<![CDATA[Army Times]]>https://www.armytimes.comFri, 14 Jul 2023 04:21:40 +0000en1hourly1<![CDATA[Gore meets Hallmark: ‘The Channel’ is a disastrous Marine heist movie]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/12/gore-meets-hallmark-the-channel-is-a-disastrous-marine-heist-movie/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/12/gore-meets-hallmark-the-channel-is-a-disastrous-marine-heist-movie/Wed, 12 Jul 2023 17:35:21 +0000If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to watch a movie about U.S. Marines replacing the protagonists in the beloved-but-brutal Grand Theft Auto video game franchise, look no further than “The Channel.”

“After their bank heist goes wrong, a desperate criminal, his out-of-control brother, and their motley crew of ex-marines must escape New Orleans and the determined FBI agent who pursues them,” reads the film’s official synopsis.

“Ex-Marines,” for the uninitiated, is about the most offensive thing one can label anyone who has donned the Eagle, Globe and Anchor. Including it in the film’s promotional materials is essentially a titanic red flag from the jump.

Written and directed by William Kaufman (”The Hit List,” “Daylight’s End”), the film ultimately leaves viewers asking, “Has anyone involved in this project ever met a Marine?”

The gist of the story is a band of cash-hungry Marines organizes a New Orleans bank heist that goes completely awry. The film’s two main characters, Jamie (Clayne Crawford) and Mic (Max Martini) are not only brothers in arms, they’re brothers in the familial sense as well.

In one scene, in order to presumably sell the audience on the authenticity of the Marine experience, Mic tells a story to the heist crew about a “haji” he saw “going to town on a f—n’ donkey” during a deployment to Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. The cringeworthy story cuts the tension for the nervous bank robbers as they adjust plate carriers, arm up, and carry out the crime.

But things don’t go according to plan.

As the robbers leave the bank, the FBI engages in an all-out guerilla-style shootout with the heist crew in what appears to be a residential neighborhood — collateral damage be damned.

Contrary to the military mantra of “No man left behind,” the brothers in fact do desert all of their fellow Marines and leave them for dead. Oh well.

Ultimately, though, that’s only one issue in a series of problems plaguing the film. It’s 95 head-scratching minutes of destructive romance, night vision flashbacks to combat in Afghanistan, FBI vendettas, gang wars and a Hallmark-level plot about a father’s love for his child. Oh, and everyone’s accents are all over the map — think Southie boys from “The Departed” — despite the film taking place in Louisiana.

And then there’s a nightmarish scene in which gang members expecting a cut of the heist money take the brothers hostage and threaten to dissolve their bodies with sulfuric acid. As their lives hang in the balance, we learn that for Mic, this lifestyle choice is all about dying a warrior, but for Jamie, the heist was to prove he’s a good husband and a reliable father to his sickly daughter. Awww.

On the upside, the gunfights are pretty fun, and it’ll certainly scratch an itch if you’re tingling for a heist film with gratuitous violence.

For all its gore, however, the movie ends happily on an island in the sun — everyone in white linen — with a lesson about what it means to be a good parent.


“The Channel” gets a limited release July 14, 2023.

<![CDATA[1864 letter recounts Confederate soldier’s masturbation addiction]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/11/1864-letter-recounts-confederate-soldiers-masturbation-addiction/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/11/1864-letter-recounts-confederate-soldiers-masturbation-addiction/Tue, 11 Jul 2023 17:23:07 +0000An 1864 letter sent by Confederate Lt. William Dandridge Pitts to assess the wellbeing of his brother Charles is up for auction — and its contents are brimming with remarkably different strokes.

In the handwritten note, Pitts, an officer who served in the 40th Virginia Infantry until his resignation in late 1862, asks the superintendent of the Staunton-based Western Lunatic Asylum, where Charles was being kept as an inmate, to keep him apprised of his brother’s condition.

Once a private in the same outfit as his brother, Charles was discharged from the Confederate Army shortly after the outset of the Civil War due to an unspecified “illness,” according to documentation reviewed by Live Auctioneers.

At least part of that affliction, based on the professional opinion of Charles’ pre-asylum physician and the accounts of numerous soldiers who served alongside him, was chronic masturbation.

“I have had some conversation with the physician who attended my brother previous to his going to the asylum,” Lt. Pitts wrote to the superintendent, “and he advises me to inform you of the fact, that he had learned from some of my brother’s associates, who were in [military] camp with him, that he was addicted to masturbation, while in camp. He (the physician) is also persuaded of this fact from the conversations he has had with my brother.”

“I missed this scene in Gettysburg,” tweeted historian James Taub, the associate curator at the Museum of the American Revolution who first shared the letter to Twitter.

“Director’s Cut,” another user responded.

The poor soldiers forced to bear witness to Charles’ ailment were no doubt scarred, their visages imprinted with thousand-yard stares well before ever being baptized in the fires of armed conflict.

To this day, desperate cries of “It’s Johnny Reb, not Johnny Rub!” echo throughout the South, particularly in Pitts’ home state of Virginia, which labels itself as “for lovers” instead of for onanism.

The condition of the letter, meanwhile, appropriately titled “[Civil War] Soldier Addicted to Masturbation,” is considered “very fine, with only very minor wear and original fold lines,” according to the item’s listing.

The auction, which includes the unusually paired tags of “Civil War” and “Erotica,” is slated to conclude in mid-August. The current bid is $125.

<![CDATA[Ridley Scott’s ‘Napoleon’ epic looks poised to conquer]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/10/ridley-scotts-napoleon-epic-looks-poised-to-conquer/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/10/ridley-scotts-napoleon-epic-looks-poised-to-conquer/Mon, 10 Jul 2023 20:37:43 +0000The trailer for director Ridley Scott’s (“Gladiator,” “Black Hawk Down”) epic on the rise of French emperor and military mastermind Napoleon Bonaparte has arrived.

The aptly titled “Napoleon” stars Joaquin Phoenix (“The Joker”) as history’s most eponymous warlord. And by all appearances, the intensity of the ruthless conqueror’s rise from soldier to French emperor will be shown in vivid detail — and muted color.

While the film’s battlefield scenes appear as images of utter chaos, the trailer juxtaposes Napoleon’s thirst for power with his lust of romantic pursuits to get an artistic oeuvre about what it means to be a conqueror in all aspects of life.

“The film is an original and personal look at Napoleon’s origins and his swift, ruthless climb to emperor, viewed through the prism of his addictive and often volatile relationship with his wife and one true love, Josephine, played by Vanessa Kirby,” according to an Apple TV+ press release. “[It] captures Napoleon’s famous battles, relentless ambition and astounding strategic mind as an extraordinary military leader and war visionary.”

The trailer concludes with Napoleon lording over a bloody, wintry assault, bombarding soldiers as they fall through thin ice.

“I’m the first to admit when I make a mistake,” he says in the trailer. “I simply never do.”

“Napoleon” debuts in theaters on Nov. 22 before appearing on Apple TV+.

<![CDATA[Horned lizard man deployed as Tinker Air Force Base mascot]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/07/horned-lizard-man-deployed-as-tinker-air-force-base-mascot/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/07/horned-lizard-man-deployed-as-tinker-air-force-base-mascot/Fri, 07 Jul 2023 17:12:40 +0000In a poll a decade ago, some 12 million Americans suggested that lizard people were in control of the government.

Today, we’re finally seeing at least one similar-but-not-really manifestation: a Texas horned lizard that was recently designated as the official mascot of Tinker Air Force Base in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Named “Tink the Mechanic,” the service introduced the mascot to children at the Tinker Youth Center on June 27.

Of course, unlike the conspiracy involving lizard people who don human skin to walk the hallowed halls of Congress, Tink is human-operated.

According to the Air Force, the Texas horned lizard is “a species of lizard that have found a refuge in Tinker’s undeveloped natural reserves. The lizard helps keep the ant population on base in check.”

Readers, however, may recognize this particular lizard as the legendary creature of “hhheheh” meme fame.

All hail Tink.

<![CDATA[Alan Alda to auction off boots and dog tags he wore on ‘M*A*S*H’]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/07/alan-alda-to-auction-off-boots-and-dog-tags-he-wore-on-mash/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/07/alan-alda-to-auction-off-boots-and-dog-tags-he-wore-on-mash/Fri, 07 Jul 2023 14:59:20 +0000The combat boots and dog tags that Alan Alda wore to portray the wisecracking surgeon Hawkeye on the beloved television series “M-A-S-H” meant so much to him that when the show ended 40 years ago, he kept them.

But he’s now ready to let the pieces go, in service of another passion: his center dedicated to helping scientists and doctors communicate better. Heritage Auctions is offering up the worn boots and military identification tags on July 28 in Dallas.

Alda, 87, said he wore the boots and dog tags for the 11-season run of the show centering on a Korean War medical unit. Alda’s character, Benjamin Franklin “Hawkeye” Pierce, was a talented surgeon who helped ease the stress of working in a war zone with quick quips and practical jokes. When the show ended in 1983 with an episode written and directed by Alda, it attracted the largest U.S. audience for any TV show in history.

The boots and dog tags, given to him by the costume department, “made an impression on me every day that we shot the show,” said Alda, who won five Emmys for his work on the sitcom.

Over his long career, Alda has also been a writer and filmmaker, and has worked on Broadway and starred in movies. Currently, he hosts a podcast on communicating called “Clear+Vivid.”

Cast members of

“There’s an old belief among actors that when you put the shoes of the character on, it’s easier to believe you’re the character and I think the boots had that effect on me,” Alda said.

After receiving the dog tags, Alda realized that they didn’t carry his character’s name but the names of two men he thought had likely been real soldiers.

“I saw those names every day,” he said. “It was an interesting experience to put them on. I wasn’t dealing with props. I was dealing with something that put me in touch with real people.”

The dog tags carried the names of Hersie Davenport and Morriss D. Levine. Research conducted by the auction house revealed that both men were discharged from the Army in 1945. According to Heritage Auctions’ research, Davenport died in 1970. Levine, whose first name was misspelled on the dog tag with an extra ‘s,’ died in 1973.

Joshua Benesh, Heritage’s chief strategy officer, said the boots and dog tags have an “incredible” provenance since they have been with Alda ever since the series ended.

“It was pretty thrilling that what he chose to keep was something that endured with him episode after episode, season after season, throughout the entire run of ‘M-A-S-H,’” Benesh said.

Alda said that he kept both items on a shelf in his office, and then stowed in a closet. Auctioning them off after all of these decades made sense to him. “I saw this as a chance to put them to work again,” he said.

The money raised from the auction will go to the Alan Alda Center for Communicating Science at Stony Brook University in New York, a center he helped start to help scientists and doctors communicate better by applying improvisational exercises and communication strategies.

While hosting the long-running PBS series “Scientific American Frontiers,” Alda realized how much his skills as an actor and improviser prepared him for interactions with scientists. The essence of improvisation, he said, is being connected to the person you are talking to.

Alda, who announced in 2018 that he had Parkinson’s disease, said he uses some of the same acting skills to deal with the disease’s effects. The disease, he said, is “a little like improvisation: It gives you something you didn’t expect.” But, he said, “if you work on it, you get somewhere.”

“It’s an opportunity. I solve a lot of puzzles and a lot of problems just getting my shirt on and that kind of thing that I wouldn’t ordinarily have to face,” Alda said. “But if I take it as a game and see how I can win it this time, it’s more interesting.”

LM Otero
<![CDATA[Gone in 60 Minutes: Guard Humvee stolen on July 3 still missing]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/06/gone-in-60-minutes-guard-humvee-stolen-on-july-3-still-missing/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/06/gone-in-60-minutes-guard-humvee-stolen-on-july-3-still-missing/Thu, 06 Jul 2023 19:47:54 +0000For nearly three days one of the most sluggish and conspicuous vehicles to ever occupy a paved road has managed to elude authorities in California’s Sonoma County — and leads are slim.

A California Army National Guard Humvee was reported stolen from a Santa Rosa-based armory on July 3 at approximately 10:30 p.m., California Highway Patrol officer Marcus Hawkins told Military Times.

Police responding to the location, which appears to be the home of the Guard’s 579th Engineer Battalion, arrived to find the armory’s gates smashed open and a trail of debris in the roadway, suggesting the suspect(s) rammed the gates.

The subsequent discovery of a tarp draped over an adjacent chain link fence indicated the individual(s) scaled the fence to enter the facility. There were no weapons or sensitive materials inside the green Humvee when it was taken, Hawkins added.

Approximately two hours after the vehicle was stolen, authorities received three separate calls about a reckless driver speeding near the facility with no lights on. That was the last time the vehicle was seen.

Not since Steve McQueen deftly maneuvered his 1968 Mustang GT Fastback in the ‘68 smash hit “Bullitt” has northern California seen such daring activity behind a wheel.

Initial reports suggested the grand theft moto thief may have had prior military experience.

“I believe that’s a safe assumption,” a CHP officer told ABC. “If you are not in the military, I can only imagine what it takes to start a Humvee.”

Of course, those unfortunate souls who have spent any period lingering in the sweltering heat of a motor pool know it takes practically nothing to start one, not even keys.

The July 3 incident, meanwhile, is not the first time a Humvee has been stolen from a California National Guard facility.

In 2021, the FBI said it recovered an armored vehicle after someone took it from the National Guard armory in the city of Bell, a suburb of Los Angeles.

In another not so fast, only a little furious incident, a man received a nearly three-year prison sentence for stealing a Humvee in 2020 from the Army Reserve Center in Upland, California, and then briefly leading police on a methodical chase, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California.

Both the California Highway Patrol and the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office are involved in the search for the Santa Rosa-based Humvee.

Additionally, personnel with the FBI’s San Francisco branch said they are aware of the incident, “but at this point, the [California Highway Patrol] is the lead investigative agency.”

