NRO Slideshows

Strike on Syria

As diplomatic rhetoric escalates over alleged use of chemical weapons by Syrian forces, the White House is mulling plans for a potential U.S. strike on the Assad regime. Here’s how that strike might look. Pictured, the destroyer USS Gravely, currently deployed off the coast of Syria.

Strike on Syria

Uploaded: Aug. 28, 2013


Today in History: "Wag the Dog"
Aug. 20, 2014
AUGUST 20, 1998: President Bill Clinton orders cruise missile strikes against Al-Qaeda training camps in Afghanistan and a purported chemical weapons plant in Sudan in retaliation for the bombings of two American embassies. The strikes fail to take out Osama bin Laden, and critics noted the similarity to politically-motivated misdirection portrayed in the film Wag the Dog.
1977: NASA launches the Voyager 2 space probe on a mission to explore the outer solar system. Launched before its sister ship, Voyager 2 remains the only probe to have visited all the outer gas giants: Jupiter (in 1979), Saturn (1981), Uranus (1986), and Neptune (1989). She is currently headed to the Kuiper belt and the outer boundaries of the solar system.
1794: Revolutionary War hero General “Mad” Anthony Wayne wins a decisive victory over a British-backed confederation of Indian tribes at the Battle of Fallen Timbers near present-day Toledo. The victory clears the way for the expansion of settlements into what would become Ohio and the upper midwest territories and puts an end to British influence in the region.
AUGUST 19, 1812: The USS Constitution, one of the original ships of war built by the American Navy to protect the fledgling nation, defeats the British frigate HMS Guerrière in a fierce battle off the coast of Nova Scotia. During the fight, 18-pound British cannonballs were seen bouncing off Constitution’s sturdy 25-inch thick oak hull, lending the ship its nickname “Old Ironsides.”
1914: Speaking before the US. Senate, President Woodrow Wilson argues that the nation must stay neutral in the conflict brewing in Europe. But after Germany violates pledges to restrict submarine warfare and entices Mexico into an alliance against the U.S., Wilson returns to Congress on April 4, 1917, to request a declaration of war on Germany; the House grants it two days later.
AUGUST 18, 1227: Mongol ruler Genghis Khan dies. Khan organized the warring tribes of the harsh Mongolian steppes into a highly disciplined and mobile army and conquered an empire that stretched across Central Asia from China to the Caspian Sea. Khan’s heirs extended their rule across China and Persia and drove as far west as the Danube River, the largest land empire in human history.
1920: Tennessee narrowly ratifies the Nineteenth Amendment to the Constitution, giving it the two-thirds majority needed to become the law of the land. The amendment, which outlawed the restriction of voting rights by sex, was the culminaton of a campaign for women’s suffrage that began more than 70 years earlier.
1587: Virginia Dare is born at the Roanoke Colony, the first child born to English parents in the Americas. The colony was first founded in 1585 by settlers sponsored by Sir Walter Raleigh, but supply problems and Indian attacks drove them back to England. A second colony was begun in 1587, but when governor John White returned with supplies three years later, everyone had vanished.
AUGUST 15, 1969: The Woodstock Music & Art Fair gets underway near Bethel, N.Y., drawing more than 400,000 young people to a three-day gathering that would transform from a concert to become, for good and bad, a defining moment for the Sixties counterculture. More than 30 top acts perform at the event, where free love and copious drug use overcome rainy and poor planning.
1979: Francis Ford Coppola’s Vietnam film Apocalypse Now opens in U.S. theaters. Transplanting the story of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness from Africa to Southeast Asia, Coppola’s violent and vivid anti-war war film combined documentary detail with a mythic dreamscape of soldiers slowly going mad in the primordial jungle. As Coppola told critics: “It’s not about Vietnam. It is Vietnam.”
1914: After a decade of construction in the unforgiving jungles and mountains, the Panama Canal opens its massive system of locks to commercial traffic, inaugurating a new route from the Atlantic to the Pacific that would redefine international shipping. Handling just 1,000 ships in its first year, a century later annual traffic tops 14,000.
AUGUST 14, 1784: Russian fur trader Grigory Shelikhov founds the first permanent Russian settlement in Alaska. The operations of the Russian American Company would later range as far south as modern-day California, but after the Crimean War bankrupted Russia, they went looking for a buyer, and in 1867 the purchase of Alaska— dubbed “Seward’s Folly” — was closed for $7.2 million.
1997: Militia-movement sympathizer Timothy McVeigh is sentenced to death for his role in the bombing of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City on April 19, 1995. The massive explosion killed 167 people and injured more than 600, and remains the worst act of domestic terrorism in U.S. history. McVeigh was executed on June 11, 2001.
