and support, and once you successfully complete the program, you may be eligible to convert to a full-time position.
We also provide scholarships to some full- and part-time employees who pursue degrees in health care. As a VA employee, you can sign up for general or specialized courses from nearby colleges and universities or broaden your work experience through temporary assignments to other agencies.
Enjoy other generous benefits
In addition to education support, you’ll receive competitive pay and performance-based salary increases.
Want to explore another part of the country? We have facilities across the United States and its territories.
Other perks include:
Up to 49 days of paid time off each year.
Paid vacation that accrues right away, unlimited accumulated paid sick leave and 10 paid federal holidays.
Premium group health insurance effective on the first full pay period after start date.
A robust federal retirement package.
Work at VA
Consider making a VA career your first career. Help care for those who have bravely served their nation.
The United States has added its voice to international calls for China’s communist-led government to give a full public accounting of those who were killed, detained or went missing during the violent suppression of peaceful demonstrations in and around Tiananmen Square on June 4, 1989.
In a bold statement from Washington to mark the 29th anniversary of a bloody crackdown that left hundreds — some say thousands — dead, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on Chinese authorities to release “those who have been jailed for striving to keep the memory of Tiananmen Square alive; and to end the continued harassment of demonstration participants and their families.”
To this day, open discussion of the topic remains forbidden in China and the families of those who lost loved ones continue to face oppression. Chinese authorities have labeled the protests a counter-revolutionary rebellion and repeatedly argued that a clear conclusion of the events was reached long ago.
In an annual statement on the tragedy, the group Tiananmen Mothers urged President Xi Jinping in an open letter to “re-evaluate the June 4th massacre” and called for an end to their harassment.
(Photo by Michel Temer)
“Each year when we would commemorate our loved ones, we are all monitored, put under surveillance, or forced to travel” to places outside of China’s capital, the letter said. The advocacy group Human Rights in China released the open letter from the Tiananmen Mothers ahead of the anniversary.
“No one from the successive governments over the past 29 years has ever asked after us, and not one word of apology has been spoken from anyone, as if the massacre that shocked the world never happened,” the letter said.
In his statement, Pompeo also said that on the anniversary “we remember the tragic loss of innocent lives,” adding that as Liu Xiaobo wrote in his 2010 Nobel Peace Prize speech, “the ghosts of June 4th have not yet been laid to rest.”
Liu was unable to receive his Nobel prize in person in 2010 and died in custody in 2017. The dissident writer played an influential role in the Tiananmen protests and was serving an 11-year sentence for inciting subversion of state power when he passed.
At a regular press briefing on June 4, 2018, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said China had lodged “stern representations” with the United States over the statement on Tiananmen.
“The United States year in, year out issues statements making ‘gratuitous criticism’ of China and interfering in China’s internal affairs,” Hua said. “The U.S. Secretary of State has absolutely no qualifications to demand the Chinese government do anything,” she added.
In a statement on Twitter, which is blocked in China like many websites, Hu Xijin, the editor of the party-backed Global Times, called the statement a “meaningless stunt.”
In another post he said: “what wasn’t achieved through a movement that year will be even more impossible to be realized by holding whiny commemorations today.”
Commemorations for Tiananmen are being held across the globe to mark the anniversary and tens of thousands are expected to gather in Hong Kong, the only place in China such large-scale public rallies to mark the incident can be held.
Exiled Tiananmen student protest leader Wu’Er Kaixi welcomed the statement from Pompeo.
However, he added that over the past 29 years western democracies appeasement of China has nurtured the regime into an imminent threat to freedom and democracy.
“The world bears a responsibility to urge China, to press on the Chinese regime to admit their wrongdoing, to restore the facts and then to console the dead,” he said. “And ultimately to answer the demands of the protesters 29 years ago and put China on the right track to freedom and democracy.”
Wu’er Kaixi fled China after the crackdown and now resides in Taiwan where he is the founder of Friends of Liu Xiaobo. The group recently joined hands with several other non-profit organizations and plans to unveil a sculpture in July 2018 — on the anniversary of his death — to commemorate the late Nobel laureate. The sculpture will be located near Taiwan’s iconic Taipei 101 skyscraper.