<![CDATA[The US military’s long history with drag ]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/06/the-us-militarys-long-history-with-drag/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/06/the-us-militarys-long-history-with-drag/Thu, 06 Jul 2023 16:00:00 +0000

Corsets are tightened, tutus are fluffed, and wigs are adjusted. Men apply heavy rouge and step into glossy high heels before entering stage left. The lights shine down and a line dance accompanied by singing ensues.

While this may sound like it has all the modern day trimmings of a drag show, the year is 1942, and the performers are U.S. soldiers.

The U.S. military has a rather lengthy history when it comes to drag shows, particularly during World War II, when cross dress events were not only sanctioned by the Army, but celebrated as a boon for morale. Because the armed forces were officially segregated by sex until 1948, there was little choice for any service member theater production but to employ men as women.

“From Broadway to Guadalcanal, on the backs of trucks, makeshift platforms, and elegant theater stages, American GIs did put on all-male shows for each other that almost always featured female impersonation routines,” writes author Allan Bérubé.

A now famous production known as “This is the Army” included all manner of soldiers in various costumes. In this production, cross dressing was not only encouraged by the military but actually became a nationwide sensation. Though it was originally a Broadway musical intended to fundraise for the troops, it was eventually turned into a movie that starred an actor named Ronald Reagan, who would one day be president of the United States.

The World War II-era shows, which featured men dressed as women, not only provided a platform for troops to decompress during a time of stressful conflict but furnished a safe space for members of the gay community who were clandestinely serving as well, according to New York University New School professor Joe E. Jeffreys, a drag historian.

While the infamous “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” doctrine barring LGBTQIA+ troops from disclosing their sexual preferences while serving didn’t go into effect until 1994, being anything other than heterosexual was prohibited prior. That was expressly stated in 1982 when a ban on gay service members went into effect, but during World War II, being a member of the LGBTQIA+ community was classified as a mental illness and therefore precluded them from serving.

“The United States military, hoping to screen out mentally ill individuals, asked every potential service member questions on their sexuality,” according to the National WWII Museum. “People who were gay and lesbian were forced to answer questions vaguely, or lie about their sexuality, in order to be allowed to serve; otherwise, they would run the risk of being sent home and branded as ‘sex perverts.’”

That didn’t stop them from signing up to serve. Instead, they simply hid their sexuality and joined anyway. And drag became a refuge. Though they put on costumes, in some ways, these troops were in fact donning their true identities, if only for a brief while.

Jeffreys told Military Times that these shows are largely misunderstood now as a solely LGBTQIA+ activity. That was not the case during World War II and prior.

“By and large, the participants in the soldier shows did seem to be heterosexual,” he told Military Times. “Of course, this was at a time when people really were not declaring in the military one way or the other. But it did offer the LGBTQ+ community kind of a reflection of themselves on stage.”

Drag’s origins, Jeffreys notes, came about through an array of historical theater traditions from cultures around the world. For much of history, women were not permitted to be actors, thereby forcing men to perform in feminine roles.

“Drag really took several pathways,” he said. “One of those is the ancient Greek theater, the Kabuki theaters of Asia, the Elizabethan theatre of Shakespeare, but the drag shows that we think of today are not really coming out of that tradition. Drag as we think of it today really is something that begins with Vaudeville and musical, which is the British form.”

It was, in essence, what we today would call a variety show. And during World War II, lighthearted entertainment was not only desired, it was necessary for morale.

“What fascinates me is that the military was supporting these shows, they were producing these shows, even had handbooks of how to put on one of these shows, how to make costuming out of items that the military had access to [like] parachute material, these type of things,” Jeffreys added. “So, the military was actively involved in this.”

Much of the significant drag history from the Greatest Generation’s era, however, has been overlooked by those seeking to ban the practice.

During World War II, soldiers dressed in drag for morale-boosting performances. (National Archives)

“Generally overshadowed in histories of the war by coverage of the USO shows and their more famous stars, these shows produced by and for soldiers were as vital to the war effort, incidentally providing gay male GIs with a temporary refuge where they could let their hair down to entertain their fellows,” according to National Park Service records. “Casts of these shows would travel across the globe to perform for GIs and civilians alike. They featured female impersonation and was even performed at the White House for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt.”

Broadway musician Irving Berlin and actor-turned-Staff Sgt. Ezra Stone were the two men behind the wildly successful “This is the Army,” which, according to historical footage, featured everything from ballet-dancing soldiers in tutus to stirring performances of ballads.

“This is a period of time, when generally speaking, a man in a dress was considered de facto funny,” Jeffreys added. “This is this Milton Berle era of drag.”

But shifting perspective in recent years, particularly from GOP lawmakers, have reclassified drag not as a form of theater art but one of both sexual deviance. After a public outcry from conservative lawmakers over drag shows being held on U.S. military installations, the Pentagon banned the practice altogether.

The ban’s announcement, made on the first day of Pride Month, came after on-base events were deemed “inconsistent with regulations regarding the use of resources,” according to a June 1 statement by Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh.

Although DoD has not financially supported such displays in recent years, performances still had been allowed to take place on base. The ban has already had an impact, meanwhile, with a Pride Month show at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada — featuring a civilian drag queen named Coco Montrese — canceled as a result.

“The Department does not fund drag shows or drag activities,” Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman, Defense Department spokesperson, told Military Times, when asked about that canceled performance.

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who has been outspoken about his negative views on drag shows, tweeted that the cancellation of Pride Month drag shows on military bases was a “HUGE VICTORY.”

“Drag shows should not be taking place on military installations with taxpayer dollars PERIOD!” he added.

In May, Republican senators also penned a note to the Navy, deriding its digital ambassador program for employing Yeoman 2nd Class Joshua Kelley, who performs as a drag queen under the name Harpy Daniels, to aid in recruiting potential sailors through the sea service’s presence on TikTok and Instagram.

Citing a desire to avoid the current controversy, digital ambassador Kelley declined to comment on the ban.

The Defense Department Personnel and Readiness Team, meanwhile, side-stepped the question of why support for drag shows dating back to World War II was recently dialed back. Instead, Schwegman offered that drag is an individual activity troops are allowed to pursue in their free time.

“Service members are diverse and are allowed to have personal outlets,” Schwegman noted. “We are proud to serve alongside any and every young American who takes the oath, that puts their life on the line in defense of our country.”

<![CDATA[A brief history of the combat kilt]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/05/a-brief-history-of-the-combat-kilt/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/05/a-brief-history-of-the-combat-kilt/Wed, 05 Jul 2023 20:32:14 +0000Easy, breezy, beautiful combat kilts...

Dating back to the 18th century in Scotland, the men’s skirt known as a kilt — the version we know today — proliferated among fierce warriors known as Highlanders.

“The kilt is a symbol of honor for the clan which they belong,” according to Scottish historical archives.“ [It] was a manner of dress that afforded the fighting army with possibly its most useful tool.”

The battle skirt, however, had a relatively short life among soldiers and was eventually phased out with the adoption of official uniforms during World War II. But so beloved was the item that it even made its way to American military use.

“There was one unit that wore kilts in combat, and that was the 79th New York Volunteer Infantry, which was originally made up of Scottish immigrants when it was formed in the late 1850s as the Highland Guard,” Matthew J. Seelinger, chief historian for the Army Historical Foundation, told Military Times. “It later went by other nicknames — Highland Regiment, Highlanders, or the Cameron Highlanders.”

These U.S.-based fighters were best-known for their Civil War contributions — particularly during the First Battle of Bull Run in 1861.

“At Bull Run, since the Union Army did not have time to issue a standard uniform, these old militia units wore what they had,” Seelinger added. “There was a variety of uniforms worn at the battle, such as kilts, Zouaves (based on French colonial uniforms), and other examples. There were even cases of Confederates wearing blue and Union soldiers wearing gray.”

Kilts were seen as extremely versatile military garments. Despite the contemporary view that skirts are feminine, some of the most fearsome warriors in Scottish history wore them up until the 1940s, when uniforms became centrally designed by the British.

“In the aftermath of the First Jacobite Rebellion of 1715, independent companies of militia were raised from loyalist Highland clans for policing and peacekeeping duties,” according to the British National Army Museum. “These companies were commonly known in Gaelic as ‘Am Freiceadan Dubh,’ or ‘The Black Watch,’ due to their unpopular nature and their dark green government-issue tartan — the regiment wore kilts as part of its everyday uniform until 1940.”

The Black Watch is known for its legendary bravery in battle across 270 years of service to the British crown. The dark tartan kilts they donned, paired with red coats, made them a fearsome unit to behold. Moreover, while the kilt was intended to distinguish Scots from Britons in the Army, it also proved to be incredibly practical.

“The kilt is more than just a covering. It allowed those who wore it to move much more freely, especially in the Highlands of Scotland where the weather can become very damp,” according to Scottish history archives. “With its tight weave of strong wool, it created a barrier between the rain and skin. When the armies of the past were fighting in Scotland, the kilt with its pleat helped protect the soldier much like armor would.”

Additionally, “When the nights became cold, this garment was easily removed and spread out to create a blanket to keep the person who owned it warm.”

U.S. soldiers might draw a parallel to the popular poncho liner lovingly dubbed “the woobie.”

The kilt was free to be worn in the U.S. military during times without stringent uniform regulations, but it eventually fell out of popular use as units diversified.

“As the war went on and replacements for the 79th came from other ethnic groups, especially German and Irish, the use of kilts ended for the more traditional light blue trousers worn by most Union Army troops,” Seelinger said.

However, there still exist sporadic kilt sightings today, including in contemporary Highland games put on by the U.S. military over the past decade.

Sgt. Tammy Hineline
<![CDATA[Were the “four fingers of death” the worst MRE in military history?]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/03/were-the-four-fingers-of-death-the-worst-mre-in-military-history/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/07/03/were-the-four-fingers-of-death-the-worst-mre-in-military-history/Mon, 03 Jul 2023 12:00:00 +0000Nary has a military meal been so odious as a handful of hotdogs vacuum-sealed in a pouch.

From 1993 to 2000, the Frankfurters, Beef, Menu #6 MRE wreaked havoc on the bowels of service members everywhere and gained a moniker befitting their villainy: the four fingers of death.

Encased in airtight plastic, these four little hotdogs, which are about the length of the average human digit, plop out of the packaging along with a brownish-pinkish sort of liquid. These salty meat fingers were typically paired with “Western Beans” to complete the feel of an authentic barracks barbecue.

So detestable was this meal-ready-to-eat that it even got its own entry on Urban Dictionary.

“The name comes from the main course, which consists of 4 horrible, rancid frankfurter hot dogs,” the post reads. “Also included in this menu are an equally abhorrent fudge bar, mediocre beans in tomato sauce, and apple jelly with crackers, in addition to the standard accessory packet.”

YouTuber Gundog 4314, who reviews vintage MREs, tried out the stinky sausages in 2017 for posterity, and confirmed that they are indeed awful.

“Truly one of the worst MRE’s ever produced and has officially taken the title of the worst ration I have tested to date!” he wrote in the video’s description.

Alas, it was discontinued before the Global War on Terror, meeting its end in 2000. However, some troops reported encountering them in the field as late as 2006. Surplus, for the win.

They were almost as universally hated, it seems, as the era’s veggie and ham omelettes, respectively.

“First one to be traded off,” wrote one Twitter use. “Nicknamed ‘Frank farters.’ Lots of Tabasco allows a person to stomach most anything though.”

Though the DoD Combat Feeding Directorate confirmed the production years of these dirty death sticks, the public affair office would not offer comment on why its reign of terror was a mere seven years.

The U.S. Army Natick Soldier Research, under which the Combat Feeding Directorate operates, does take into account troops’ opinions about what they want to eat, however. It’s just possible that – much like the more recent attempt to incorporate pizza into the MRE menu list – this ballpark frank effort was not exactly a homerun.

<![CDATA[‘You murdered my inbox:’ Reply-all email plagues soldiers, again]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/30/you-murdered-my-inbox-reply-all-email-plagues-soldiers-again/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/30/you-murdered-my-inbox-reply-all-email-plagues-soldiers-again/Fri, 30 Jun 2023 15:53:59 +0000A deluge of mass distribution emails has once again caused havoc for thousands of soldiers.

On June 26, an Army message of unexplained origin spawned a chain reaction of “reply all” emails, which soldiers bemoaned on social media.

One recipient, an anonymous “special agent” with the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division, was so flummoxed by the message that they jokingly responded, “This is Special Agent [...] from Army CID, anyone who hit reply all is now under investigation. You murdered my inbox.”

Alas, public affairs for Army CID declined to comment about the veracity of the sender’s response.

“Just remember folks,” wrote a user on a popular Army subreddit, “There’s the stupidity of ‘replying all’ to a thread with a distro with 30K people on it. Then there’s the stupidity of replying all to point out your frustration about everyone replying all.”

The number of soldiers on the distribution list could not be confirmed, nor could the Army comment on where the email originated or its subject matter.

“The Army is aware of the recent emails sent to a distribution list, which went to a subset of the Army’s email users,” according to Jason Waggoner, an Army spokesperson. “The issue has been resolved and the Army is taking steps to prevent similar incidents in the future.”

One Reddit poster suggested the original email came from a colonel serving in the Pentagon — a chaplain. However, this information could not be verified.

“This man blessed tens of thousands of soldiers, promote ahead of peers,” wrote one Redditor in response to the rumor.

The most recent incident, which Military Times’ Observation Post internally insists on calling the “reply-all-pocalypse,” hearkens back to a mere six months ago when another reply-all tsunami swept up the Army in a sea of angry emails and, of course, memes.

In February, an Army captain requesting to be left off a distribution list inadvertently replied all to more than 13,000 soldiers with the “FA57 Voluntary Transfer Incentive Program.” What followed, according to an anonymous op-ed penned by an officer for Military.com was utter chaos as hundreds more began replying all, kicking off a cataclysm of “stop replying all” emails. Eventually, this lent itself to the proliferation of memes, Rickrolling, and our personal favorite, fake Nigerian prince scams.