1980: Dockworkers seize the Lenin Shipyard in Gdansk, Poland, to demand the right to unionize after the Communist government announces new austerity measures. Among the strikers was labor leader Lech Walesa, who galvanized the workers into a broader labor movement known as Solidarity and a decade later would be elected Poland’s first non-Communist post-war president.
1945: President Harry S. Truman announces the unconditional surrender of the empire of Japan, bringing an end to the Second World War. The next day, Japanese citizens would hear the voice of Emperor Hirohito for the first time as he announced the end of the war. The formal surrender would took place on September 2 aboard USS Missouri (pictured).
AUGUST 13, 1899: Horror-film maestro Alfred Hitchcock is born in London’s East End, growing up amid talk of the then-recent killings by Jack the Ripper. Hitchcock began his storied movie career in England during the silent era before moving to Hollywood in 1939, where he created such scream-cinema masterpieces as Psycho, Rear Window, and Vertigo.
1942: Walt Disney’s classic animated feature film Bambi debuts in theaters. A high-point of the animator’s lush hand-drawn tradition, the film was filled with numerous magical animal characters that enchanted young and old audiences. Though aimed at children, the film did not shy away from portraying the tragic death of Bambi’s mother.
1934: The comic strip Li’l Abner debuts, chronicling the lives of a fictional clan of hillbillies living in the Appalachian town of Dogpatch, Kentucky. Al Capp’s creation used broad caricatures of impoverished Southern society and slang-heavy dialogue to satirize American life and politics. The strip ran for 43 years and gave birth to the Sadie Hawkins Day dance tradition.
AUGUST 12, 1961: East Germany begins construction of what it calls the “Anti-Fascist Protection Rampart,” better known as the Berlin Wall. The barbed-wire and cinderblock barrier was officially meant to keep out Western influence but in reality was an attempt to stem the massive tide of defections. Steadily enlarged in the following years, the wall became a hated symbol of Communist oppression.
2000: Two catastrophic explosions inside the Russian nuclear missile submarine Kursk send the massive boat to the bottom of the Barents Sea with 118 crewmen on board. Russian naval authorities are slow to locate the wreck and begin rescue operations, resulting in unprecedented public rebukes. A later investigation determines the entire crew were dead within eight hours.
1981: Business-computing titan IBM introduces the IBM PC, which will push mainstream acceptance of computer use to new heights and create an industry standard that will dominate the market for more than two decades. The PC’s success proves a kingmaker for Microsoft, which supplied the operating system, and a setback for Apple Computer, which had dominated the industry’s early years.
1944: Navy Lieutenant Joseph P. Kennedy, Jr. — pictured at right with younger brother John Kennedy in 1942 — is killed in the skies over England. Kennedy’s mission was to fly a bomber carrying ten tons of explosives partway to its target in France before arming the weapons and bailing out, with the aircraft continuing via remote control. But the detonator ignited prematurely, destroying his aircraft.
AUGUST 11, 1984: During a sound check prior to his weekly radio address, President Ronald Reagan jokes: “My fellow Americans, I'm pleased to tell you today that I've signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.” The comment causes consternation among Reagan’s critics and grist for the Soviet propaganda mill.
1965: The arrest of a young black man in Los Angeles turns violent, sparking a quickly escalating battle between mostly black residents and mostly white police later dubbed the Watts Riots. Over six days of widespread violence and looting, 34 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured as massive fires tear through whole city blocks, causing some $40 million in property damage.
AUGUST 8, 1974: In a televised address to the nation Richard Nixon announces he will resign the office of president. Facing three articles of impeachment in the House, Nixon had just two days earlier been forced to release White House audio tapes that implicated him in obstruction of justice in the Watergate investigation. The next day he departed Washington for California.
1863: A month after the disastrous defeat at the Battle of Gettysburg — where nearly a third of the Southern Army had been lost — Confederate General Robert E. Lee sends a letter of resignation to President Jefferson Davis. Lee questioned his own leadership skills and admitted to a profound fatigue after two years of war. But Davis would refuse, and Lee would stay in command for two more years.
AUGUST 7, 1782: General George Washington creates the Badge of Military Merit to honor the heroism of soldiers fighting in his Continental Army, though he would only present the decoration to three soldiers during the Revolutionary War. The badge’s embroidered heart design would later influence its official successor, the Purple Heart, which bears Washington’s profile on its face.
1964: Congress passes the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution granting President Lyndon Johnson wide-ranging power to combat communist aggression in Southeast Asia. Johnson received near-unanimous support for the resolution and quickly began prosecuting the war in Vietnam, but later revelations cast doubt on the facts surrounding the incident that precipitated it.