In Taiwan, the self-ruled democracy that China claims is a part of its territory, political leaders from both sides of the isle have also urged China’s communist leaders to face the past.
On Facebook, Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen noted that it was only by facing up to its history that Taiwan has been able to move beyond the tragedies of the past.
“If authorities in Beijing can face up to the June 4th incident and acknowledge that at its roots it was a state atrocity, the unfortunate history of June 4th could become a cornerstone for China to move toward freedom and democracy,” Tsai said.
Tsai’s predecessor, Ma Ying-jeou, a member of the opposition Nationalist Party or KMT, who saw close ties with China while in office, also urged Beijing to face up to history and help heal families’ wounds.
“Only by doing this can the Chinese communists bridge the psychological gap between the people on both sides of the [Taiwan] Strait and be seen by the world as a real great power,” Ma said.
We are a country divided. As Americans, we seem to have forgotten that we should all play on the same team. Fortunately, we have the United States Air Force to remind us of that.
The newly released video titled Heritage Today: The Same Mission highlights the importance of diversity. One of the more memorable lines states that, “The day you decide to serve isn’t the day you give up who you are, it’s the day you show who you are and we become stronger for having you in our ranks.” From there, they cover the need for diversity in background, beliefs, religion and sexual orientation, and not just tolerance of our transgendered troops, but acceptance.
Human connection and belonging are hallmark traits of happiness and self-worth. By releasing this video, the Air Force is making it clear that they not only welcome diversity – they long for it. Another memorable line states that, “If we can have each other’s backs on the front lines, we need to have each other’s backs when we are home.” You can view all of their videos, here.
The Air Force stood up a special task force on June 9, 2020, to tackle issues including race, ethnic and other demographic disparities. In a memo published by public affairs, Brig. Gen. Troy Dunn stated that, “Over the past few weeks, we’ve been working quietly behind the scenes to tackle these issues. Though we have a long road ahead, I’m really proud of the work this team has done. We want our people to know that we’re steadfast in our commitment to building an Air Force culture of diversity, inclusion and belonging.”
This video showcases their promise of a more inclusive and diverse Air Force.
Words empowering the support of individual identities and a remembrance that we all serve the same nation appears to be a pointed attack on the divisiveness currently tearing the country in two. It also hits on the fact that differences actually make you stronger, faster and more powerful. The Air Force video stresses that its diversity is its strength, something that seems to have been forgotten in the midst of the current turmoil.
Another important takeaway is that the video stresses that although they’ve come a long way, making impressive strides – they aren’t there yet and neither are we as a country. But just because we haven’t gotten there, doesn’t mean we stop working toward a more cohesive and better union. This is a point that the Air Force doesn’t shy away from making, an admission that continued work to ensure inclusion and a focus on diversity only grows, never truly stopping improvement.
The takeaway message of the video is simple: we are stronger together because of our differences. As the video ends, it closes by saying that inclusion isn’t the enemy of readiness, division is. This is advice that not only other branches of service need to follow – but the country as a whole.
A combat controller will receive the Air Force’s highest combat medal for extraordinary heroism, after a service-wide review of medals awarded since 9/11.
The Air Force Cross will be presented to former Staff Sgt. Christopher Baradat, now separated, who had received the Silver Star medal for his essential role in rescuing 150 coalition members in Afghanistan, April 6, 2013.
“Chris Baradat exemplifies the professionalism, courage and lethality of special tactics Airmen,” said Col. Michael E. Martin, the 24th Special Operation Wing commander. “Every day, special tactics Airmen like Chris willingly put themselves in harm’s way to fight and win our nation’s wars.”
While on his third deployment, Baradat was attached to a U.S. Army Special Forces team tasked to support pinned-down coalition forces flanked by enemy fighters in a valley in Kunar Province. As the special forces convoy approached the steep valley, it became clear that the vehicles wouldn’t fit through the narrow mountain path.