While office workers around the world know the scourge of being cc’d onto a message chain so profoundly tedious it’d make you want to claw your eyes out every time your phone buzzes with a “New Email” notification, many soldiers found joy in the reply-all battle that ensued.

“I love when this happens,” wrote one commenter on Reddit. “Makes me feel slightly better about my dumpster fire working situation to be like ‘at least I didn’t email the entire f----- army today.’”

<![CDATA[How soon is too soon? ‘Six Days in Fallujah’ out 18 years after battle]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/movies-video-games/2023/06/22/how-soon-is-too-soon-six-days-in-fallujah-out-18-years-after-battle/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/movies-video-games/2023/06/22/how-soon-is-too-soon-six-days-in-fallujah-out-18-years-after-battle/Fri, 23 Jun 2023 18:10:17 +0000In November 2004, U.S. and allied forces descended upon the insurgent-controlled city of Fallujah in Iraq’s Al Anbar province.

For roughly six weeks they fought house to house and room by room against an entrenched enemy force that had ample time to prepare. The Marines spearheading the assault — many on their first deployment — experienced more combat in weeks than some of their immediate predecessors had during entire enlistments.

By the close of the Second Battle of Fallujah, as it came to be known, fewer than 100 U.S. troops had been killed, but hundreds more had been wounded. Though insurgent forces, who’d once operated with impunity, had been beaten back, the city was left in ruins, hundreds of civilians had died, and thousands were wounded or displaced.

‘Six Days in Fallujah’ promises to provide a realistic urban combat experience, based on a real battle. Does it hold up? Military Times takes a look.

The veterans of that fight would go on to hold an almost mythic status among the Marines who followed in their wake. Acts of bravery and sacrifice were memorialized.

The names of those who fell now adorn buildings and training areas at recruit training facilities and on bases across the Corps, and their stories have been told and retold as a standard for Marines to aspire to.

Now, that battle, and those who fought it, will take center stage on screen — not as a television series or military drama, but as a video game.

“Six Days in Fallujah” releases on Thursday for PC as an early access version through Steam for $39.99. And the first-person tactical military shooter has traveled a long road to get there.

The game, which promises to offer the most realistic depiction of urban combat to date once it’s fully complete in 2024, has its work cut out for it. Its creators also face potential backlash over the decision to model the game on a real battle.

On the one hand, “Six Days in Fallujah” can be viewed as an avant-garde art project that seeks to use gaming to bring players closer to war, combat and those who bear the brunt of it.

On the other hand, its detractors argue that by insisting on realism, the game may be courting controversy to help carry the title, which in its early development stage lacks polish and leaves much to be desired in terms of gameplay, graphics and design.

A GIF of cutscenes and gameplay footage from

Military Times was granted pre-release access to “Six Days in Fallujah,” and in addition to playing for approximately 24 combined hours, we spoke with Marine veterans of the battle to gauge their thoughts on the release.

The controversy

“Six Days of Fallujah” began its journey shortly after the battle upon which it was based when Eddie Garcia, a veteran of the Second Battle of Fallujah and a key member of the team behind the venture, came up with the idea.

It was publicly announced in 2009 when Peter Tamte, then the head of Atomic Games, picked the project up alongside the game’s original publisher, Konami.

It was a bold move at a time when the Global War on Terrorism continued to rage on.

Many veterans of the battle were still serving, Gold Star families were still processing the deaths of loved ones, and most video games that did touch on conflicts in the region scarcely used authentic settings, opting instead to construct fictional desert countries in lieu of Iraq or Afghanistan.

The game’s announcement was met with criticism from veterans, military families, advocates and television pundits alike.

Much of that outcry centered around concerns that the game would allow players to fight as insurgents against U.S. troops. However, according to the game’s FAQ sheet, the latest iteration will not include campaign missions where players are insurgents, nor will the game “recreate the death of a specific service member during gameplay without their family’s permission. Instead, Marines and soldiers describe the sacrifices of their teammates during video interviews.”

The controversy that harried the project’s early development led Konami to wash its hands of the game, a move that suspended development the same year it was announced. Tamte and Atomic Games shelved the project, though they insisted it would one day turn a corner. That happened in 2017, and work on the title began anew.

This latest iteration is developed by Highwire Games, and Tamte is again leading the charge to see it produced, this time with his publishing company, Victura.

To make the game a reality, the developers consulted with more than 100 veterans of the battle, from soldiers, sailors and Iraqi troops to Marines, like Garcia, who also is represented in the game, and who provided photographs, videos and testimonies in an effort to make the gameplay as accurate as possible.

Eddie Garcia, left, seen alongside an in-game rendering from

For Garcia, “Six Days in Fallujah” is an opportunity to capture the experience of rank-and-file Marines at war.

“My unit was really diverse, in every way that word can be defined,” said the former sergeant with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment. “I always felt a movie would be too narrow of a lens to capture our experience in Iraq. A game on the other hand was perfect. A game could capture various perspectives, stories, ideas, and feelings in a way that was personal and intimate. ... My hope for the project was that the game could be a medium for all those things, for a diverse group of Marines, and I believe it succeeded.”

It’s a lofty goal, to be sure, and the margin for error is slim. Some, like John Phipps, a former intel Marine who previewed the game as part of Military Times’ review, argued that the early release version has so far failed to deliver on its promise of realism by shying away from the harsher realities of war.

“Americans need to accept that we shouldn’t have been there. Afghanistan was justified. This wasn’t,” said Phipps, who deployed twice to Iraq, first to Fallujah in 2004 and then to Ramadi in 2005. “I was walking among giants, and saw incredible acts of heroism and sacrifice, but those men shouldn’t have been there in the first place. If you’re going to claim to be realistic, you have to show the good and the bad, and address the ethics of the atrocities that occurred.”

Though other veterans of the battle may not agree with Phipps’ assertion about U.S. military involvement in Iraq, others did agree that endeavoring to portray a historical event should mean being brutally honest about what transpired.

Anthony Alvarado, a former platoon sergeant who fought in the Second Battle of Fallujah with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, stated plainly, “If you’re going to call it realistic, you have to go all the way.”

The game as it stands now

While the final version of “Six Days in Fallujah” — on PC and console — promises claustrophobic close-quarters combat, randomized room layouts and campaign modes from the perspectives of both U.S. troops and that of an Iraqi civilian trying to escape the city, the early access version is considerably more slimmed down.

“Our one promise is that this is the closest that any video game has come to simulating what urban combat is like, from a soldier or Marine’s perspective, but that’s it,” said Tamte. “It’s a very big promise, but it’s also a very narrow promise. We’re gonna follow up on the other promises as early access progresses, but that’s all that we’re promising as we enter early access.”

In practical terms, this means that the early access version of the game includes several co-op missions that require gamers to play with three other players online, either using matchmaking or friends on Steam to fill out a fireteam. The game’s campaign and “operator missions” are not currently accessible.

The version of “Six Days in Fallujah” reviewed by Military Times centered on “Fireteam missions,” or four-player co-op missions, which feature a variety of objectives designed to be tackled with friends.

Each player is assigned a position within a four-man fireteam — fireteam leader, ready, fire and assist — with each featuring unique weapons and abilities. Fire, for instance, carries an M249 Squad Automatic Weapon, and the fireteam leader is equipped with an M203 grenade launcher under his M16A4, as well as a rifle combat optic on top.

A screenshot from

The game uses historical footage and interviews with Marines, Iraqi army personnel and translators, as well as History Channel-style narrations that help set the scene for each objective, whether it’s protecting a convoy, assaulting an al-Qaida stronghold, taking out an rocket-propelled grenade team that threatens air cover, or rescuing a scout sniper team that’s cut off in a building.

Some missions also feature artificial intelligence-controlled light armored vehicles or amphibious assault vehicles that provide resupply and respawn points, and which can also use their gun turrets to engage enemies of their own volition.

In one instance, a mission is introduced by an interview with Marine Lt. Jesse Grapes, a real-life infantry officer who served with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, in the battle and who warns players that “it was real for us very quickly. We had a Marine (killed in action) within five minutes.”

Fire teams, meanwhile, do not fill with AI-controlled teammates if playing solo. Playing without friends will mean fighting through an enemy-occupied city on your own. It will not go well, and that’s by design.

“I have been playing with three of my cousins who were also provided early access,” Garcia told Military Times. “They did not serve in the military. Their only exposure to fighting has been with other games. Our first 10 missions we got smoked. They finally stopped running off on their own and agreed to listen to me and work as a group. Soon after that we completed our first mission.”

This may be some of the realism the game’s developers have touted: To get the most out of it, players need to think, and act, as if it were real.

“The game captures the need to work as a team,” Garcia said. “‘Six Days’ does not generate the need for teamwork with some cheesy game mechanic or overwhelming amounts of enemies. The game just does it by being true to how urban combat was in real life. The enemy will move to take advantage of mistakes, the same way we did.”

Highwire Games provided Military Times with four copies of the game’s review build, which allowed us to play it cooperatively, including with veteran infantrymen who were there at the battle, and in follow-on operations. In addition to playthroughs with veterans, some with professional game development experience, Military Times demonstrated the game to other veterans of the battle to get their perspectives.

“Six Days in Fallujah” gets many things right in terms of accuracy, and it shines when it comes to small details, like Marines aiming over their rear sight and using the front sight post at close range, or when amphibious assault vehicles with packages of toilet paper and MRE boxes come rolling down the street.

Then there are the dim, weak Insight and Surefire flashlights that were mounted to Marines’ weapons during the battle, in addition to many other touches that served as reminders that, yes, the developers consulted with people who were actually there.

A screenshot from

Marine veteran-turned-game developer Jack Lipoff, an infantryman who deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, in 2008 with 3rd Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment, as part of stabilizing operations, and now works as a game developer, praised the environmental detail.

“The city looks very authentic to what I recall Fallujah looking like, though less intact [than] when I was there, obviously,” said Lipoff, who also suggested that many gamers would be frustrated by the flashlights in the dark buildings, since lights of the time were far less bright than modern equivalents that some may be used to.

It’s probably worth noting that “realism” may mean the in-game equipment is crappier than one might expect.

Beyond the technical accuracy, the game promises that every playthrough will be different ― and it delivers on that in spades, with room layouts, enemy positions, and how the opposing force responds changing from playthrough to playthrough.

This greatly amplifies the nervous, frenetic experience of navigating the destroyed city and its nooks and crannies where enemies hide, while also fighting the time limits of most of the missions in the co-op mode. Enemies react to being suppressed, which is an unusual feature for many video games, where AI characters often are unresponsive to rounds whipping past their heads. This means that even if a player’s first shot misses, the enemy may turn and run, or even flinch, affording gamers the opportunity to make a follow-up shot count.

The admittedly few historical details were particularly nostalgic for veterans who served in Fallujah, Iraq, especially for those with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, since their unit is the focus of the game. The decision to use real footage and interviews in the intro videos became a reunion of sorts for some veterans of the battle.

“These are real people that I served with. That’s my Marine right there,” Zach Iscol, a former platoon commander during the battle with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marine Regiment, remarked to Military Times while watching one of the game’s cutscenes.

For others, it offered unexpected Easter Eggs.

Alvarado, now a Los Angeles County sheriff, was briefly transported back to the day he was wounded in Iraq when he saw a clip of Cpl. Thompson, a real-life Marine he’d fought alongside, and who, when Alvarado was injured, removed his gear so they wouldn’t lose it.

“When I got shot, I had this laminated map that they gave to all the platoon sergeants and platoon commanders,” Alvarado recalled. “So, Thompson was removing my serialized gear and any sensitive items, including that laminated map that actually got pierced by the bullet, and I kept asking him to get it back to me, and he said he would, but he never did. It’s been 20 years. I want that map back. That’s my map.”

Other veterans, however, viewed the gameplay with skepticism.

“In a movie theater you are a passive observer; with a controller in your hand you are an active participant,” said Phipps. “If you’re claiming your game will take the player as close as they can to Fallujah without actually being there, you’ve just made an impossible promise. ‘Saving Private Ryan’ was an emotionally devastating film about sacrifice with World War II as a backdrop; it didn’t promise to plop you down in Normandy. ‘Six Days in Fallujah’ has promised exactly that, and it absolutely cannot and will not deliver.”

Lipoff also voiced concerns over what the final product will offer players, noting that he saw “no indication about what the campaign or story will look like and it gives me pause considering the subject matter.”

Comments from Phipps and Lipoff touched on one particular theme that arose during interviews with veterans for this story: There was a general apprehension that a game so focused on the tactical and technical realism of war might overlook the emotional context, the camaraderie between Marines, that actually make moments of combat survivable — and bearable in the years that follow.

But is it a good video game?

Setting aside the ethical debate over whether gaming is the proper vehicle for the topic at hand, there’s still the question of whether or not the game is, in fact, enjoyable to play.

The short answer is: it’s rough.

A screenshot from

Rather than providing players with a few polished missions that play well and an intuitive control scheme, players were left with a system that was clunky and, at times, counterintuitive, such as when it forces players to hold down a button to reload, rather than tapping it once like the majority of established games in the genre.

Additionally, some key gameplay animations led to in-game deaths during our playthrough, like when a player is forced to stand up from behind cover while providing first aid, which results in them immediately getting shot.

As much as “Six Days in Fallujah” promises a realistic experience authentic to history, some things are utterly inauthentic to real Marine Corps equipment and weaponry. Most egregious was the TA31A4 rifle combat optic, known to most people as a type of advanced combat optical gunsight, which is borderline unusable in the game, forcing players to stick with iron sights for more accurate firing.

Other issues include unrealistic weapons sway, which doesn’t happen when a real-life shooter has a proper weld on their rifle; ammo and grenade pouches that flop like gelatin with rudimentary physics; and helmets that “look like something out of Spaceballs,” as one of the Marine veterans who played the game put it.

Then there’s the finicky online matchmaking, the inability to select which missions to play, frozen load screens, audio that cuts out, and players getting booted from parties.