1959: Explorer 6 transmits the first photographic image of the Earth taken from orbit, inaugurating a new era in satellite observation and reconnaissance. The spacecraft’s photocell scanner snapped the crude image during a relatively short operational life in orbit and took nearly 40 minutes to transmit it down to scientists at Cape Canaveral.
AUGUST 6, 1945: The B-29 bomber Enola Gay drops the first atomic bomb on an enemy target, incinerating the port city of Hiroshima, Japan, at 8:15 a.m local time. The “Little Boy” device detonates 1,900 feet over the ground with an explosive force of 16 kilotons, killing between 70,000 and 80,000 people in the initial blast and igniting fires across a more than four square-mile area.
1965: President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, outlawing restrictions on voter access to any local, state, or federal election on the basis of race and attacking a key institution of segregation, as civil-rights icons Dr. Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks look on. Voting turnout in black communities rises significantly in the following years.
1890: Convicted murderer William Kemmler becomes the first person executed by electrocution when the sentence is carried out at Auburn prison in New York. Electrocution was meant to be a humane alternative to hanging, the dominant form of capital punishment at that time, but the grisly duration of Kemmler’s death proved the means was far from ideal.
AUGUST 5, 1962: Actress Marilyn Monroe is found dead at her home in Los Angeles in a tragic end to a storybook career that saw her become one of Hollywood’s brightest lights. First noticed in 1950’s The Asphalt Jungle, Monroe quickly rose to superstardom with roles in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes and Some Like It Hot, and was linked romantically with President John Kennedy.
1981: President Ronald Reagan begins laying off air-traffic controllers two days after some 13,000 had gone on strike over working conditions. The action slowed air traffic for months, but the FAA quickly began hiring new workers and on October 22 controllers’ union, PATCO, was decertified.
1861: The first federal income tax is instituted to help pay for the men and materials needed to fight the Civil War, with the Revenue Act mandating a 3% charge on nearly any income over $800. Congress would repeal the tax in 1871, but in 1909 the 16th Amendment established the basis of the federal income-tax system that survives to this day.
AUGUST 4, 1944: Ann Frank and her family are discovered in the secret Amsterdam hiding place where they had evaded the Nazi occupation for two years. Anne and her sister Margot were later sent to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp, where they both died in March 1945. Frank’s story would gain worldwide attention after the posthumous publication of the diary she kept while in hiding.
1987: The Federal Communication Commission rescinds the “Fairness Doctrine” that had required radio and television stations using public airwaves to devote time to public-interest topics and allot balanced time to opposing views. But the perceived need for diverse viewpoints was increasingly being met by proliferating cable channels. One result of the rescission was the rise of talk radio.
AUGUST 1, 1988: Rush Limbaugh debuts his daily radio broadcast to a nationwide audience, quickly attracting a large segment of listeners — later dubbed “Dittoheads” — who flock to his conservative political commentary and analysis. As his influence on political debates grew, Limbaugh would find himself attacked by major politicians including President Bill Clinton.
1981: The basic cable channel MTV Music Television begins broadcasting from New York, with its first music-video “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles. MTV quickly changed the promotion of popular music and by extension the music industry itself with its popular video programming, though critics would charge it favored visuals over musical quality.
1790: The federal government conducts the first nationwide census of the United States as mandated by the Constitution, finding a population of 3.9 million living in the country’s sixteen states, districts, and territories — a figure both President Washington and Secretary of State Jefferson disputed as too low. The census resulted in the increase of the House of Representatives from 69 seats to 105.
Clashes in Ferguson
Aug. 19, 2014
MONDAY, AUGUST 18: More clashes shook the streets of Ferguson on Monday as the arrival of the Missouri National Guard and the cancellation of the midnight curfew failed to quell the growing crowd of protesters and the growing anger surrounding the investigation of the death of Michael Brown more than a week ago.
Authorities report at least 31 persons were arrested in renewed clashes, which saw the air along Florissant Avenue once again filled with smoke and tear gas as police and demonstrators vied for control.
Missouri State Highway Patrol Captain Ron Johnson told reporters that there was information that some of the more disruptive participants had travelled to Ferguson from as far away as New York and California. Pictured, protesters tip over a porta-potty onto Florissant Avenue.
Johnson had been sent to Ferguson to try and reduce tensions between police and local residents, but that mission appears to have failed as clashes have only increased in intensity since the weekend.
As on previous days, earlier demonstrations were largely peaceful, though arrests did take place as police tried to keep people moving along Florissant, where most of the unrest has taken place.
Rapper Nelly arrived on Monday to join the protests.