Baradat and eight others dismounted and sprinted toward the embattled friendly forces, but came under heavy fire within 1,000 meters of their objective. Without hesitation, Baradat identified the enemy’s position and called in close air support from A-10 Thunderbolt II fighter jets and AC-130 gunships—eliminating the immediate threat. The team pressed toward the friendly forces when they were again pinned down by an avalanche of enemy gunfire from the ridgelines above.
They took cover in a small compound nearby, but the thick walls limited the radio signal, interfering with the ground force’s link to the aircraft above. The team was outnumbered and outgunned, Baradat knew it would only be a matter of time before the enemy had them surrounded.
With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Baradat left cover and exposed himself directly to enemy gunfire to communicate with the aircraft above and protect the team. “That was where I needed to be standing to communicate with the aircraft and to get the mission done,” he said in an interview from 2014.
Although his team shouted at him to take cover, he systematically began engaging the enemy.”I remember repeatedly yelling at him to get behind cover, yet he ignored the warnings, choosing instead to keep fires on the enemy positions,” wrote one of his Army Special Forces teammates about the event.
Baradat controlled multiple aircraft while he stood in the open courtyard–sprayed by dirt as rounds impacted the ground near him– relaying targets he spotted to the aircraft above.
“Throughout the next two hours, I witnessed (Staff) Sgt. Baradat call for fire and utilize eight different aircraft [six A-10s and two AC-130s] to eliminate the enemy threatening both his team and the friendly forces they were sent to rescue,” wrote one of the AC-130 pilots in an after action report. But enemy fire intensified as the single element navigated through the narrow terrain in their armored vehicles, vulnerable to the enemy.
Baradat’s radio connection was limited inside the vehicle, so with no hesitation, he positioned himself on the vehicle’s running board outside the safety of the vehicle’s armor … secured only by a teammate holding onto his belt.
With his body scraping the narrow canyon walls, peppered by falling rocks knocked loose from the heavy machine gun fire, Baradat directed precise strafing runs and bomb drops until the entire team was clear of enemy fire. “You never know what to expect going into any combat situation, but I do feel that the intense and diverse training that I received from … the special tactics community, set me up to handle the stress of the situation,” Baradat said of the battle. “I was only one piece of the puzzle that day; if it wasn’t for the extreme professionalism and fearless intensity of my Army Special Forces team, the mission could have turned out a lot differently.”
In the end, Baradat precisely directed 13 500-pound bombs and over 1,100 rounds of ammunition during three hours of intense fighting, contributing to the safety of 150 troops and destruction of 50 enemy and 13 enemy fighting positions.
“He is an American hero who did an outstanding job under incredible circumstances, seamlessly integrating air power into a complex and dangerous ground mission,” Martin said. The Air Force Cross is presented for extraordinary heroism while engaged in military operations against an enemy of the United States. This is the ninth Air Force Cross to be awarded since 9/11; all have been awarded to special tactics Airmen.
The upgrade was due to a Defense Department-directed review of medals from recent conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan to ensure service members are appropriately recognized for their actions.
Air Force Secretary Deborah Lee James approved nine medal upgrades for eight Airmen, Jan. 17, 2017, including Baradat and Keary Miller, a retired pararescueman from the Air National Guard’s 123rd Special Tactics Squadron.
“I am extremely humbled to receive this award,” Baradat said. “The men who have previously been awarded the Air Force Cross have done amazing things on the battlefield, and it is an honor to be a part of that group.”
NOW WATCH: This airman saved 23 wounded troops during an insider attack
This Veterans Day, moviegoers everywhere can witness the most pivotal Pacific battle in World War II: “Midway.” The production reminds viewers just how precariously America’s future teetered in the early 1940s, and what cost, sacrifice and luck was required to achieve a free and open Indo-Pacific.
Director Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, The Patriot, White House Down, Independence Day: Resurgence) waited ten years before embarking on the heroic story, written by U.S. Navy veteran Wes Tooke. The ambitious storyline begins in earnest in Asia the 1930s, and follows the war in the Pacific through the Midway battle that ultimately changed the tide of war.
