November 15, 2019
Dear Pete Hegseth,
I need your help.
I’m writing you this letter from a Tokyo jail cell. They took away my iPhone so I can’t tweet @ you. I’m terrified. They say I’m accused of satsujin, whatever that means, and they look really mad but I honestly don’t understand why. The last thing I remember I was drinking whiskey highballs and singing Toby Keith at a karaoke bar in Kabukicho, when…BAM! I’m getting hauled off in a paddywagon with my hands zip-tied behind my back. What’s worse is my ship’s duty officer came to tell me I’m being charged with UCMJ violations and my ship is leaving me behind. This has to be one big liberal conspiracy. I think I may have been a victim of a hate crime against the USA. I mean, I do remember I was wearing my American flag tank top and my “Back-to-Back World War Champs” ballcap. I am a United States Sailor… a bona fide national hero! Whatever happened, it wasn’t my fault! I know you’ve had success in convincing our leaders to drop bogus, trumped-up charges against true patriots like Major Matthew Golsteyn. He was accused of shooting an unarmed man. Whatever I did can’t be that bad! Please send help soon! There’s no wi-fi. I’m not sure how long I can make it.
November 16, 2019
Ok, so it turns out it is that bad. Apparently, satsujin means ‘murder’ but I’m innocent! I swear! I’m remembering a little more about that fateful night. Some Yakuza-lookin’ joker started talking trash about America so I smashed a bottle of Jameson over his head. I don’t know nothin’ about no “Rules of Engagement” but that has to be authorized use of military force! We gotta protect America’s honor like we protect our borders! Amiright?
Anyways, it’s been like a week and I haven’t heard anything from you. I’m getting desperate. They won’t even let me vape my Juul. They only give me unflavored tobacco cigarettes! GROSS! Oh, and the jerk duty officer came by again. He said they’re gonna bust me down to O-3. I didn’t even know they could do that! I can’t live on a Lieutenant’s salary! I have like fourteen streaming apps and delivery services to pay for. You helped Eddie Gallagher get back to E-7. Surely you can help an officer! I’ll try to ration my remaining avocados and White Claws. Please act fast – I only have a dozen each left. I’m thinking a couple days should be sufficient, right?
November 19, 2019
Dear Pete, or Fox and/or Any Friends,
OK, shipmates, you’ve had plenty of time! I ran out of avocado and White Claw rations three days ago. I have no beard oil. They serve me sushi all day long, and they won’t even tell me if its sustainably sourced. They’re SAVAGES! They finally told me their entire “story” on this ridiculous satsujin charge. They claim I went on a drunken rampage and set the bar on fire. Pfff… so what if I did? I remembered something else – the people at the bar said Japanese baseball players are better than Americans! Can you believe that?!? This is about national pride! You have to do something! How is the world ever going to respect us if we let our so-called “allies” push us around like this?? Please, this has gone on long enough. Clint Lorance sat in a cell for six years before you got him out, but his entire unit testified that he ordered them to open fire on three Afghan civilians, killing two. I’m only accused of one murder (maybe more depending on the results of a few autopsies). Besides, there’s no way I can make it in here that long. They’re talking about making me do manual labor. I keep telling myself it’s just like Crossfit IRL, but I’m just not sure! This anxiety is literally killing me! I’m the victim here!
This will be my last letter. The stupid jerkface duty officer told me I’ve already been found guilty at court martial of the UCMJ violations. They’re calling me a violent, drunken sailor, but I’m just a red-blooded American standing up for the ol’ red, white, and blue! You gotta help me, brochachos! I’m begging your pardon!
This post originally appeared on the USNI blog here.
Well my snarky comments finally got me in trouble. I guess the Navy’s patience with my lack of historical appreciation ran out, so they assigned me Extra Military Instruction to study WWII history. I was perfectly happy assuming ‘Merica won World War II with a cunning mix of Aegis, PowerPoint, and DTS, but nooooooo . . .
I was pleasantly surprised to learn I was being sent to an advance screening of Midway, the prequel to Top Gun. Shipmates, let me tell you . . . this movie is OUT. OF. CONTROL!