From a pure gameplay perspective, this rudimentary early-access build lacks polish and is difficult to play even without the game’s challenging enemies.

A screenshot from

Based on the early access version of “Six Days in Fallujah” that Military Times was able to test, it’s unclear how the single-player campaign will pan out and if the concerns raised by veterans who viewed or played the game with us will be laid to rest or validated when it releases in full in 2024.

For the time being, “Six Days in Fallujah” only portrays the battle through a series of disjointed firefights, rather than a campaign with memorable characters and a suitably compelling narrative.

It’s an ambitious project, but at this juncture, it fails to hit its mark, leaving players with a game that’s stuck between provocative art and engaging entertainment while failing to fully succeed at either.

And without engrossing gameplay, or a storyline that’s gripping enough to carry you through stuttering performance and downgraded graphics, the controversy surrounding the game is about all its players are left with.

Editor’s note: This story was updated June 23, 2023, at 2:10 p.m EST. to note that Jack Lipoff deployed to Fallujah, Iraq in 2008, not 2009 as originally stated.

<![CDATA[Pentagon Porta-John painting the unwitting unifier of officer-enlisted]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/23/pentagon-porta-john-painting-the-unwitting-unifier-of-officer-enlisted/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/23/pentagon-porta-john-painting-the-unwitting-unifier-of-officer-enlisted/Fri, 23 Jun 2023 00:20:51 +0000Junior enlisted service members often bemoan the chasmic disconnect between commanders and those under their charge.

There’s the obvious nature of the work, the motivation — faux or otherwise — for performing such duties and the fiscal rewards that arrive as incentive. To one trudging through a first enlistment, the demographics may as well reside in different galaxies.

Of course, no building more symbolically represents that rank structure divorce than the Pentagon, the military’s ivory tower from which decision makers lord over the collective groans of a vast domain of Pfc. Schmuckatellis.

And yet, it is in that steel, reinforced concrete, and limestone edifice that a unifying painting hangs, not of a battle or hero whose name echoes throughout military lore, but one that affords a rare glimpse into ground so common that it can bridge even the greatest void.

On the wall of the Pentagon’s D ring, 10th corridor, fifth floor, is a painting by longtime military artist Harley Copic titled “Hide Your Head in the Sand.” Its subject matter? None other than a camo netting-covered Porta-John in Iraq.

Within a forward-deployed Porta-John’s steamy confines, the scalding stillness of which can make an exterior 125-degree Iraq afternoon feel, at least momentarily upon exiting, like a fall evening in Montana, rank counts for nothing.

It is the ultimate weight loss program. A haven of unrivaled perspiration that simultaneously houses some of the military’s finest artwork, a collage of flamboyant scribbles that tell a chronological story of a John’s occupants.

It’s only fitting, then, that the Pentagon painting, though more eloquent than the doodles adorning the interior of its iconic subject, would serve as the tether that binds a Pentagon-based senior officer to junior enlisted subordinates.

“For me, the woodland camo netting represents the shattered assumptions of the military as a whole, while the sole Porta-John represents the shattered assumptions of the individual who joins the military for camaraderie but eventually finds only solitude,” Marine veteran and author B.A. Friedman tweeted. “The discarded magazine represents the alluring but ultimately shallow representations of the recruiter who convinces the individual to participate in collective debasement.”

Meaning springs eternal.

Harley Copic exited this world in 2021 at the age of 83, leaving behind hundreds of dazzling portraits of military aircraft and other equipment, many of which hang in the halls of the Pentagon, the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum and the Air Force Museum.

“The best way to explain him is he was an artist all the way through,” Copic’s son Todd said in his obituary. “He was detail oriented. He knew what he wanted, and he would tell you what he wanted.”

Whether the renowned oil painter wanted to depict a subject capable of crossing any military aisle is unknown, but he succeeded nonetheless.

With our heads in the sand, “the violet smells to him as it doth to me.”

<![CDATA[Sir, this is a Wendy’s: CSM says recruiting hurt by fast food industry]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/22/sir-this-is-a-wendys-csm-says-recruiting-hurt-by-fast-food-industry/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/22/sir-this-is-a-wendys-csm-says-recruiting-hurt-by-fast-food-industry/Thu, 22 Jun 2023 19:11:39 +0000The National Guard claims to be facing stiff competition in recruitment from the private sector.

And while that notion may bring to mind high-paying STEM jobs at major companies like Google, Apple, IBM and the like, it is a more surprising industry that has drawn the particular ire of Guard officials: Fast food.

“It’s Wendy’s,” Nevada Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Marco Irenze said. “It’s Carl’s Jr. It’s every job a young person goes up against, because they’re offering the same incentives that we are right now.”

While the Army National Guard has crossed the baseline threshold for recruitment this year by a margin of 699 soldiers, things on the Air side aren’t going as well in the war against Wendy’s.

“This is the most challenging recruiting environment the Department of Defense has probably ever faced,” said Col. Anthony Pasquale, division chief of Air National Guard recruiting and retention. “Projections for where we’ll land, we could land anywhere from 3,000 to 4,000 short.”

Guard officials cited competitive wages and schedule flexibility in private industry as a major hindrance in the recruitment process.

Whereas covering the cost of education through Veterans Affairs programs was formerly a huge incentive to join the military, companies like Wendy’s now offer tuition reimbursement as well.

And of course, employees also benefit from food discounts on such tasty dishes as the Baconator, an item considered significantly more pleasurable than MREs or chow hall dishes.

Stay (chocolate) Frosty.

Petty Officer 3rd Class Danielle Baker
<![CDATA[The Army’s M10 Booker is a tank. Prove us wrong. ]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/21/the-armys-m10-booker-is-a-tank-prove-us-wrong/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/21/the-armys-m10-booker-is-a-tank-prove-us-wrong/Wed, 21 Jun 2023 21:26:54 +0000When the Army formally unveiled its new tank on June 8, the service’s acquisition officials didn’t mince words.

The M10 Booker, formerly known as Mobile Protected Firepower, is not a light tank, they argued.

Doug Bush, the Army’s acquisition chief, said the Booker is a “combat vehicle,” and declined to wade into “esoteric and borderline religious debate among the armored community about what [the word tank] means” when asked why the vehicle isn’t a tank. Never mind that he accidentally called it a tank in his opening remarks.

Maj. Gen. Glenn Dean, who oversees ground vehicle development, took a stab at it during the same roundtable.

“In the [U.S.] Army, the historical use of light tanks has been to perform reconnaissance functions. This is not a reconnaissance vehicle,” Dean said. “It’s not actually a mission match [for a light tank].”

And yet other stakeholders disagree.

The service’s top officer, Gen. James McConville, sounded his opinion on the Booker during a June 13 press conference.

“To me, it’s a light tank,” McConville said, reaffirming his Oct. 2021 remarks at the Association of the U.S. Army conference declaring the same.

Others have been more conflicted.

In 2017, the Booker’s former program manager, David Dopp, said “I don’t want to say it’s a light tank, but it’s kind of like a light tank.”

Even Army Secretary Christine Wormuth acknowledged that “some call it a light tank” during the June 13 press conference.

In order to determine once and forever more whether the Booker is a tank, we at the Military Times Observation Post developed a legal test* based on Supreme Court Associate Justice Potter Stewart’s 1964 concurring opinion in Jacobellis v. Ohio.

“I know it when I see it,” Potter famously argued. He may or may not have been describing his method of determining whether a video was “hardcore pornography” and thus in violation of Ohio’s obscenity law, but it’s a convenient way to make up an official-sounding intellectual framework that just happens to support our (correct and esteemed) opinion.

So let’s evaluate the Booker according to the Potter Tank Test: Do we know it to be a tank when we see it?


The Army named the M10 Booker after soldiers who died in Iraq in 2003 and Tunisia in 1943.

It has full tracks. So do tanks.

It has a 105mm main gun intended for direct-fire engagements. So do tanks, and the original M1 Abrams had a similar cannon.

Its turret can traverse 360 degrees. So can those of tanks.

Its controls mimic those of the M1 Abrams main battle tank.

It doesn’t carry infantry into battle. Neither do tanks.

It’s protected enough to withstand attacks from enemy armored vehicles. So are tanks.

Even Dean, a prominent Booker tank denier, confessed that it “looks like, smells like [and] feels like” a tank.

So why does a faction within the Army tell us to reject the evidence of our eyes and ears?

A potential answer comes via a 2019 white paper — first published by the Association of the U.S. Army, and recently resurfaced by Task & Purpose — in which two officers argue that the service intentionally moved away from the “light tank” label.

The Booker is much smaller than the Abrams main battle tank, which officials say will allow it greater maneuverability and reduced maintenance needs while also providing powerful support to the infantry brigades they’ll join.

But for its advantages, the Booker isn’t supposed to square off against enemy main battle tanks. The white paper’s authors argued, then, that dropping the “light tank” moniker was meant to “dissuade” troops from using it like a main battle tank rather than in the infantry support role they envisioned.

We at the Military Times Observation Post hereby reject the Army’s final, most essential command.

The Booker is a tank, even if it defies the modern armored imagination.

Before today’s main battle tanks devoured their siblings and became one tank to rule them all, armies around the world had different tanks for different functions.

Even the U.S. military maintained a medium tank capability through the M551 Sheridan until 1996 — ten Sheridans from the 82nd Airborne Division’s 3rd Battalion, 73rd Armor completed a combat jump into Panama for Operation Just Cause in 1989. Imagine flinging an Abrams from a plane.

Perhaps modern warfare requires an un-merging of the tank’s intellectual family tree. We’ll leave it to the maneuver doctrine nerds to figure that one out.

But for now? Stop gaslighting us. It’s a damn tank.

* This is not legal advice.

Defense News land warfare reporter Jen Judson contributed reporting to this story, but said she would not wade into the murky depths of this debate.

<![CDATA[‘Priscilla’ trailer touches on Elvis Presley’s time in the Army]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/21/priscilla-trailer-taps-into-elvis-presleys-time-in-the-army/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/21/priscilla-trailer-taps-into-elvis-presleys-time-in-the-army/Wed, 21 Jun 2023 20:11:33 +0000In 1959, Priscilla Beaulieu was a high school Air Force brat high whose father was stationed in Wiesbaden, Germany. Around that time, the 14-year-old attended a house gathering, where she would meet a charming 24-year-old soldier — and her eventual husband — named Elvis Presley.

Now, the actress and ex-wife of “The King” is getting a Sofia Coppola (”Lost in Translation”) biopic produced by film house A24.

Priscilla will be played by Cailee Spaeny (”Pacific Rim Uprising”), while Jacob Elordi (”Euphoria”) will take on the role of Elvis.

Priscilla Ann Presley, now 78, has an extensive history of military connections. In addition to marrying Elvis, who served in the Army from 1958 to 1960, her adoptive father and biological father both served.

“[T]he man I had always called Daddy — Capt. Joseph Paul Beaulieu — had actually adopted me after his marriage to my mother, Ann [Iversen],” she told People Magazine in 1985. “My real father, Lt. James Wagner, a Navy pilot, had been killed in a plane crash when I was 6 months old.”

The Presleys married in 1967, had a daughter, Lisa Marie, in 1968, and divorced in 1973. Elvis died in 1977 from a heart attack. The former couple’s daughter also passed away this past January.

“Nothing in my upbringing could have prepared me for our life,” Priscilla said. “When we met, I was an impressionable 14 years old. He was 24. I was an insecure Air Force brat, unhappily accustomed to moving from base to base,” she wrote.

The trailer for the movie paints a picture of a young girl swept up in the chaos of rock n’ roll fame. Coppola’s signature style has also been deployed, which utilizes music in place of dialogue — with panning shots complemented by dramatic colors.

“Priscilla” is expected to hit theaters in October.

<![CDATA[Why troops should be wary of blue lotus when using vapes, e-cigarettes]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/20/why-troops-should-be-wary-of-blue-lotus-when-using-vapes-e-cigarettes/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/20/why-troops-should-be-wary-of-blue-lotus-when-using-vapes-e-cigarettes/Tue, 20 Jun 2023 23:57:29 +0000An Egyptian plant called Nymphaea caerulea, more commonly known as “blue lotus,” is a flower featuring natural properties purported to help with sleeplessness and anxiety. In high doses, it can also cause paranoia, hallucinations, and even seizures.

However, because it is not considered a controlled substance, blue lotus is legally available in a majority of U.S. states — namely, in the form of vape and electronic cigarette products.

A 2021 study of several service members who ingested such blue lotus products highlighted the concoction’s possible dangers.

“The purpose of the study was to seek to be able to better recognize and identify complications arising from the use of mostly legal products that contain the flower, such as oils for vaping using an electronic cigarette, and to ensure providers can better understand and identify its effects when patients present with symptoms similar to the case studies,” according to Defense Health Agency spokesperson Peter Graves.

The five troops listed in the study came in presenting an array of symptoms, from chest pain to flailing limbs, and, even worse, an inability to identify where they were.

“This case series describes five active duty patients who presented to the emergency department with altered mental status following the use of blue lotus products, four after vaping and one after making an infused beverage,” according to the report. “Patients displayed similar symptoms, including sedation and perceptual disturbances.”

A uniformed TikTok’r with the username “MrYungProdigy” also joked about the hallucinogenic nature of blue lotus in a brief video.


Don’t hit the Blue Lotus #army #marines #navy #militarylife #militarytiktok

♬ When I Hear Music - Debbie Deb

Because it isn’t regulated by the FDA and has psychotropic properties, the U.S. military has added blue lotus to its banned substance list. However, the substance does not show up on urinalysis tests.

“While these products are indeed mostly legal, service members are not supposed to be using them,” Graves added.

Though the Defense Department did not specify how it singles out troops who may be using blue lotus, those caught may face repercussions.

“In general, if a service member is using a banned substance, they are subject to the punitive regulations regardless of the substance,” DoD spokesperson Cmdr. Nicole Schwegman told Military Times.