The narrative chiefly follows the experiences of two principal characters: Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton (the U.S. Pacific Fleet Intelligence Officer) and Lt. Dick Best (naval aviator and commanding officer of Bombing Six squadron). As with the actual war, numerous other characters help the story take shape. Historic figures like Nimitz, Doolittle, Halsey, McClusky and others played critical roles in the war, and resultantly in the movie.
Actor Woody Harrelson observes flight operations with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis, Aug. 11, 2018, as aircraft trap, or recover, while returning from a mission.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)
The movie timeline has a fever-pitch parade of battles from the attack on Pearl Harbor through the the climactic fight at Midway a mere seven months later. Those portrayed are originally imperfect versions of themselves, who grow personally and professionally. Along the way they are confronted with unimaginable challenges and choices, often with historic consequences.
“I wanted to showcase the valor and immense courage of the men on both sides, and remain very sensitive to the human toll of the battles and war itself,” said Emmerich.
Just as the project was being “green lighted,” Emmerich visited historic Pearl Harbor in June 2016. While there, he saw first-hand the historic bases, facilities and memorials that remain some 75 years on. Home to the U.S. Pacific Fleet, Oahu was the target of the infamous Dec. 7 attack. The island also hosted the headquarters where much of the early Pacific war planning occurred and where information warfare professionals partially broke the Japanese code. Ultimately, this was the location from which Adm. Chester Nimitz made the decision to risk what remained of the Pacific Fleet in the gamble at Midway in June 1942.
Emmerich personally toured the waterfront, including Battleship Row and the harbor where much of the fleet was anchored that fateful Sunday morning. He went on to visit the Pacific Aviation Museum on Ford Island, which includes a dedicated Battle of Midway exhibit. His visit was curated by the facility’s historian and author Mr. Burl Burlingame, who has since passed away. Burlingame provided rich accounts of the opening months of the war, including the attack on Pearl Harbor and the Battle of Midway. Emmerich also got a behind-the-scenes look in the historic aircraft hangar there.
More than 200 extras in period dress on location during the filming of the major motion picture “Midway.”
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)
The tour continued along Ford Island, which included stops at the original USS Arizona Memorial; a Navy seaplane ramp (with Pearl Harbor attack bomb and strafing scars); the Army seaplane ramps (also with strafing scars); and the USS Oklahoma and USS Utah Memorials.
Emmerich and his party then conducted windshield tours of the USS Missouri; the Pacific Fleet Headquarters compound at Makalapa – which included the historic Nimitz and Spruance homes; the temporary office space from which Adm. Kimmel watched the attack on Pearl Harbor unfold; and the famed Station HYPO, profiled throughout the movie Midway, where its operators broke enough of the Japanese code to enable the ambush at Midway.
The visitors were able to glimpse the Pearl Harbor Naval Shipyard and Dry Dock One. In the of Spring of 1942, a battered and bloodied USS Yorktown aircraft carrier limped back to Pearl Harbor following the Battle of Coral Sea. Despite extensive damage, the ship remained in dry dock only three days as shipyard works swarmed aboard to get her back in the fight. Initial repair estimates actually forecast three months to get her operational. The “Yorktown Miracle” resulted in the aircraft carrier being available to join the Midway fight a few days later.
After a full day of exposure to the places and legends who won Midway, the task of pulling it together for one movie might intimidate even the most seasoned directors. Not Emmerich.
“I was really impressed with his enthusiasm for the history and his determination to get it right. You could see the wheels turning in his head with each visit – it was like the movie was coming alive in his mind,” said Dave Werner, who escorted Emmerich and his group during the visit.
Once the Department of Defense approved a production support agreement with the movie’s producers, the writers got busy working to get the script as accurate as practicable. Multiple script drafts were provided to the Naval History and Heritage Command (NHHC). Those same historians viewed the rough and final movie productions.