Among the large group of demonstrators, a man with a megaphone speaks to the crowd.
Anger rises among the demonstrators.
A melee ensues as police move to arrest a demonstrator.
Heavily-armed special police units were once again out in force.
Police units form a line to prevent demonstrators from moving further.
Riot police advance on the crowd.
Police wear gas masks as they deploy tear gas in the crowd of demonstrators.
A man reacts to the effects of tear gas.
SUNDAY, AUGUST 17: After the curfew on Saturday evening broke down into more clashes and arrests, police increased their presence on the streets on Sunday. But as night fell the situation again turned violent, with demonstrators taunting police and drawing a firm response from police.
After another day of violent clashes and flaunting of the town's midnight curfew, Missouri governor announced late Sunday evening that he is deploying the Missouri National Guard to restore order.
Said Nixon: "Given these deliberate, coordinated and intensifying violent attacks on lives and property in Ferguson, I am directing the highly capable men and women of the Missouri National Guard ... in restoring peace and order to this community,"
Police with riot gear assemble earlier in the evening to deal with the gathered crowd.
Special units prepare to head out as a tear-gas shell streams from behind an armored vehicle.
Police respond to reports of looting at an area business.
SATURDAY, AUGUST 16: By Saturday, Missouri governor Jay Nixon announced a midnight curfew in an attempt to gain control over the streets of Ferguson in the wake of Friday's continued unrest and growing anger over emerging details of the investigation. Pictured, police maintain order during daylight.
Local business owner Mustafa Alshalabi cleans up his store, Sam’s Meat Market, the morning after looters ransacked it.
Local shopowners brandish firearms to protect their property from further looting.
Two groups of demonstrators march down Florissant Avenue.
Demonstrators pass a line of police.
Captain Ronald Johnson talks with demonstrators earlier in the evening in attempt to head off more clashes with police.
Police stand guard at the 911 Hair Salon.
Police stand guard at area businesses.
Police stand guard at area businesses.
The energy level of demonstrators remain high.
Demonstrators hold up homemade signs.
Police shoot smoke cannisters into the gathered crowd.
Demonstrators run to grab smoke cannisters and hurl them back at police.
Demonstrators and journalists run as police fire tear gas into the crowd.
FRIDAY, AUGUST 15: By week's end, the stronger police presence had returned after several businesses suffered damage and crowds of demonstrators continued to challenge law enforcement.
A demonstrators wears one of many tee-shirts with the image of Michael Brown.
A demonstrator wears a bandana as a mask to conceal her identity. Some have also used masks to cope with smoke and tear gas fired by police.
Fellow Ferguson residents try to restrain energized demonstrators.
Demonstrators stand and kneel in front of law enforcement officials.
Demonstrators climb vehicles travelling Florissant Avenue.
Cars crowd Florissant Avenue as rain begins to fall.
Capt. Ron Johnson, joined by Missouri Congressman Lacy Clay (at left) uses a bullhorn to appeal for calm.
Looters among the demonstrators raid an area liquor store.
Looters emerge from a local business.
Looters flee the scene.
Law enforcement prepare to move against the demonstrators.
A police officer chases a demonstrator.
Particles from a concussion grenade explode into the air.
A demonstrators walks amid gas cannisters fired by police.
THURSDAY, AUGUST 14: Protesters walk down Florissant Avenue as demonstrations continued.
Demonstrators show the "Don't Shoot" hands-up gesture to gathered media.
Demonstrators gather near the location where Michael Brown was gunned down by a Ferguson police officer on August 9.
Missouri Highway Patrol Captain Ronald Johnson walks among demostrators as night falls. Johnson, a Ferguson native, was brought in to take over security from local police in an attempt to quiet tensions.
A child's train joins the demonstrations on Florissant Avenue.
Tear gas spreads through the crowd.
WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 13: Some 500 demonstrators gathered Wednesday to continue protests against the shooting and delays in identified the police officers involved. Protesters vented their anger and in some cases taunted police.
Local police and other law-enforcement personnel have stepped up their presence on city streets over the past several days. But some observers wonder if the show of force, including military-style weapons and tactics, is only exacerbating tensions.
Though confrontations have been loud and vocal thorugh the week, there has as yet not been a repeat of the looting and arson the broke out on August 10, when some two dozen local businesses were damaged and a convenience store was gutted by flames. Nine persons have been charged in those incidents.
Throughout the night, as they have done since the demonstrations began last weekend, many protesters advanced on police lines with arms held high in the air in a gesture of surrender, exclaiming “Don’t Shoot! Don’t Shoot.”
After repeated calls to disperse were ignored, police cracked down with riot gear and tear gas.