<![CDATA[Mamma Mia! Sky eatery deafens Waterloo visitors with ABBA, dance music]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/20/mamma-mia-sky-eatery-deafens-waterloo-visitors-with-abba-dance-music/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/20/mamma-mia-sky-eatery-deafens-waterloo-visitors-with-abba-dance-music/Tue, 20 Jun 2023 23:05:20 +0000An estimated 20,000 men perished on June 18, 1815, on the plains of Waterloo, Belgium, the site of Napoleon Bonaparte’s downfall and a dramatic coda to the decades-long Napoleonic Wars.

On that day, Napoleon sought to capture Brussels and separate and divide the armies of the Duke of Wellington and Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher. Despite defeating the Prussians on June 16 at the Battle of Ligny, Napoleon was unable to force them to retreat entirely, meaning they were still free to support Wellington’s force. Needing a decisive victory to prevent an invasion of France, Napoleon decided to attack, according to Antara Bate of HistoryHit.

The climatic one-day battle ranks as the third bloodiest of Napoleon’s campaigns and signaled the beginning of a nearly 50-year peace in Europe.

Today, the hallowed grounds draw over a quarter-million visitors, a number boosted by the area’s panoramic views and serene surroundings.

At least, that was until this month.

Beginning June 1 and running until the end of the month, a “unique dining experience” has popped-up over the battle’s landscape. Advertised as “Dinner in the sky,” the restaurant boasts that adventurous foodies can eat 164 feet above where Wellington defeated Bonaparte once and for all.

According to The Brussel Times, “a total of 3,000 guests will be hosted at a table perched 50 metres above the Lion’s Mound, highlighting the history of the Battle of Waterloo, Napoleon and the Duke of Wellington.”

“Aside from a four-course menu (two starters, a main course, and a dessert),” The Times continued, “diners will be served entertainment by soldiers in full regalia, campfires, cannon, drums and a video mapping animation on the facade of the panorama.”

Tourists making the trek for the 208th anniversary of the battle and perhaps seeking a more somber experience, however, “Couldn’t escape [the pop-up] if [they] wanted to.”

Hoisted by a large crane near the famed Lion’s Mound, the attention-grabbing restaurant went even further on June 18 by treating diners and tourists alike to the dulcet tones of ABBA blasting across the hallowed grounds.

One visitor took to Twitter to describe the tourism-gone-rogue experience, as he was subjected to the famed Swedish quartet’s hit, “Waterloo” as he surveyed the battlefield.

The original Twitter post lamented that “Belgian commercial interests turn[ed] the #Waterloo battlefield into Disneyland.”

The experience ranges from €150 (roughly $164) for cocktails to well over €300 ($328) for an evening dinner.

It remains unclear, however, if Beef Wellington is on the menu.

This story originally appeared on HistoryNet.com.

Santiago Urquijo
<![CDATA[The history behind famous ‘Gay Vietnam Veteran’ headstone]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/16/the-history-behind-famous-gay-vietnam-veteran-headstone/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/16/the-history-behind-famous-gay-vietnam-veteran-headstone/Fri, 16 Jun 2023 19:05:06 +0000In Southeast Washington there is a Congressional Cemetery that serves as the final resting place for nearly 70,000 “noteworthy citizens who left their mark on the city and the nation.”

And while many of the plot’s occupants were Founding Fathers or lawmakers from the Revolutionary War era, there is one more recently interred man whose tombstone is noteworthy because it doesn’t actually bear his name.

Air Force tech sergeant, LGBTQIA+ advocate, and HIV/AIDS activist Leonard Matlovich is buried in the Congressional Cemetery beneath a grave stone that simply reads, “A Gay Vietnam Veteran.”

For his service in Vietnam, Matlovich received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star. He published a memo in March 1975, after 12 years in the Air Force, announcing his coming out as a gay man.

“After some years of uncertainty I have arrived at the conclusion that my sexual preferences are homosexual as opposed to heterosexual,” Matlovich wrote to his commanding officer. “I have also concluded that my sexual preference will in no way interfere with my Air Force duties.”

Alas, the Air Force disagreed, and held a subsequent hearing that led to Matlovich’s discharge despite his exemplary service record.

“During his administrative discharge hearing, Matlovich was asked by an attorney if he would be willing sign a document pledging to ‘never practice homosexuality again’ in order to remain in the military,” according to Air Force history. “Matlovich, protesting the ban, refused. The panel ultimately found him unfit for service and he was given a general, later upgraded to honorable, discharge.”

Coming out, however, made Matlovich into a major player in what would become the gay rights movement, even landing him — in uniform — on the cover of a September 1975 TIME magazine issue alongside a headline that read “I Am a Homosexual.”

Five years later, the Air Force was forced by court order to reinstate him and offer back pay.

He did not, however, choose to return to service. Instead, Matlovich became a gay rights activist in the fight for the equal treatment of the LGBTQIA+ community until his death.

Matlovich died in June 1988 of complications from AIDS. He was just 44.

“Never Again. Never Forget,” his grave stone reads. “When I was in the military they gave me a medal for killing two men and a discharge for loving one.”

<![CDATA[Meet the real WWII tanker who inspired Brad Pitt’s character in ‘Fury’]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/16/meet-the-real-wwii-tanker-who-inspired-brad-pitts-character-in-fury/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/16/meet-the-real-wwii-tanker-who-inspired-brad-pitts-character-in-fury/Fri, 16 Jun 2023 17:11:14 +0000The directive took Staff Sergeant Lafayette G. Pool aback. For weeks, his olive-drab Sherman M4A1 medium tank, its sides painted in white block letters with the name In the Mood, had been in the lead position — the spearheader — for the 3rd Armored Division. But orders were orders.

They came from a fellow Texan, an equally bold man whom Pool respected, Lieutenant Colonel Walter B. Richardson, the commander of the 3rd Armored Division task force to which Pool’s battalion belonged.

“No spearheading today, Pool,” Richardson announced. It was September 19, 1944. The first rays of sunlight began to illuminate the silhouettes of dozens of tanks clustered in his bivouac area near Aachen, in western Germany. “You guys are heroes, and I want you going home to mama safe and sound. You take the flank.”

Pool, a powerful man of 6-foot-2 with dark brown hair and sloping shoulders, looked hurt. Since his 32nd Armored Regiment had come ashore on the beaches of Normandy in late June, his tank crew had proven themselves time and again. By late that year the U.S. Army would conservatively credit In the Mood’s crew with the destruction of at least 275 enemy vehicles (including at least six German tanks), 250 enemy soldiers captured, and some 1,000 enemy soldiers killed or captured. In the three-day span of August 29 to 31 alone, they had been credited with the destruction of four German tanks, three antitank guns, and approximately 50 armored vehicles.

Senior officers were already in the process of writing up Pool for the Distinguished Service Cross, the nation’s second-highest military honor. Pool wondered momentarily what compelled his superior to hold them back now as they pushed into Germany.

Then Richardson explained. America needed heroes back home to support the war effort. Pool and his four-man crew fit the bill. He was a bona fide tanker ace, and his crew’s reign of destruction exceeded that of any other five-man group in the 3rd Armored. Classified as a “heavy” division because of its large size and nicknamed the “Spearhead” Division, the 3rd Armored would see extensive action throughout Europe. Plans had been drawn up to ship In the Mood’s crew back home around the first of October to conduct a war bonds tour and give speeches to rally American support for the war in Europe. Before heading home, though, Pool and his unit were to finish the push through Aachen, deeper into the heartland of Germany. It was an important drive that day, one that Pool’s crew would never forget.

The celebrated Texan tanker came from humble beginnings. Lafayette Green Pool was born on July 23, 1919, just five minutes after the birth of his twin brother, John Thomas Pool. The boys were raised in the small farming community of Odem, Texas, 20 miles from Corpus Christi and the southern Texas coast. As they grew older, the twins were sometimes called “L. G.” and “J. T.,” but Lafayette often went by “Lafe.”

Pool, here in 1949, was a Texan with a talent for boxing, an affinity for cowboy boots, and—as a tank commander with the 32nd Armored Regiment of the 3rd Armored Division—a drive to lead the way in any attack. (U.S. Army)

Upon graduation from high school in 1937, where Lafe was a star football player, he and John decided to enlist in the U.S. Navy. The older brother was accepted, but an eye injury Lafe had sustained at age five got him turned away. Instead, he enrolled in an all-boys Catholic prep school in Corpus Christi, graduated as class valedictorian in 1938, and began pursuing an engineering degree at the Texas College of Arts and Industries in Kingsville.

To help pay for his education, Lafe Pool worked as a foreman on his father’s farm and took up boxing, earning cash prizes for winning matches. He continued to hone his skills in the Golden Gloves amateur league, but never lost sight of the military. When the national draft was instituted in September 1940, Pool enlisted in the U.S. Army, faking his way through the required vision test by memorizing the eye chart before his exam.

In January 1942, Pool joined the 32nd Armored Regiment’s I Company and quickly worked his way up to tank commander with the rank of sergeant. He continued boxing, his nose crooked from his many bouts, becoming regional champ in his weight class and winning all 41 of his matches. A victory in a February 1942 match earned Pool a spot at the Golden Gloves championship in Chicago, but he declined in order to master the latest M3 tank variant his division had just received. Duty clearly came first.

After extensive training, Pool and his 32nd Armored Regiment boarded troopships in New York and, in September 1943, began the journey toward the European Theater. The 3rd Armored Division staged and trained in England, where Pool even managed to jump in the ring in spring 1944 for an exhibition match with the world heavyweight boxing champion, Joe Louis. Against the “Brown Bomber,” Pool suffered his first loss. Although not knocked out, he later admitted that Louis turned him “every which way but loose.”

Less than two months later, on June 23, 1944, Pool and his regiment went ashore at Normandy to experience a different style of fighting. His first In the Mood Sherman — the name coming from a popular Glenn Miller Orchestra release — was knocked out six days later by a German Panzerfaust rocket that killed one of his crewmen.

Pool then became the first tank commander in his regiment to be assigned the new M4A1(76)W Sherman variant, which sported a more lethal 76mm main gun. In late July his crew knocked out their first German Panther tank — the beginning of their string of successes. That In the Mood survived until August 17, when it was disabled by bombs dropped by an American Lockheed P-38 Lightning as Pool’s platoon was clearing German forces near the village of Fromental, France.

Equipped with another M4A1(76)W in late August, the In the Mood crew was called on to assume the role of spearheading — taking the dangerous, most-forward position — as the 3rd Armored Division, on September 1, 1944, began advancing through Belgium and toward the German homeland.

Pool’s crew was solid, having regularly outscored other division crews in gunnery efficiency. That teamwork paid off against German armored forces in the 21 drives In the Mood led in August and early September. His driver was red-haired, 24-year-old Technician Fifth Grade Wilbert Richards, whose baby-faced looks earned him the nicknames “Bunny” and “Baby.” Behind the wheel of his Sherman, Richards was all business.

“He could have parallel-parked that big Sherman in downtown New York in rush hour traffic,” Pool remembered.

His bow gunner and assistant driver, Corporal Bert Close, 19, was vicious in combat with his .30-caliber machine gun. Sporting wire-frame glasses, Close had been dubbed “School Boy” by Pool. In the Mood’s 76mm gunner was a 29-year-old from Illinois, Corporal Willis “Groundhog” Oller, whose perfectly placed shots had knocked out one German Panzer V Panther and Mark IV tank after another. Through each of their fights, Oller had been assisted by skinny-but-strong shell handler Technician Fifth Grade Delbert Boggs, 22, from West Virginia.

Although Lafe Pool was younger than two of his crewmen, they called him “War Daddy” — a nod to a man burning with desire to be in the forward-most position when engaging enemy forces.

“He was confident of himself, and his attitude was good for us all,” Close recalled.

They were stunned along with Pool when Lieutenant Colonel Richardson passed his orders to the team that they would soon be heading home on a war bonds tour.

The men expected the push deeper into Germany that September 19 to be contested. Between July 26 and September 2, the 3rd Armored Division had covered nearly 300 miles, fighting across France and Belgium. Roughly two-thirds of the division’s 232 M4 Shermans had been disabled at least once and replaced or repaired along the way. The Spearhead Division had then pushed forward another 110 miles toward the historic German city of Aachen and Germany’s fortified “West Wall” — a defensive line of bunkers and concrete barriers along its western border known to the Allies as the Siegfried Line.

During that time, crowds of cheering Belgian citizens had handed out chocolates, flowers, and bottles of booze to the first American soldiers they had seen. “I believe that I tasted every drink concocted coming through France and Belgium,” Bert Close wrote to his parents.

En route to the town of Stolberg, six miles east of Aachen, In the Mood and other tanks penetrated the rows of concrete barriers called “Dragon’s Teeth.” During a three-day span, some 79 other Shermans, plus many more scout cars and half-tracks, had been hit and burned out while busting through the West Wall.

Lafayette G.

Lieutenant Colonel Richardson, the task force commander, was slated to oversee the push into Stolberg. The 1st Battalion of the 36th Armored Infantry Regiment would move out at 6:30 that morning to attack Münsterbusch, a western district of Stolberg, with the 3rd Battalion of the 32nd Armored Regiment, Richardson’s usual command, operating in direct support of the infantry.

Not only was In the Mood not in the lead that day, but Pool’s loader, Del Boggs, was not with them. In preparation for the coming war bonds tour, he had been ordered to the medical station for a hearing test and dental work prior to shipping home. Although it wasn’t stated directly, some thought he was being pulled for his own safety; his brother Charlie, who’d been in the same company as Del, had been killed in action two months prior, and Richardson certainly did not want to explain to Mrs. Boggs how he had lost both of her sons just before the second was to return home.

That meant Pool was without the full-time loader who normally would have kept Groundhog Oller’s 76mm cannon firing without a pause. His bow gunner, Bert Close, had often helped pass ready ammunition to Boggs and Oller; now he’d have to serve as the primary loader. As Baby Richards maneuvered In the Mood behind several other Shermans, Close crawled out of his assistant driver’s seat in the tank’s right front and took a seat below Oller.