Rear Adm. Brian Fort, commander of Navy Region Hawaii, left, and actor Woody Harrelson discuss the life and career of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander during World War II.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Charles Oki)
The “Midway” movie writers and producers worked tirelessly with the Navy in script development and during production to keep the storyline consistent with the historic narrative. In a few small instances, some events portrayed were not completely consistent with the historical record. Revising them would have unnecessarily complicated an already ambitious retelling of a series of complicated military battles. The production was representative of what unfolded in the opening months of WWII in the Pacific and does justice to the integrity, accountably, initiative and toughness of the sailors involved.
The naval historians who reviewed the production were impressed.
“I’m glad they did a movie about real heroes and not comic book heroes. Despite some of the ‘Hollywood’ aspects, this is still the most realistic movie about naval combat ever made and does real credit to the courage and sacrifice of those who fought in the battle, on both sides,” said the director of NHHC, retired Rear Adm. Sam Cox, who personally supported each phase of the historical review.
The commitment to getting it right matriculated to the actors honored to represent American heroes.
Harrelson as Adm. Chester Nimitz
Woody Harrelson plays the role of Adm. Chester Nimitz, the U.S. Pacific Fleet commander who assumed command after the attack on Pearl Harbor, through Midway and remained in command until after the end of the war. Harrelson bears an uncanny resemblance to Nimitz in the movie.
In preparing for the role and while in Pearl Harbor, Harrelson called on Rear Adm. Brian Fort, who was (at the time) the commander of Navy Region Hawaii. Harrelson wanted to understand the decisions the fleet admiral took in those critical months, and also wanted to get a sense of the type of naval officer and man Nimitz was. Calm and understated, and renowned for his piercing blue eyes, Nimitz was a quiet, confident leader. And he demonstrated a remarkable threshold for taking calculated risks. Committing his remaining carriers to the Midway engagement was chief among them.
Actor Woody Harrelson, second from left, poses for a photo with sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74) while observing flight operations with sailors.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Joseph Miller)
“Adm. Nimitz came in at an extremely difficult time for the Pacific Fleet. It was really important for Harrelson to understand not just the man, but the timing of his arrival and the urgency of the situation for the Navy and nation,” said Jim Neuman, the Navy Region Hawaii historian who arranged the meeting between Rear Adm. Fort and Harrelson. Neuman also served as the historical liaison representative on multiple sets during the filming.
Harrelson also got underway on the aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis in August 2018 while the ship operated in the eastern Pacific Ocean. While embarked Harrelson got a close look at air operations at sea. He observed the launching and recovery of various naval aircraft, as well as seeing the navigation bridge and other areas critical in ensuring the ship operates safely. Harrelson was also exceedingly generous with his time to interact with sailors, stopping to talk with them, sign autographs and even played piano at an impromptu jam session.
During the visit, he saw first-hand what “Midway” depicts throughout: Navy teams work very closely together to make the impossible become possible.
The Midway battle pitted four Japanese aircraft carriers against three American carriers. Preparing, arming, launching and recovering aircraft from a ships at sea is no easy task. Adding the uncertainty and urgency of war only complicates an already highly complex operation.
Having credible combat power win the fight was only one aspect of winning Midway. Having them in the right location, at the right time, was the work of the information warfare professionals.
Wilson as Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton
Patrick Wilson, who serves in the role of Lt. Cmdr Edwin Layton, the U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer, took great care in accurately portraying his character. He called on the Pacific Fleet’s intelligence officer, just-retired Navy Capt. Dale Rielage. The two toured an unclassified area outside of the still highly-classified offices at the Pacific Fleet. The outer office space is adorned with storyboards that remind the Navy information warfare professionals there just how critical their work was in winning Midway and the war in the Pacific. Also located there is the Pacific Fleet intelligence officer portrait board – with Layton’s picture being the first in a line of dozens of officers who have served in the 75 years since.
