American assault troops of the 16th Infantry Regiment, injured while storming Omaha Beach, wait for evacuation to a field hospital for further medical treatment in this photo taken at Collville-sur-Mer, Normandy
Unbroken and 10 More Great Movies About World War II
Based on the best-selling non-fiction book “Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption" by Laura Hillenbrand, Angelina Jolie’s acclaimed film “Unbroken” joins a long tradition of cinema’s interest in the intricate details of World War II.
Unlike many of the other films, however, “Unbroken" narrows its focus on the impact that one individual, USA Olympian and athlete Louis Zamperini, had on the hearts and minds of hundreds of other people in and around the war. For that reason, the film stands as an interesting look at one of the world’s most fascinating events and individuals.
With “Unbroken“ available on Digital HD now, and arriving on Blu-ray, and DVD on March 24, we’ve put together a list of 10 moregreat movies about World War II that you need to check out.
I was an Air Traffic Controller at Atlantic Municipal Airport, Iowa for 27 years. My first year at the job, I unwillingly went from a firm atheist to a believer.
My uncle and aunt came to visit me here in Atlanta. We got to talking about all sorts of general things, you know how family is, but we somehow ended up on the topic of strange/supernatural. This is when my uncle started telling me his story, a story that he says will haunt him all the way to his grave. I stopped him two minutes into it and got my laptop.
These are his memories, almost word for word. Forgive the non-traditional writing.
Are you typing? You are? Ok, ok… And your friends on the internet will read this? Ha, alright, but warn them that these are just old man’s memories… Ok, so back to the beginning.
So I graduated from Fordham in 1974 and I still had no idea what to do. Times were different then – we were able to find jobs easily, Jesus, I remember companies practically begging us to work for them. But I didn’t want to do some shitty desk job for the rest of my life. So I waited. Then one day, while flying to visit your aunt on Thanksgiving, I caught myself being fascinated with the complexity of air traffic systems. That’s all it took. I decided to become an air traffic controller. By the time I turned 27, I had passed all of the necessary tests and have accumulated enough experience to be hired and work without supervision.
Thing with air traffic controllers is that you don’t really get to choose where you’re gonna work in the beginning. Sure, we all wanted to work at JFK or Hartsfield-Jackson, but those jobs just weren’t available to us rookies. So I had to take a job in a bumfuck little town in Iowa called Atlantic. It was literally a single landing strip in a damn cornfield, but I had to pay my dues. And the money was alright.
Now, small airports like these usually only work 8-5, but this particular strip was in such a geographical location that there were a lot of flights going above us at any time, so we needed to stay open until 4am in case of emergency landing. By staying open, I mean I had to sit in the control tower, and there was one security guy sleeping in the airport’s only terminal.
It wasn’t that bad, really, I’d bring my books and crossword puzzles, and I’d spend hours on the phone with your aunt. You know how they say that the air traffic controller is the most stressful job in the world? Well, I was bored 99% of time, and that 1% was guiding small Cesnas into my cornfield airport.
So why am I telling you all of this? Well, about 3 months into my job, something started happening. Something that even today I can’t really… I’ll save you the talk about the supernatural, but what happened at that airport just ain’t right.
February 20th, 1979, I remember it like it was yesterday. It was your regular winter night in Iowa –winds and freezing cold, but no snow. I was spposed to work until close, although we didn’t have any flights scheduled.
Around 1am, I received radio message from a small Cesna about 30 miles from the airport. They were having really bad snow storm up in Omaha and needed to land here in Atlantic. I guess being open late was justified, after all. I got my binoculars out, verified the visibility and started guiding the aircraft. Though it was really windy out there, they managed to touch down. I looked through the binoculars to verify the landing went ok, and that’s when I saw her for the first time.
Just walking down the runway as if it were a normal street was this… woman? Shit, I don’t know. Now, there were about 100 things wrong with this situation. First, the woman was wearing some sort of short summer dress, or a night gown, and she was barefoot, believe it or not. Normal person would be cold dressed like that during the summer, let alone our winter. And then, you had to wonder what in the world was this person doing walking down the active runway, and how the hell did she get there to begin with?