At 3 p.m., Richardson ordered the task force to attack enemy forces at Münsterbusch. The Germans were heavily fortified with antitank guns, heavy artillery, and mortar platoons. On top that that, word arrived shortly later from the 83rd Armored Reconnaissance Battalion that four Panther tanks were moving about the area. At any time during the prior month, Lafe Pool would have ordered Richards to push their tank forward toward the heart of the enemy’s position. Instead Pool reluctantly watched two other I Company Shermans advance toward Stolberg to sniff out the Panthers ahead of him.

As Pool and the 3rd Platoon moved forward, they came under intense enemy fire. The forward-most Sherman, in the spearhead position — an H Company tank — was struck by a German shell that killed or wounded four of the crew. Tank and artillery fire quickly suppressed this opposition, and by 4:30 the task force had broken through and continued into Stolberg. They advanced into the Münsterbusch area by 6:15 with a force from the 16th Infantry Regiment, 1st Infantry Division, that had been positioned just outside Aachen.

Just before they reached Stolberg, a set of natural and manmade obstacles halted forward movement. Ahead lay a deep gully, with a set of railroad tracks along its side. It reminded Bert Close of a similar draw back home in Portland, Oregon. With the 3rd Platoon held up, First Lieutenant Edward Mangan, who had assumed command of I Company when its previous commander had been killed in late August, ordered the leading tank crew to reconnoiter the terrain for the safest point to cross. Then an I Company jeep came racing up from the rear. It screeched to a halt near Pool’s tank. As the dust settled, a young soldier hopped out and walked up to In the Mood.

Private First Class Paul Kenneth King, 20, from Anderson County, Tennessee, told Pool, “I’m your loader for the day.”

Pool invited the young man to climb aboard and assume the position as Oller’s shell loader. A relieved Close scrambled back into his usual assistant driver’s seat alongside Richards. As King was introduced to the crew, Mangan received word from his scout team that a crossing point through the ravine had been located.

“Okay, Bunny, move out!” Pool called to Richards.

Richards put In the Mood in gear and followed the procession of Shermans across the gorge. Back in his bow gunner’s seat, Close closed his upper hatch and raised his periscope; with word that four German Panthers were roaming about Stolberg, he decided that discretion was the better part of valor. Pool and Oller, standing in the turrets and peering through open hatches, chose otherwise as they scanned the terrain ahead. Trailing the procession with his light tank company of M3 Stuarts, Captain Olin Brewster spotted Lafe Pool in his typical command position — hatch open, standing half exposed as they drove forward.

War Daddy was primed for action. As I Company’s leading elements advanced through the ravine, Pool’s platoon came under fire from a well-hidden enemy on their right. In the heat of the action, no one was certain whether the incoming 88mm shells had come from a German tank or an antitank gun.

Camouflaged Panzer V tanks lie in wait in northern France in summer 1944. That September, an intelligence alert about roaming Panzers had Pool’s crew on high alert. (Bundesarchiv Bild 101I-301-1955-31 Photo: B. Kurth)

It didn’t matter. Pool’s tank and those ahead of him were caught without warning in the German gunners’ crosshairs. The first barrage struck a nearby H Company tank. Pool shouted at Oller to take a shot. In the Mood’s regular loader, Del Boggs, had never missed a beat, but his replacement struggled to quickly load his next shell.

Pool sensed that his gunner was unable to fire as quickly as needed. He wasn’t about to wait for the Germans to unleash another round.

“Back her up, Baby!” he hollered.

Richards shifted In the Mood into reverse, but before he could back up, the German antitank crew found its mark. A shell slammed into the front of the tank’s turret near where Pool and Oller were standing. To Pool, it sounded like a cathedral bell as the round passed through the turret and out the back side as if it were constructed of tissue paper.

The path of destruction was devastating. The shell and shrapnel from the explosion hit the ammo racks, and a scrap of shell hit King in the head. It also sliced through Oller’s left leg and, behind him, through Pool’s right leg. The force of the explosion blew Pool out of the hatch. He hit the ground and tried to get to his feet, but his leg was nearly severed. He collapsed as the limb gave way under his weight.

When Oller came to, he was on the ground about 20 yards behind the tank, having bailed out or been blown out of his hatch by the explosion; in the fog of pain and shock, the previous seconds were little more than a blur. He felt warm blood on his leg and looked down. His left leg was ripped open just above the knee, with bone and tissue exposed as blood spurted from the wound.

Inside In the Mood, two of his comrades were still alive. Richards and Close slammed their hatches open, ready to evacuate if the Sherman went up in flames and threatened to detonate the ready 76mm ammunition. Close turned around and saw his new loader slumped on the floor. King wasn’t moving. The round that caught him in the head had killed him instantly. Without Pool or Oller’s vision above to guide him, Richards drove In the Mood straight backward, hoping to get out of range of the weapon locked onto them.

But the tank reversed just a few yards before another round rocked it. The shell ripped through the M4A1 in almost the same place — although once again the lives of Close and Richards were spared. Since their tank was not yet ablaze, Richards kept moving swiftly backward. Oller looked up to see the Sherman surging toward him and somehow managed to roll his body out of the path of its churning tracks.

Baby Richards’s blind retreat was short-lived. At the edge of the ravine, In the Mood lurched as its treads encountered a large crater. Richards and Close were slammed against the tank’s steel interior as it rolled onto its side and flipped upside down, coming to rest three-quarters overturned. There was just enough space for Richards and Close to crawl out of their escape hatches. As the German gun continued to fire and other Shermans issued high explosives in return, the pair scurried underneath their vehicle to take cover.

Earth and vegetation blasted skyward as a heavy German artillery barrage chewed up the area around three shattered American tanks. In the midst of the pounding, Richards and Close crawled back into In the Mood. Together, they wrestled King’s body through one of the hatches and laid him on the ground underneath their Sherman.

Richards eventually escaped toward the rear of the carnage; Close remained huddled under In the Mood. For more than 45 minutes, gunfire and artillery exchanges continued, some of the blasts close enough to keep him in place.

Nearby, Oller and Pool lay badly wounded, bleeding profusely from their mangled legs. Pool managed to give himself a shot of morphine for the pain, then tried to cut away the ruined portion of his right leg with his own pocketknife. He gave up as Lieutenant Colonel Richardson jumped from his tank and ran to him. Richardson administered a second shot of morphine and shouted for medics.

Two corpsmen braved the enemy fire to reach Pool. They quickly wrapped his leg, then one of them gave him a third shot of morphine, unaware that Pool had already given himself a dose. He was drifting off into unconsciousness as they strapped him to a litter. Before his eyes closed, Pool muttered, “Somebody take care of my tank.”

Other medics made their way to Oller, pulled him from the firefight, administered morphine, and began working on his left leg. He and Pool were then hustled toward the rear lines to an aid station.

When Bert Close finally emerged from under the tank, I Company and their opponents were still exchanging rounds. Steeling himself, he sprinted back several hundred yards to the task force’s forward command post. As he arrived, he heard several officers speaking to a group of war correspondents.

“Sorry we don’t have much news up here for you,” one said.

Close was incensed. I could gladly show them a place where they can get some news! he thought.

As evening approached, he moved back a few miles to the bivouac position where his company headquarters had been that morning. He then discovered that the only wound he had suffered during the loss of In the Mood was a cut lip, sliced open by a shard of shrapnel from the second shell. It would serve as his only physical reminder of the losses his crew had endured on September 19.

All of the meaningful keepsakes Close chose to carry with him in battle — and those of Pool, Oller, and Richards — had been destroyed by the explosions. Close would later mourn the loss of the gold signet ring that had once belonged to his grandfather and a small leather cigar case another ancestor had carried through the Crimean War. But he and Richards counted their blessings. The second direct hit to their tank could have been their last.

On September 19, 1949—five years after being knocked out of his tank and losing his leg—Pool was honored at a ceremony at Fort Knox, Kentucky. He had returned to the Army the previous year and served until 1960. (U.S. Army)

Both men would return to the European battlefields. But for War Daddy Pool and Groundhog Oller, their only fight for the time being was to remain alive.

There would, of course, be no war bonds tour for the In the Mood crew. Richards and Close continued with the 3rd Armored Division. Del Boggs also remained in service and was reassigned to the 474th Air Service Group, 9th Air Corps, and rose to the rank of corporal before departing the European Theater in July 1945. Willis Oller spent 14 months in various hospitals before he was discharged from the army’s O’Reilly Hospital in Missouri. Six surgeries helped save his left leg, and he left service on February 15, 1946, wearing a special brace and shoe.

In the two years following his final battle in Germany, Lafe Pool — who would eventually be pinned with numerous campaign service medals and personal valor medals, including four Bronze Stars, the Legion of Merit, the French Croix du Guerre, and the Distinguished Service Cross — was treated in a series of hospitals. His right leg was eventually amputated eight inches above the knee, but the resilient Golden Gloves fighter was fitted with a prosthesis and returned to the army in 1948 for three more years as a tank park supply and dispatch sergeant in the 3rd Armored Division’s Combat Command B. He rose to the rank of Chief Warrant Officer Second Class, and retired from service in 1960.

Pool’s character was roughly translated to film in Warner Brothers’ The Tanks are Coming in 1951. Decades later, actor Brad Pitt played the role of World War II Sherman tank commander “Wardaddy” Collier in the 2014 film Fury. Although the movie was fictional, the name of Pitt’s aggressive character was an obvious reference to the army’s most famous tanker.

“There were no heroes, no Rambos. We were a team,” Pool remarked during a 1988 visit to Fort Hood, Texas. “Every medal I received, it wasn’t me. It was my team.” Asked for his advice to modern soldiers, he added, “Learn to survive. Shoot to kill and always go forward. Never retreat.”

Two years after his death on May 30, 1991, a new tank driver training simulator hall at Fort Knox was named in Pool’s honor. At the dedication, Lieutenant Colonel Olin M. Brewster, who served in the 3rd Armored Division with Pool and remained his friend until Pool’s death, gave a speech honoring him.

Lafayette G. Pool was, he said, the “ace of tankers.”

This story originally appeared on HistoryNet.com.

<![CDATA[Get to know the heroic namesake of the newly christened Fort Johnson ]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/15/get-to-know-the-heroic-namesake-of-the-newly-christened-fort-johnson/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/15/get-to-know-the-heroic-namesake-of-the-newly-christened-fort-johnson/Thu, 15 Jun 2023 16:49:26 +0000The Army redesignated Fort Polk, Louisiana, as Fort Johnson on June 13, concluding a move made in accordance with a 2021 policy that requires the removal of names that commemorate the Confederacy from Defense Department properties.

Fort Johnson, one of nine Army installations to receive a new moniker under the Pentagon’s Naming Commission, was selected to honor New York National Guard Sgt. William Henry Johnson, a Black World War I soldier whose frontline heroism in France would etch his name into the history books as a lionheart of the famed Harlem Hellfighters.

Johnson was a mid−20s railway porter in Albany, New York, when he enlisted in the Army. It was June 1917. Congress had declared war against Germany just two months prior and Johnson was eager to join the fight.

Standing at only 5-foot−4 and 130 pounds, Johnson took the oath of enlistment in Brooklyn and was subsequently assigned to C Company of the 15th New York Infantry Regiment, an all-Black National Guard outfit that would later become the 369th Infantry Regiment — also known as the Hellfighters.

The 369th became the first Black combat regiment to serve with American Expeditionary Forces. Prior to the unit’s formation, Black soldiers who wanted to serve in combat were forced to work around U.S. military restrictions by way of enlistments with the French or Canadian armies.

Racism encountered by Black soldiers at the time was severe. U.S. Gen. John G. Pershing even went as far as authorizing the distribution of a pamphlet, titled “Secret Information Concerning Black American Troops,” advising America’s French allies against relying on — or even associating with — their Black counterparts. In his correspondence, Pershing claimed the men of the 369th were “inferior” to white soldiers, acted as a “constant menace to the American” and didn’t possess a “civic and professional conscience.”

Harlem Hellfighters. (Army)

Burdened by a misguided reputation, Johnson’s unit was initially relegated to labor-intensive duties. That was until they were ordered into battle in 1918 and assigned to the French Army, who seemed to care far less about race than their American allies.

Amid the still of the Argonne Forest during the early morning hours of May 15, 1918, Johnson and 17-year-old Needham Roberts watched and listened, the two sentries ready to raise an alarm that would rouse the reinforcements dozing in trenches and dugouts nearby.

At about 1 a.m., the two men began taking fire from a German sniper. Johnson opened a box of 30 grenades and lined them up for quick use. Moments later, in the terrifying dark of the Western Front, Johnson heard the “snippin’ and clippin’” cutting sounds of at least 12 Germans making their way through the wire encircling the guard post.

Johnson tossed a grenade in the direction of the commotion and all hell broke loose. The German invaders unleashed a wall of gunfire and grenades toward the two watchmen, injuring Needham Roberts immediately.

Unable to walk, Roberts sat upright in the trench and continued to feed Johnson grenades — but the Germans kept coming.

Johnson quickly exhausted the supply and switched to his rifle. It jammed. Enemy soldiers were close enough to touch.

When the Germans attempted to grab Roberts from the trench and take him prisoner, Johnson went to work, abandoning the cover of the trench and swinging his rifle, fists and bolo knife in a tornado of clubbing, punching and cutting.

“Each slash meant something, believe me,” Johnson recalled.

Johnson stabbed one German in the stomach then killed a lieutenant before being shot in the arm. He was then attacked from behind by another, who he discarded by driving his knife into the German’s ribs.

Though increasingly wounded and exhausted, Johnson eventually managed to drag Roberts back to safety just as reinforcements arrived.