Patrick Wilson, right, who portrays U.S. Pacific Fleet intelligence officer Lt. Cmdr. Edwin Layton in the upcoming movie “Midway,” tours U.S. Pacific Fleet headquarters. Here he tours an unclassified outer office dedicated to heritage of the World War II information warfare specialists who helped win the war in the Pacific.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mr. Dave Werner)
After the brief tour, the two sat down and compared notes about Layton’s education, his experiences in Japan and elsewhere before the war, his relationship to Nimitz, and what the relationship was like between the Pacific Fleet staff and the code breakers in Station HYPO. No detail was too small, including typical protocol concerning how staff might have reacted when a senior officer such as Adm. Nimitz entered the office. Wilson’s command of Layton’s history was impressive and exhaustive, and his portrayal in the movie reflects it.
In fact, the research he and others put into the script and portrayals made “Midway” a compelling and believable representation of how information warfare professionals literally helped save the world 75 years ago. In today’s connected 21st-century information landscape, the importance of naval information warfare professionals are even more important to today’s security.
“We were thoroughly impressed with the amount of research he had conducted on his own, and it’s evident he is committed to honoring Layton’s legacy. Besides that, he was a really just a good guy and earnestly interested in learning more about Layton and the history,” said Werner, who escorted Wilson during the visit to the staff.
“Midway” opens in theaters everywhere on Nov. 8, 2019.
Taliban officials have denied a report that its leader, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada, died after contracting the coronavirus.
Foreign Policy magazine, citing unnamed Taliban officials, reported on June 1 that Mullah Akhundzada contracted COVID-19 and possibly died while receiving treatment abroad.
Foreign Policy quoted Mawlawi Mohammad Ali Jan Ahmad, a senior Taliban military official, as saying that Mullah Akhundzada was “sick” after contracting the virus but was “recovering.”
But three other Taliban figures in the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is believed to be based, told Foreign Policy on condition of anonymity that they believed Akhunzada had died of the illness.
Foreign Policy said the coronavirus has stricken a number of senior Taliban leaders in Quetta and in Qatar, where the militant group has a political office.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid on June 2 denied that Mullah Akhundzada or any other senior leaders had contracted the disease or died.
In a tweet, Mujahid accused Foreign Policy of spreading “propaganda” and said Mullah Akhundzada was well and “busy with his daily activities.”
Sayed Mohammad Akbar Agha, a former Taliban military commander who lives in the Afghan capital, Kabul, told RFE/RL that the report of Mullah Akhundzada’s death was “untrue.”
But a Taliban official in Quetta told RFE/RL that he could neither confirm nor deny the leader’s death.
Mullah Akhundzada took over leadership of the Taliban after his predecessor, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansur, was killed in a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan in May 2016.
The reclusive leader is a former Taliban chief justice and heads the militant group’s religious council.
An Islamic scholar, he is said to have strong religious credentials, and has been responsible for issuing fatwas, or Islamic decrees, to justify military and terrorist operations.
Taliban officials told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhundzada had not been seen for the past three months and had not made any voice recordings.
Some Taliban sources in Quetta told Foreign Policy that Mullah Akhunzada went to Russia for treatment.
Foreign Policy reported that many of the Taliban’s senior leaders in Quetta had caught COVID-19, including Mullah Akhunzada’s deputy, Sirajuddin Haqqani, the leader of the Haqqani network.
The network, a Taliban faction, is believed to have been behind some of the deadliest attacks on Afghan and international forces and civilians in Afghanistan.
With the top two leaders out of action, Foreign Policy reported that the Taliban was now being run by Mullah Mohammad Yuqub, the eldest son of the Taliban’s founder and spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar.
Mullah Omar’s death was revealed in 2015, more than two years after he had died in Pakistan.
Mullah Yuqub is a graduate of a seminary in the Pakistani port city of Karachi.
Believed to be in his early 30s, he is said to have the backing of a considerable number of field commanders and the Taliban’s rank-and-file.
Experts say that Mullah Yuqub supports the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in February that is aimed at negotiating an end to the 18-year Taliban insurgency.
It is unclear how a possible change in the Taliban leadership would affect that deal, which calls for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which is committed to negotiating a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing arrangement with the Kabul government.