Police line up to push the protesters back.
Some demonstrators responded by throwing the tear gas canisters back at police, while others attempted to hurl homemade molotov cocktails.
An Al-Jazeera news crew flees the scene as teear gas strikes their camera location.
Police guarded area businesses to head off a repeat of Sunday's looting and arson.
Tear gas and smoke filled the night air as police moved against demonstrators.
A demonstator braves the smoke to grab a gas cannister and hurl it back at police.
Smoke from tear gas and gas cannisters drifted into nearby neighborhoods.
Police fan out to secure nearby neighborhoods and search for violent protesters.
USS Montgomery
Aug. 19, 2014
The Navy’s littoral combat ship program took another important step forward earlier this month with the launch of the latest vessel in the new class of surface-warfare ships that will define maritime operations in the coming decades. Here’s a look at the future USS Montgomery.
The new ship left Austal USA’s shipyard in Mobile, Ala., on August 8 and will now undergo further outfitting and testing.
Dockworkers move the Montgomery into a drydock in preparation for floating her for the first time.
The formal christening ceremony — where the ship will officially take the name USS Montgomery — is scheduled for later this year; until then her designation is PCU (for “pre-commissioning unit”) Montgomery.
Initiated in 2002, the littoral combat ship (LCS) program consists of two main designs: the trimaran Independence class, built by Austal and General Dynamics, which includes the Montgomery; and the monohull Freedom class, built by Lockheed. Pictured, the Independence-class ship USS Coronado. (Photo: Lieutenant Jan Sultis)
Montgomery is the third ship in the Independence class to complete construction; the class’s lead vessel was commissioned in 2010; USS Coronado was commissioned in April 2014. Pictured, USS Independence arrives for RIMPAC 2014. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Tiarra Fulgham)
Two LCS vessels of the Freedom class have also commissioned, the USS Freedom and USS Forth Worth. Both ships are based in San Diego, Calif. USS Freedom (pictured), is currently undergoing sea trials.
The Navy expects to take delivery of four more littoral combat ships, and plans to build 20 LCS warships in coming years. Pictured, USS Independence at anchor. (Photo: Ensign Caleb White)
The LCS program has not been without problems, particular involving cost overruns for a class of warship that was supposed to lower acquisition and operational costs, and questions about its survivability in combat and offensive punch. Pictured, USS Freedom.
WAVE RIDER: With a core crew of just 40 sailors and the ability to deploy helicopter aircraft and surface ships, the LCS is designed for speed and stealth, and will operate in shallow coastal (littoral) areas conducting a range of anti-mine, anti-submarine, and surface warfare roles. Pictured, USS Independence (left) and USS Coronado
The Independence class use a trimaran hull, with three hull sections and the engines in the water while the bulk of the ship rides well above the waterline. This gives the ship less drag and added maneuverability.
A closer look at the starboard side of USS Independence at anchor shows the trimaran hull. (Photo: Doug Sayers)
The Independence class ships are slightly longer and wider than the Freedom-class ships and have a larger flight deck, but they are also slightly lighter and with less internal hangar capacity. Pictured, USS Freedom (left) and USS Independence. (Photo: Lieutenant Jan Shultis)
The Independence class measures 418 feet long with a beam of 104 feet. Her rated top speed is greater than 44 knots.
The ship's modular internal design allows for different mission packages to be quickly configured to handle a variety of roles. Each package would include up to 35 crew members. Pictured, the bridge of USS Independence. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Daniel M. Young)
Many of the mission-specific functions of the LCS will be conducted by various aircraft. The ship’s large flight deck can accommodate two MH-60 Seahawk helicopters, as well as smaller drone aircraft. Pictured, an MH-60R with Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron HSM-74 (the “Swamp Foxes”) prepares to land on USS Independence. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Trevor Welsh)
LCS vessels can also deploy small surface ships. Pictured, launching a rigid inflatable boat from the stern of USS Independence.
For an offensive punch, all LCS ships carry an MK 110 57mm main gun — pictured here on the bow of USS Independence — and launchers for AGM-176 Griffin and AGM-114 Hellfire missiles.
On defense, Independence-class ships are equipped with a SeaRAM Close In Weapons System to protect it from incoming missiles and aircraft. Pictured, USS Independence demonstrates its maneuverability. (Photo: Mass Communication Specialist Second Class Daniel M. Young)
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Aug. 19, 2014
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WWI: The Tank at War
Aug. 18, 2014
THE “GREAT WAR”: Every war brings new advances in battlefield technology, and among the many developments from 1914 to 1918 was the combat debut of the armored tank. Though clumsy and unreliable at first, these early tank designs set the stage for a revolution in ground warfare. Here’s a look back.