The diminutive-yet-Herculean soldier then fainted, fatigued from the melee and the 21 wounds to his arm, feet, face and back — the majority of which were delivered by knives and bayonets. Johnson’s left foot had also been shattered, which he would later have remedied by an inserted steel plate during an operation at a French hospital.

When dawn broke, the Americans found four dead Germans and evidence of at least 10 to 20 more having participated in the attack.

A May 26, 1918, article on Johnson and Roberts in the New York-Tribune. (Library of Congress)

Johnson’s ferocity earned him the nickname “Black Death.” In recognition of his actions, France awarded him with the Croix de Guerre with a Gold Palm for extraordinary valor, making Johnson the first American to receive France’s highest award for bravery. Roberts also received the Croix de Guerre.

The Harlem Hellfighters would go on to spend 191 days fighting in frontline trenches and would sustain 1,500 casualties by war’s end, the most of any single American unit in either category during World War I.

When Johnson returned home to New York, the severity of his injuries prevented him from resuming his pre-war job at Albany’s Union Station. Sadly, Johnson turned to the bottle, became estranged from his family and faded from the memory of those who once celebrated his heroism.

Johnson contracted tuberculosis and later died, destitute, in July 1929 of myocarditis at the age of 36. He is buried in Arlington National Cemetery.

In 2015, President Barack Obama posthumously awarded Johnson the Medal of Honor. Henry Johnson was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Distinguished Service Cross in 1996 and 2002, respectively.

<![CDATA[How the voice of Transformers’ Optimus Prime was inspired by a Marine]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/09/how-the-voice-of-transformers-optimus-prime-was-inspired-by-a-marine/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/09/how-the-voice-of-transformers-optimus-prime-was-inspired-by-a-marine/Fri, 09 Jun 2023 17:25:36 +0000Peter Cullen is an illustrious voice actor known for such roles as Eeyore in “Winnie the Pooh” and the otherworldly hunter we know well as the “Predator.” But it is his role in “Transformers” as the wise Swiss Army Knife semi-truck-turned-robot Optimus Prime that has earned Cullen the most attention.

As it turns out, the inspiration for that gravelly voice of calm in the face of certain annihilation is none other than a U.S. Marine Corps veteran — Cullen’s bother Larry.

“When I looked at the breakdown of Optimus Prime in the original show, it was a hero,” Cullen told Gizmodo in a 2008 interview. “My older brother, Larry, was my hero. He had returned from Vietnam. He was with the Marine Corps, and he saw some pretty heavy experience.”

Cullen decided then to infuse the character with a level of gravitas modeled after his brother.

“It was his tone of voice and delivery as a leader, his control that impressed me, and I applied my brother’s attitude to life to Optimus Prime,” he added. “There’s a calmness to Optimus Prime, and yet a gentility and strength and honor and dignity, that are synonymous with the Marines. ... It just rang a bell, and I was cast in that part. I guess people somehow picked up on that.”

Cullen has voiced Optimus Prime since the original “The Transformers” show debuted in 1984. He has since picked up that vocal mantle once again in “Transformers: Rise of the Beasts,” which arrived in theaters on June 9. The premise of the newest installation is a bit of a throwback to the 1990s, wherein the Autobots are set to face off against the world-destroying Maximals.

Gustavo Caballero
<![CDATA[‘Yellowstone’ creator Taylor Sheridan to launch military spy series]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/08/yellowstone-creator-taylor-sheridan-to-launch-military-spy-series/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/08/yellowstone-creator-taylor-sheridan-to-launch-military-spy-series/Thu, 08 Jun 2023 22:42:51 +0000Every once in a while, a show comes along that makes viewers want to linger on the couch with a pizza and binge-watch an entire season.

This summer, that honor may very well go to “Special Ops: Lioness.”

Running on Paramount+, the CIA thriller helmed by Taylor Sheridan (”Yellowstone”) gets its name from the Lioness Program, an initiative in which the Marine Corps assigned women to combat units in Iraq and Afghanistan to search potential female insurgents while remaining culturally sensitive to local belief systems that prohibit unknown men from touching women.

The show, which includes a star-studded cast — Zoe Saldaña, Michael Kelly, Morgan Freeman, Nicole Kidman and Laysla De Oliveira — “follows the life of Joe (Saldaña) while she attempts to balance her personal and professional life as the tip of the CIA’s spear in the war on terror,” according to Paramount+.

“The Lioness Program, overseen by Kaitlyn Meade (Kidman) and Donald Westfield (Kelly), enlists an aggressive Marine Raider named Cruz (De Oliveira) to operate undercover alongside Joe among the power brokers of State terrorism in the CIA’s efforts to thwart the next 9/11.”

The show’s trailer, which dropped on June 8, is packed with everything from drone strikes to gun fights and vehicle explosions. Between the proven director and cast, this should be one to watch.

“Special Ops: Lioness” debuts on Paramount+ on July 23.

<![CDATA[Propaganda film casts Chinese Army as saintly liberators]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/07/propaganda-film-casts-chinese-army-as-saintly-liberators/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/07/propaganda-film-casts-chinese-army-as-saintly-liberators/Wed, 07 Jun 2023 15:08:06 +0000Shiny happy people holding hands / Shiny happy people laughing / Everyone around, love them, love them.

The lyrics performed by Michael Stipe in the 1991 R.E.M. song “Shiny Happy People” may sound like upbeat pop, but they were actually inspired by Chinese propaganda designed to paint a rosy picture in the wake of Tiananmen Square massacre.

Well, the Chinese government is at it again, this time framing its People’s Liberation Army as a humanitarian force for global peace in a brief film called “Here I Am.”

The two-minute video, which switches back and forth from animation to live footage, is a cartoonish depiction of the country’s military as a saintly, selfless group of missionaries.

“We are always here awaiting orders,” the video’s narrator says. “Regardless of perils, undaunted by dangers, we deliver hope in hard times. We extend benevolence and love across the oceans and we uphold justice and peace.”

Alas, on Sunday the U.S. released footage of a Chinese warship crossing paths with a U.S. destroyer in a dangerous maneuver. And on May 26, a Chinese fighter jet flying over the South China Sea performed a maneuver near a U.S. aircraft in international airspace that was deemed “unnecessarily aggressive.”

Shiny happy soldiers indeed.

<![CDATA[43 of the most timeless war movies ever made]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/06/43-of-the-most-timeless-war-movies-ever-made/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/06/43-of-the-most-timeless-war-movies-ever-made/Tue, 06 Jun 2023 21:29:54 +0000The 95th Academy Awards heaped praise on two military films from 2022, with “Top Gun: Maverick” and “All Quiet on the Western Front” selected as nominees for best picture.

While neither took home an Oscar, their inclusion among the year’s best cinematic achievements attracted attention toward the abundance of critically acclaimed wartime movies that have stood the test of time.

What makes such a movie endure? The universal language of shared experiences portrayed, for one.

Many films over the years have accomplished as much, highlighting the human side of wearing the uniform through stories that span edge-of-your-seat military thrillers and the sort of tedious boredom only military life can elicit.

And while compiling a list of all may be downright impossible, here are a few dozen we feel do it best.

Saving Private Ryan (1998)

The opening sequence of

The film opens with one of the most harrowing scenes in cinema history, as Allied troops storm the beaches at Normandy on June 6, 1944. Capt. John Miller, played by Tom Hanks in one of his best roles, sets off to find Pvt. James Ryan (Matt Damon) in enemy territory. Three Ryan brothers were killed in combat. Miller’s mission is find and send home the fourth.

Das Boot (1981)

Considered by many to be one of the greatest war films ever made, Wolfgang Peterson’s “Das Boot” is a thrilling account of a German U-boat operating in the North Atlantic during World War II. The film captures both the claustrophobic boredom faced by young submariners and the terrors of the dark, expansive unknown in which the inexperienced crew must operate.

Casablanca (1942)

Timely released during World War II yet timeless in its appeal, “Casablanca” remains a definitive classic in the romance-drama genre. Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid star in this authoritative love story about an American expatriate torn between his affections for a woman and his moral obligation to assist her husband in his defiance of the Nazis and escape from Vichy-controlled territory.

Thin Red Line (1998)

Based on the World War II autobiography by James Jones, “Thin Red Line” centers on an AWOL Pvt. Witt (Jim Caviezel), who is dragged back into the line of duty by Sgt. Welsh (Sean Penn). Set amid the Battle of Guadalcanal, the film hones in on the existential crises faced by men in combat.

1917 (2019)

George MacKay as Lance Corporal Schofield. (Universal)

Filmed as a single continuous shot, Sam Mendes’ “1917″ is an absolutely marvelous look at the everyman soldier of World War I. Similar to “Saving Private Ryan” it involves an attempt to save a British soldier’s brother from a battle predicted to be a slaughter. The cast and crew offer up one scene after another that, despite depicting a story a century old, resonate with any era of veteran.

All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 and 2022)

Based on a book of the same name by Erich Maria Remarque, “All Quiet on the Western Front” has undergone multiple well-received big-screen adaptations. Both the 1930 and 2022 versions are critically acclaimed and worth the watch, and both, each harrowing in their own right, do justice to the idea that war is hell for those who see it face to face.

The Deer Hunter (1978)

An emotionally shattering movie, “The Deer Hunter” centers on three friends who ship off to fight in the Vietnam War. Incredible performances from Robert De Niro, John Savage and Christopher Walken enhance the film’s subtle anti-war commentary. Post-war scenes also show the struggles of returning home after being changed by combat.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Perhaps one of the more avant-garde of the war films, “Apocalypse Now” has become something of a cult classic. Directed by Francis Ford Coppola, the Vietnam War movie is based loosely on Joseph Conrad’s “Heart of Darkness.” At its core, the film explores war as an exercise in futility and a catalyst for a descent into madness.

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)

Set in the immediate aftermath of WWII, “The Best Years of Our Lives” depicts the struggles of three veterans as they return home and grapple with the rhythms of civilian life. Veterans of any war will see their own experiences — notably, the perpetual disconnect between war veterans and those who send them to fight — play out in this timeless film directed by Oscar-winner William Wyler (“Ben Hur,” “The Memphis Bell”).

Full Metal Jacket (1987)

Actor R. Lee Ermey, portraying

Best known for its boot camp scenes featuring R. Lee Ermey, this Vietnam War film has become a mainstay in military movie culture. Directed by Stanley Kubrick, “Full Metal Jacket” is anchored by the trajectory of James T. “Joker” Davis (Matthew Modine) from boot camp to his deployment during the Tet Offensive.

Platoon (1986)

Oliver Stone’s “Platoon” delivered Oscars for Best Picture and Best Director, cementing its status as an authoritative Vietnam War film. The story, delivered with narrative that provides compassion in the midst of human depravity, gets to our core as human beings as only tribulations of war can.

Land of Mine (2015)

“Land of Mine” tells an emotional story of young German prisoners of war who, while under Danish control in post-WWII Denmark, are tasked with de-mining the countryside with their bare hands. The brutality of the endeavor begins a painful reflection of one’s capacity for forgiveness.

Rescue Dawn (2006)

German-American Dieter Dengler (Christian Bale) was a U.S. Navy pilot shot down near the Ho Chi Minh Trail in 1966. Tortured for months and emaciated, Dengler eventually escaped his captors, fleeing into dense jungle and evading capture for over three weeks before being rescued by U.S. forces. Bale’s spectacular performance brings relatability to the most dire situation.

Black Hawk Down (2001)

A military man in combat in a scene from the 2001 film

A film about the disastrous October 1993 attempt by U.S. Special Forces to bring down a Somali warlord’s top lieutenants, “Black Hawk Down” remains one of the best portrayals of the chaos of urban warfare. Director Ridley Scott’s depiction of the Battle of Mogadishu, which resulted in 18 American casualties, is further enhanced by stellar performances by Eric Bana and Josh Hartnett.

The Imitation Game (2014)

Benedict Cumberbatch delivers an incredible performance as Alan Turing in this fact-based story about a small team of MI6 recruits who crack the Nazi code Enigma — once thought unbreakable. The film weaves between Turing’s wartime accomplishments and his eventual imprisonment in England, where his homosexuality was deemed a criminal offense at the time. The brilliant mathematician was posthumously pardoned and chosen as the face of Britain’s £50 note.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Steven Spielberg navigates human brutality and compassion in this authoritative adaptation of the life of Oskar Schindler, a German businessman (Liam Neeson) who arrives in Krakow in 1939 and begins staffing his factory with Jewish workers — even as Nazi SS troops seek them out for extermination. The real-life Schindler was credited with saving the lives of approximately 1,200 Jewish people.

Dunkirk (2017)

A stunningly immersive Christopher Nolan film that weaves between three separate timelines spanning the same event, “Dunkirk” delivers a tense character study with one of the most incredible evacuations in war history as its stage. Only once you reach the end can you fully understand the depth of this rich story.

Life is Beautiful (1997)

A young Jewish-Italian family are separated when they are taken to a concentration camp during World War II. Amid the incessant horrors of life in the camp, the father, played by Roberto Benigni, does everything in his power to protect his son’s innocence, sheltering the child from horrors while convincing him their time in one of the ugliest situations in human history is just part of a game.

The Pianist (2002)

In the adaptation of Polish pianist Wladyslaw Szpilman’s autobiography, actor Adrien Brody plays a Jewish pianist separated from his family in war-torn Warsaw. Szpilman hides among the city’s ruins at the outset of World War II, eventually joining the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising efforts before remaining hidden with the help of a German soldier. The film earned director Roman Polanski and Brody Academy Awards for best director and best actor, respectively.

Patton (1970)

Gen. George Patton remains of the most polarizing military tacticians in history. The film, written in part by Francis Ford Coppola, chronicles his career throughout World War II — from his many triumphs to his notable foibles — for a fascinating look at one of war history’s more controversial figures.

Gallipoli (1981)

A young Mel Gibson stars as an Australian sprinter who joins the army during World War I. He and his companion, another runner, are eventually sent to the front lines as messengers in one of the war’s most devastating battles. Directed by Peter Weir, who was also at the reins for “Master and Commander,” “Gallipoli” remains a leading anti-war film.