Seriously, it’s about a made-up carrier battle between the Japanese and U.S. fleets off a make-believe island called “Midway” and it’s insane. This World War II–era historical fiction follows Maverick’s grandfather, Lieutenant Dick Best (great name, totally fake) played by Ed Skrein, through dogfights, strafing runs, and crazy dive bombing into spewing volcanoes of antiair artillery. Not only are the aerial combat scenes intense, the movie also captures the drama of World War II from the home front, with Woody Harrelson playing the surprisingly witty Admiral Nimitz (Penny Benjamin’s great-grandfather) and Mandy Moore as the sharp-tongued Anne Best.
As far as Hollywood action and drama go, Midway knocks it out of the park. You really get a good sense of where Maverick’s daddy issues came from, after watching Dick Best and his wingmen fly straight into the teeth of the Japanese carrier fleet and almost singlehandedly win the war for America (pfff . . . more on this preposterous scene later). As far as World War II historical fiction, Midway is just a bit too unbelievable. I mean, there are some believable parts, but others are too far-fetched to swallow. Allow me to millennial-splain.
- The Navy spends just as much time planning to beat the Army as it does the enemy (applies internationally).
- If it can go wrong, it will. Anybody who has served on a warship knows that Murphy’s Law is in full effect at sea. Midway does a good job of showing the chaotic friction of naval warfare. Torpedoes don’t work, aircraft launch cycles go sideways, scouts give incomplete or inaccurate reports . . . it goes on and on. Does anyone think it would be any different in the real world? I don’t.
- Nobody listens to the junior officers until it’s too late. I won’t give away any spoilers. Let’s just say both sides squandered opportunities for victory by dismissing the junior voice in the room. You’ll know it when you see it. The junior officer has the disruptive thought, and you can almost hear the whispers of “good idea fairy” and “pixie dust” in the background. SMH.
- Washington just gets in the way. Whether it’s dismissing the intelligence reports or pushing flawed doctrine based on faulty weapons, the National Command Authority is not trying to help our boys at Midway. Still, the courage, instincts, and determination of sailors and officers in battle—and the trust of their senior leaders—win the day. I feel this in my soul.
- The intel officer gives a straight answer. When pressed by the admirals, Lieutenant Commander Layton, played by Patrick Wilson, gives a clear and specific response to clarify his intelligence report. WHAT?? This would NEVER HAPPEN.
- The aircraft carrier elevators work. Ha!
- The USS Yorktown was repaired in 72 hours. OK, in what far-off magical fairytale land does an aircraft carrier get repaired from a direct hit in battle in three days? I LOL’d at this. More like three months! We build the world’s most exquisite, elegant weapons systems to eliminate the possibility that they will suffer damage in the first place. It’s simple!
- The Greatest Generation was scared. I’ve read a lot of tweets about the Greatest Generation, and the idea that they were vulnerable is laughable. There are several captivating scenes showing sailors and officers considering the very real possibility that they will not see the end of the war. I could see millennials whining about it, and baby boomers repressing it, but we all know sailors in World Ware II were fearless – especially since American exceptionalism dictates that we had a preordained right to victory.
- Ten minutes that won the war. No spoilers here, but the climax of the movie coincides with the climax of the Battle of Midway, which turned the tide of the Pacific Campaign, and consequently World War II and, indeed, the very course of history! And we are to believe he men at Midway did all this—fought through overwhelming odds, capitalized on moments of luck, and overcame their own personal fears—in ten minutes real time! Shenanigans!
So, as you can see, the WWII-era prequel to Top Gun is great entertainment, but <checks text messages> . . . wait, WHAT? That all really happened?!? Um, I need to go change my Facebook status to “shook.” Then, I need to go see that movie again!
BTW, aviators: the sweet, sweet irony of a SWO being asked to review this movie is not lost on me.
The kings of literary media interview Guy Snodgrass about his book, “Holding the Line: Inside Trump’s Pentagon with Secretary Mattis” and other issues involving his Navy knowledge as a retired Commander.
Buy the Book Today: https://www.amazon.com/Holding-Line-Inside-Pentagon-Secretary/dp/0593084373