The concept of an armored vehicle was not new, but advances in the internal-combustion engine and the continuous track made the modern form of the tank possible, and the stalemate on the Western front and the ghastly casualties inflicted by machine guns demonstrated the need. Pictured, allied troops at Bapaume, France, 1917. (National Library of Scotland)
Britain began the first serious development of what were initially called “landships” — the term “tank” came from the early vehicles’s resemblance to a water tank. Britain fielded the first prototype in early 1916, and on September 15, 1916, 49 British tanks entered the fight at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, pictured. (Imperial War Museum)
The most famous British tank of the war was the Mark IV, which came in two variants: “male” (armed with side-mounted artillery pieces) and “female” (armed with machine guns, pictured). Britain would eventually produce around 2,600 tanks of various makes during the war.
The Battle of Cambrai on November 20, 1917, saw the largest tank engagement in history to that time, with the Third British Army deploying 476 tanks in the battle. Though the fighting featured new combined-armed tactics, the tanks proved their limitations, with more than half out of action at the end of the first day of fighting. (Imperial War Museum)
France also developed of its own armored vehicle, including the Renault FT, which featured the rotating top-mounted gun turret that would become synonymous with the tank. France would build more than 3,000 tanks during the war. Pictured, U.S. soldiers ride Renault FT-17 tanks at the Forest of Argonne, France. (NARA)
Among the American officers who drove into battle in French Renault tanks was Lieutenant Colonel George S. Patton, Jr., who helped train U.S. troops in tank combat and fought at the Battle of Saint-Mihiel and elsewhere. Patton would go on to become a legendary tank commander during WWII. (U.S. Army)
The German army started development of its own tanks only very late in the war, mostly relying on captured British and French vehicles for research and recycled for their own use on the battlefield. Pictured, a German A7V tank on the Western front. (National Archives)
THE "LANDSHIPS" IN ACTION: An early model British Mark I sits alongside troops dug in in a trench near Thiepval, September 1916.
British Mark I tank with infantry. (National Library of Scotland)
A German A7V tanks drive through a village on the Western front, 1918. (National Archive)
A British Mark IV tank captured and re-painted by German forces.(CC BY SA Archives)
A Renault tank in a French village alongside soldiers with the U.S. First Division, September 1918. (U.S. Army Signal Corps)
New Zealand troops with a British Mark I tank, one of eight that fought at the Second Battle of Gaza, April 1917. Three were destroyed by enemy artillery. (NZHistory)
British Medium Mark A Whippet tank, developed later in the war, near Achiet-le-Petit, France, August, 1918. (National Library of New Zealand)
Tanks stood out on the battlefield, especially from the air when enemy reconnaissance planes flew overhead, meaning camouflage and deception became important. Pictured, Australian soldiers of the Fourth Field Coy. Engineers carrying a dummy MK I tank near Catalet. (Imperial War Museum)
A British tank sits tipped into a trench alongside New Zealand troops at Gommecourt Wood, France, August 1918. (National Library of New Zealand)
A British Mark IV toppled on a road near Lateau Wood. (Imperial War Museum)
British Mark IV tanks being loaded on railway trucks at Plateau Station and headed towards Battle of Cambrai. (Imperial War Museum)
A refurbished British tank used by German forces at Bourlon Wood during the Battle of Cambrai. (Imperial War Museum)
German soldiers transport a captured British tank after fighting at Cambrai, November 1917. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
German troops tow a captured British Mk IV tank through Fontaine. (Imperial War Museum)
Captured British tanks are refurbished for battle in a German workshop. (Imperial War Museum)
CASUALTIES OF WAR: Mechanical problems, untested tactics, slow speeds that left them vulnerable to artillery fire, and the impenetrability of muddy, trench-filled fields conspired to deny the tank a decisive role in the course of the war. Pictured, a British Mark IV tank on the charred battlefield near Inverness Copse, August 1917.
Three tanks lie in the muddy, crater-ridden battlefield at Ypres, Belgium, ca. 1918. (State Library of New South Wales)
A German soldier in front of a destroyed British Mark IV tank,1917. (Deutsches Bundesarchiv)
Two tanks mired in mud at “Tank Corner” in Ypres, October 1917. (State Library of New South Wales)
Movie Preview: The Giver
Aug. 15, 2014
The critically-acclaimed young-adult dystopian novel The Giver comes to the big screen this weekend. Here’s a spoiler-free look at the film, the original novel, and some early reviews and reactions.
The Giver is based on the 1993 novel by Lois Lowry and tells the story of a futuristic society which has eliminated pain and suffering but at the cost of many freedoms and human emotions. Lowry’s book won the prestigious Newberry Medal in 1994 and is taught in many classrooms, though its themes have also gotten it banned from some schools.