Gone with the Wind (1939)

Based on the 1936 novel of the same name by Margaret Mitchell and considered one of the most epic films ever made — not just in war cinema — “Gone with the Wind” is a fictional Civil War account detailing the scourge felt by southerners in the wake of America’s bloodiest conflict. The war backdrop, meanwhile, serves as the underpinning of one of the greatest love stories in cinema history.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

David Lean directed “The Bridge on the River Kwai” in 1957 and “Doctor Zhivago” in 1965. Sandwiched between those masterpieces is the epic, nearly four-hour tale based on the First World War exploits of British Lieutenant T.E. Lawrence (Peter O’Toole). Quarrels abound between British and Arab forces as Lawrence embarks on a seemingly impossible quest in an unforgiving landscape mired in conflict.

The Great Escape (1963)

Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough star in this thrilling World War II story about an allied escape from a German prisoner-of-war camp. Directed by John Sturges (“The Magnificent Seven”), the story is loosely based on the mass escape by British WWII soldiers from the Stalag Luft III prison camp.

Inglourious Basterds (2009)

Eli Roth, left, and Brad Pitt appear in a scene from the motion picture

Quentin Tarantino’s World War II treatment is as bombastic as it is an accurate portrayal of Nazi Germany. The film, lathered with rich dialogue, is an action heist meets historical fiction, and features a cast for the ages — including Brad Pitt, Christoph Waltz, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, and Daniel Brühl.

We Were Soldiers (2002)

Based on a book written by then-Lt. Col. Hal Moore (Mel Gibson), the film is carried by intense action sequences that give credence to the total disarray of the Vietnam War’s first major battle — Ia Drang. Moore, who during the battle was the commanding officer of 1st Battalion, 7th Cavalry Regiment, 1st Cavalry Division, earned a Distinguished Service Cross for his actions. He passed away in 2017 at the age of 94.

The Big Red One (1980)

“The Big Red One” follows five soldiers as they experience the toll of combat in World War II — notably, that survival isn’t always a reward. The film is based on director Samuel Fuller’s account of his days in North Africa serving with the 1st Infantry Division, which was nicknamed the “The Big Red One” after the division’s patch, one that remains an iconic symbol among Army uniforms.

Hamburger Hill (1987)

Based on the 101st Airborne Division’s push to take Hill 937, “Hamburger Hill” depicts the physical and mental exhaustion experienced by the battle’s participants. Despite sustaining massive losses in taking the hill, the U.S. abandoned the high ground only weeks after the battle concluded, prompting severe criticism of military leadership and a reassessment of overall war strategy.

Braveheart (1995)

Mel Gibson was at his finest as legendary Scottish warrior William Wallace. As he leads a rebellion of Highlanders against the English monarchy, themes of brotherhood, honor and sacrifice that have remained a human institution throughout the ages emerge, making this a truly timeless film.

Downfall (2004)

This meticulous account of Hitler’s final days is inspired by the real-life narrative of Traudl Junge, who served as the Nazi leader’s last private secretary from 1942 until his death in April 1945. Junge’s account offers a first-hand perspective of the maniacal dictator from the height of his power to his eventual unraveling in his underground bunker.

Hacksaw Ridge (2016)

An inspired film about military service from the perspective of a conscientious objector, “Hacksaw Ridge” tells the story of World War II Army Medic Desmond Doss. Across numerous battles in the Pacific, Doss refused to kill due to his beliefs as a Seventh-day Adventist. He later received the Medal of Honor for saving numerous lives during the Battle of Okinawa.

Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)

Filmed by director Clint Eastwood as a companion film alongside “Flags of Our Fathers,” the film begins with a modern day discovery of buried letters recovered from the World War II battle site. The correspondence, which shapes the battle story from the Japanese perspective, pulls the curtain back on both the humanity and radicalization of individual Japanese soldiers.

Master and Commander (2003)

Still not nearly as celebrated as it should be, “Master and Commander” sets the standard for old-fashioned naval warfare on the big screen. Napoleon is at the height of his power in the early 1800s, when, under the command of Capt. Jack Aubrey (Russell Crowe), the HMS Surprise is tasked with pursuing a French war vessel near South America. Crowe and Paul Bettany lead a strong cast that bring the rigors of 1805 ship life to early 2000s audiences.

Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

A World War II story, “Bridge on the River Kwai,” which took home a staggering seven Oscars, including Best Picture, explores the ferocious conditions experienced by captured British soldiers in a Japanese prison camp. The prisoners are tasked with building a railway bridge in Japanese-occupied Burma, unaware that a commando raid is imminent. Alex Guinness (“Star Wars”) stars.

Born on the 4th of July (1989)

The true story of Ron Kovic (Tom Cruise), gung-ho Marine turned anti-war activist, won Oliver Stone an Oscar for Best Director. In a firefight in Vietnam, Kovic mistakenly kills one of his own men. He’s then shot and left paralyzed from the chest down. Cruise, who was nominated for an Oscar for his performance, portrays Kovic’s collapse into depression, post-traumatic stress, alcohol abuse and horrifying stints at a veterans’ hospital.

The Dirty Dozen (1967)

Unlike a majority of the movies in this genre, “The Dirty Dozen” illuminates a darker side of military service with a bit of a bombastic plot line. Twelve (mostly criminal) soldiers are tasked with an assassination mission during World War II that is essentially suicidal. Lee Marvin, a Marine sniper and Purple Heart recipient in the Pacific theater in WWII, stars as the misfit group’s commander.

Fury (2014)

Titled after a crew’s Sherman tank, director David Ayer’s film essentially turns the armored vehicle into a character that serves as a metaphor for experience, gains and losses in war. The tank’s crew, helmed by “Wardaddy” (Brad Pitt) must find a way to survive the approaching end of World War II and live with the costly choices they make along the way.

Casualties of War (1989)

A young Michael J. Fox and Sean Penn square off in a moral struggle after Penn’s character takes a young Vietnamese teenager as a prisoner. The blurred lines depicted force the viewer to wrestle with the notion that the casualties referenced in the title extend well beyond troops in combat.

‘71 (2014)

Riots are ravaging Belfast at the height of the Troubles, and in the midst of the chaos a young British soldier (Jack O’Connel) gets separated from his unit. Unarmed, he must remain largely hidden amid the city’s confusion and violent turmoil to make it home in one piece.

Jarhead (2005)

A different entry when it comes to most war movie lists — but if you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a Marine, “Jarhead” has you covered. Jake Gyllenhaal stars as the crass Cpl. Anthony Swofford — a real-life Marine who wrote the memoir on which the film was based — in this Gulf War film that depicts both the monotony of service and the battle-fatigue experienced by many veterans.

Paths of Glory (1957)

Long before he directed “Full Metal Jacket,” a young filmmaker named Stanley Kubrick delivered an anti-war analysis, with World War I as its backdrop, of the collision between the ego and ambition of select leaders and the integrity of others — all while average soldiers endure the consequences. Kirk Douglas stars.

Zero Dark Thirty (2012)

This fictionalized depiction of the hunt for Osama bin Laden is a riveting character study featuring a spectacular performance by Jessica Chastain. Kathryn Bigelow, who won the Academy Award for Best Director for “The Hurt Locker,” helmed the film, which pulled the curtain back on the vast network of personnel, as well as the stroke of borderline madness, required to bring down the mastermind behind the worst terrorist attack in American history.

Three Kings (1999)

Set at the end of the Gulf War, David O. Russell’s (”The Fighter,” “Silver Linings Playbook”) film is an unexpectedly good war offering with a heist mission for Saddam Hussein’s hidden gold guiding the story. George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg star in this brothers-in-arms story that seamlessly weaves between action, humor, politics, and drama.

Hulton Archive
<![CDATA[Wrong ball: Soldier’s ‘donkey kick’ leads to soccer tourney scuffle]]>https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/06/wrong-ball-soldiers-donkey-kick-leads-to-soccer-tourney-scuffle/https://www.armytimes.com/off-duty/military-culture/2023/06/06/wrong-ball-soldiers-donkey-kick-leads-to-soccer-tourney-scuffle/Tue, 06 Jun 2023 20:01:09 +0000MARIETTA, Ga. — Memory is imprecise, even under the friendliest of conditions.

And on Saturday, beneath the sweltering afternoon sun, absent the benefit of even a single cloud’s shade, the conditions were riper for retaliation than for recall at the training facility for Atlanta United FC, a Major League Soccer club.

It wasn’t initially clear what set off the confrontation amid the in-state rivalry match between the rough-hewn infantrymen of Fort Moore and the airmen of Robins Air Force Base, but the aftermath was impossible to miss. A whistle blew to break up a scuffle as an airman shoved a soldier, and players and spectators of both sides screamed for sanction. Referee Mike Leone resolutely flashed a pair of yellow cards, formally placing the troops on notice for their behavior.

But what started it all? Conflicting accounts emerged in the incident’s wake, but each had one thing in common: a soldier struck an airman. But where? How? Why? The fog of war, that Clausewitzian curse, rolls across more than just the battlefield, it seems.

Referee Mike Leone shows the second of two yellow cards to troops from Georgia's Fort Moore and Robins Air Force Base squaring off amid the 2023 Stars Stripes and Soccer Cup at Atlanta United FC's training facility in Marietta, Georgia, on June 3. (Davis Winkie/Staff)

One of the match’s spectators, who works as a broadcaster for the soccer club, said he thought it started when a soldier kicked the airman. He wasn’t certain, he cautioned — his attention was split between the Moore-Robins match and the adjacent one between two veterans service organizations, just two of the many matches that the club hosted for its annual Stars Stripes and Soccer Cup.

Another bystander said he thought he’d seen a punch thrown.

An airman’s significant other claimed she’d seen the whole thing. She described an improbable scene.

“One of the Army guys was on his hands and knees,” she explained from her camping chair, with her arms outstretched in demonstration. “And he donkey-kicked one of our [Air Force] guys in the groin.”

Was the so-called “donkey kick” intentional? A chorus of Air Force spouses argued it was a purposeful groin-kicking. In their eyes, which were well-attuned from attending the team’s weekly intramural matches on base, the ensuing shoving was justified.

An airman assigned to Robins Air Force Base, Georgia, dribbles the ball during the 2023 Stars Stripes and Soccer Cup at Atlanta United FC's training facility in Marietta, Georgia. (Davis Winkie/Staff)

The infantrymen, when later asked about the incident, laughed at the dependents’ declaration. They said that sometimes “weird things” happen near the net. Occam’s razor holds that purposefully donkey-kicking an opponent in the groin takes at least one more conscious thought than a competitor has to spare, after all.

Leone, the referee, agreed with the soldiers when approached by Army Times as he sought a refreshing sports drink between matches.

“The kick was incidental,” Leone said as sweat dripped from his long, scraggly goatee. The experienced official was more concerned with the retaliation, noting that he rarely had to issue yellow cards for such behavior when he officiates semi-professional matches.

The ref reflected for a moment, then added, “The problem with adult men playing soccer is that they take it too seriously.”

Yet that same competitive spirit sustains events like Saturday’s tournament, and the players cared about representing their corner of the military well.

The Robins airmen were both the tournament’s inaugural and defending champions and the only interruption to their reign came in 2021 when the infantrymen from Moore defeated them to take the cup.

The active duty Stars Stripes and Soccer Cup trophy as seen on June 3 at Atlanta United FC's training facility amid the fourth annual iteration of the charity tournament. A team from Fort Novosel, Alabama, defeated the soldiers of Georgia's Fort Moore to win the 2023 competition. (Davis Winkie/Staff)

But this year the competition was tough. After the Moore-Robins match ended in a draw, an exhausted airman approached by Army Times lamented, “The thing about these [Moore] guys is that they’re beefy.”

After the round-robin phase of the tournament was complete, the Robins airmen learned they wouldn’t have a chance to defend their crown. Fort Gordon’s team, another in-state contender, didn’t make the championship either, nor did Shaw Air Force Base’s winless squad, who traveled from South Carolina for little more than a free boxed lunch for dinner and bittersweet memories.

An all-pilot team from Fort Novosel, Alabama, was in first place after the preliminary rounds. In second? Fort Moore, who had the same win-loss record as Robins, but advanced to the final because they’d scored more goals.

The Novosel pilots were slighter in build than their stockier counterparts from Moore. They were also all officers and warrant officers, save for the enlisted Air Force veteran from the post’s Morale, Welfare and Recreation office who accompanied them as a player-coach. Melvin Allen said he enjoyed running the post’s intramural soccer league, describing it as an “important outlet” for those assigned to the Alabama post.

The Moore team, by contrast, was a brash bunch of enlisted men — including some who adopted the U.S. as their home then chose to serve it — led by a lone officer. The group plays together on Monday nights in a Columbus city recreation league, where the military bonds that keep the peace in on-post leagues elsewhere perhaps deepens the rift between them and other teams.

A soldier from Fort Moore, Georgia, receives a pass during the active duty bracket championship match of the 2023 Stars Stripes and Soccer Cup at Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Training Ground in Marietta, Ga., on Saturday June 3. (Mitch Martin/Atlanta United)

The Home of the Infantry’s squad played a powerful, physical brand of soccer underwritten by grit and opportunism. It contrasted with the skill and precision the pilots displayed as their star attacker dribbled in between defenders to conjure scoring chances seemingly out of thin air.

After the pool play match between the two teams, a Novosel pilot complained to Army Times that the infantrymen had pursued “more of a wrestling match than a soccer game.”

Asked about that characterization of their play, a sergeant from Moore’s side smiled and shrugged. “Good. They deserve it,” he said.

Deserved or not, the Moore style of play proved insufficient to reclaim the cup. The Novosel team won the final match 3-2, behind two early goals from their star attacker — but not before the referee again admonished the infantrymen during halftime to remember it was just a game.