The Giver predated the current wave of young-adult fiction titles such as Harry Potter and The Hunger Games. But whereas those series are filled with action, The Giver is a much more cerebral work of science fiction that concerns itself with human memory, emotions, and questions of morality.
The story of The Giver revolves around Jonas, a young teen who has grown up in he Community, where life is ruled by the doctrine of Sameness. Jonas learns that his “assignment,” his role in society, is to become the Receiver of Memory, a repository of humanity’s past, including the vivid emotions that were rejected by the Community.
After meeting the current Receiver, Jonas is exposed to the beauty and pain that humanity lived with in the past. This opens his mind to new realities and forces him to question the morality of his society, putting him on a collision course with everything he thought he knew.
Jonas (Brenton Thwaites) is a young man who has grown up in a seemingly perfect society who learns the cost of that so-called perfection.
The Receiver (Jeff Bridges) is an old man living in an isolated mountaintop who has borne the burden of humanity’s past for many years.
The Chief Elder (Meryl Streep) is part of the society’s elite ruling class.
Katie Holmes plays Jonas’s mother and Alexander Skarsgard also stars as Jonas’s father
Rosemary (Taylor Swift) is a former Receiver of Memory with a different tale to tell.
SUMMARY JUDGMENT: Reviewers have been somewhat mixed for The Giver, with many some praising its more cerebral take on issues tackled by the YA novels that came in its wake while questioning some of the changes that occurred from page to screen. Here’s a sampling of early comments.
John DeFore, Hollywood Reporter: “An agreeable YA riff on Orwell — via Logan's Run — topped with the kind of magic-transformative baloney that passes for an ending in too many otherwise-fine Hollywood adventures, Phillip Noyce's The Giver greets a man-made Utopia with the eternal question: ‘If you can't feel, what's the point?’”
Ann Hornaday, Washington Post: “The Giver perceptively caters to its teenaged fans’ own cardinal desires and anxieties. Messy feelings, youthful curiosity and unruly physical impulses are valorized and elevated, in sharp contrast to the Elders’ Stalinistic attempts at social control.”
Jordan Hoffman, The Guardian: “The Giver is a mid-budget film but it still looks great. There’s still no finer film detailing a futureworld suburbia than Woody Allen’s Sleeper, but the well-lit and nicely maintained parks of The Giver make a good case for a lifestyle of historical ignorance and curated vocabulary.”
Tom Long, The Detroit News: “The Giver offers more than just the standard clamorous post-apocalyptic claptrap that fuels far too many films these days. It dares to offer food for thought to audiences who may be starved for such after another addle-brained summer of explosions, car chases and aliens. Let’s be thankful.”
Mick LaSalle, San Francisco Chronicle: “The Giver takes a tortured individual's dilemma and turns it into societal question: If our emotions make us human, but our emotions keep leading us into catastrophe, how much of our essence are we willing to give up just get some peace?”
Scott Foundas, Varety: “A longtime passion project for producer/star Jeff Bridges, The Giver reaches the screen in a version that captures the essence of Lowry’s affecting allegory but little of its mythic pull — a recipe likely to disappoint fans while leaving others to wonder what all the fuss was about.”
Apocalypse Now
Aug. 15, 2014
August 15 marks the 35th anniversary of the release of Apocalypse Now, director Francis Ford Coppola’s epic masterpiece of the Vietnam War that has taken its place among the greatest war films ever made. Here’s a look back at the film, its most famous scenes, and the troubled production.
Apocalypse Now transplants the story of Joseph Conrad’s novel Heart of Darkness from Africa to Vietnam, telling the story of a troubled Army captain sent on a secret mission to assassinate a Green Beret colonel who has gone insane at the head of a renegade private army.
Martin Sheen stars as Captain Benjamin Willard, a troubled and experienced soldier and a veteran of secret assignments for the the Army and CIA, who now must journey into Cambodia in search of a fellow officer.
Marlon Brando plays Colonel Walter E. Kurtz, a once-promising Green Beret officer whose methods have become "unsound."
Robert Duvall pays Lieutenant Colonel William Kilgore, the charismatic commander of an air cavalry regiment and an avid surfer tired of all the goddamned beach break.
Frederic Forrest plays “Chef,” a tightly-wound recruit from Louisiana who enjoys mangos, dreams of meeting Raquel Welch, and would rather be cooking than fighting.
Sam Bottoms plays Lance Johnson, a famous surfer from the beaches south of L.A.
Laurence Fishburne plays Tyrone Miller, a.k.a “Clean,” a very young Navy recruit from the South Bronx.
Dennis Hopper plays an American photojournalist who has become a manic disciple of Kurtz.
The screenplay for Apocalypse Now was written by Coppola, screenwriter John Milius, and Michael Herr, author of the Vietnam chronicle Dispatches, who provided some of the film’s dialogue and narration.
Cinematographer Vittorio Storaro’s lush visuals emphasized green and orange hues as the weapons of modern war blended into the overwhelming natural landscape.
Editor Walter Murch took nearly three years to assemble the film from more than 200 hours of footage and create its distinctive and hypnotic aural landscapes. Much of the audio was layered in during postproduction.
Apocalypse Now won the Palm d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for an Academy Award. In 2000 it was added to the National Film Registry.
CINEMA CLASSICS: Apocalypse Now features numerous iconic characters, scenes, and famous lines of dialogue which have been enteed into the popular culture in the year's since the film’s release. Here’s a sampling of the best known ones.
The film’s opening montage unspools to the music of the Doors’ “This Is the End,” and includes footage of helicopters and napalm explosions that were outtakes of shots from the massive airborne attack scene later in the film.
Wagner's “The Ride of the Valkyries“ is played by Colonel Kilgore during a massive aerial assault to motivate his men and frighten the Viet Cong forces.
Playboy Bunnies arrive to entertain the troops after the grueling Operation Brute Force, landing to the tune of “Suzie Q.”
Colonel Kilgore: “Charlie don’t surf!”
Colonel Kilgore: “I love the smell of napalm in the morning.”
Colonel Kurtz: “The horror … the horror…”
Colonel Kurtz: “You’re an errand boy, sent by grocery clerks to collect a bill.”
CIA Officer: “Terminate with extreme prejudice.”
Captain Willard: “Charging a man with murder in this place was like handing out speeding tickets a the Indy 500. I took the mission. What the hell else was I gonna do?”
The film’s title appears fleetingly at Kurtz’s jungle encampment as graffiti on a rock: “Our motto: Apocalypse Now.”
Director Coppola appears in a brief cameo as a frenetic news director filming the assault by Kilgore’s Air Cavalry outfit. As Willard and his boat crew arrive, Coppola implores them: “Don’t look at the camera, don’t look at the camera, just go by like you’re fighting!”
THE FOG OF WAR: Besieged by difficulties that took a heavy toll on Coppola, Apocalypse Now is nearly as famous for its behind-the-scenes drama and chaos as what ended up on the screen. Pictured, Colonel Kilgore arrives.
Coppola’s wife chronicled the rolling disaster in her documentary Hearts of Darkness. Pictured, Coppola directs the action in his cameo scene.
The massive production shot for more than 16 months and nearly ground to a halt on numerous occasions in the wet jungles of the Philppines, driving Coppola to thoughts of suicide. Pictured, a camera crew captures the assault by Kilgore’s men.
At one point a typhoon swept in and destroyed many of the film’s sets, delaying the production for several months. Pictured, filming at Kurtz’s compound.
The Philippine military, which was providing the helicopters and many of the extras and weapons, was notoriously unreliable and would pull its aircraft away without warning, ruining days of planning of the film's extremely complicated battle scenes.
Coppola on top of a camera crane lines up a shot on the film’s massive Kurtz compound set. The set was later destroyed and footage used in early versions of the film’s closing credit sequence.
Star Martin Sheen suffered a heart attack during filming, forcing the production to shoot around him during recovery; Sheen’s brother Joe Estevez was flown out to film some scenes with Willard seen only from behind. Meanwhile, Coppola kept Sheen’s health a secret from the film’s backers for fear they would shut him down.
Sheen’s early scenes when Willard suffers a nervous breakdown in a Saigon hotel were unscripted and Sheen was reportedly drunk during some shots. During one take, he accidentally struck a glass mirror, causing real blood to flown.
Harvey Keitel was originally cast as Captain Willard but was replaced after several weeks of filming. Steve McQueen had earlier been offered the role but turned it down; Jeff Bridges also auditioned.
Marlon Brando showed up in the Philippines very overweight and without having read the script, which he turned out to hate. The actor insisted on endless on-set discussions with Coppola about the character and the storyline. Eventually he was allowed to ad-lib many of his lines.
Dennis Hopper also proved an unreliable presence on the set, refusing to memorize his lines and infusing his performance with bizarre ramblings and tangents that were’t always in the script but that somehow captured the character.
In the film’s final sequence where Willard goes after Kurtz, the local tribespeople are seen ritually slaughtering a bull. The bull was actually slaughtered on camera, something that would never be allowed on a Hollywood set.
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