“Flight 84, this is Alex from Air Traffic Control, do you happen to see a woman walking down the runway towards you?” I asked the pilot who had just landed. “Huh, let me check.” The pilot answered.
Still watching through binoculars, I saw him open the door of the plane, then get out. He started walking towards the woman. Not going to lie, at that point I was having a lot of fun. Not much happened in Atlantic, Iowa and this certainly was entertaining. I couldn’t wait to hear her story. My bet was that she got in a car accident near the airport.
Well… The pilot walked up to her and I could make it that he was saying something. I saw (still through the binoculars) her lean to his ear and almost… whisper something to him. He just stood there for a good 10 seconds with neither of them moving. She was still leaned close to his ear. Then he snapped out of it, I guess, turned around, and literally sprinted to the plane. When I saw the propellers starting to rotate, I jumped on my radio.
“Flight 84, what are you doing?” No answer. “Flight 84, I repeat, what is happening?” Nothing. Then, the plane started moving, speeding up. “Flight 84, you do NOT have permission to take off, I repeat, you are NOT cleared for takeoff!”
But there was no answer. That damn Cesna kept speeding up and then took off. Nothing I could do really, besides making sure that no other planes were above us at the time. I tried one more time.
“Flight 84, this is Air Traffic Control… what the hell is happening?” And then my radio started making white noise. “nu…un…n… u…” was all I could hear coming from the radio. “Flight 84, please repeat, you’re breaking up.” “What a night,” I thought. Radio started transmitting again. “un… UN…RUN. RUN. RUN.” “Flight 84, did you say “run”? Please repeat yourself.”
But nothing else came from out of that damn radio. The plane was long gone. I sank into my chair trying to decipher what in the fuck just happened, pardon my French. Run? From what? What the hell… And then it dawned on me. The woman.
I grabbed the binoculars.
She was looking straight at me. Good 200 yards away, at night, she was somehow looking straight at me, eyes open so wide, it’s hard to explain what she looked like. I guess, you know how when someone is super surprised, their eyes widen? Like when you startle someone and their eyes just get so wide, some sort of defense mechanism, I susppose? That’s how she was looking. Straight at me. “What in the world…” I mumbled.
At that moment, she started running towards my tower. Like not jogging, but really running. Still looking straight at me. I swear to you, goosebumps ran all over me like 10,000 cold ants.
You know I’m not the one to get scared, shit, I spent 6 years in Vietnam. But something about this situation, something about that pilot telling me to run and this…woman running towards me, something seemed so wrong.
“Joe, are you there? Joe?” I blurted into the radio. Joe was our night security guard. He didn’t answer. Shit… I looked through the window just in time to see the woman run into my tower. I heard the door downstairs slam open.
I honestly didn’t know what to do. This wasn’t a rational situation, you know? If it were some sort of terrorist, or whatever, I’d know what needs to be done. But this… Was this situation malicious? It was certainly strange, and that exact weirdness, that not knowing what is happening is what made me run into the bathroom and lock the doors. As I turned the lock, I heard the control room doors open.
You know how in your generation’s movies you just hear quiet footsteps of some invader slowly looking for you? And then the shadow shows up under the door? Well, this was the opposite. As soon as those doors opened, chaos began. I tried peeking through the keyhole but all I was able to see is fast shadow running across the room, accompanied by tremendous noise. I swear I was so shocked that at one point I nearly opened the door just to see what is causing all this.
Then, a hard slam into the bathroom door had me nearly fall on the floor. And then, nothing. Silence.
I could lie and pretend I was brave enough to get out of that bathroom soon after, but I wasn’t, I’ll admit it. I stayed in there the whole night, waiting for the morning shift.
Around 7:45am I heard a familiar voice say “What in the fuck…?” It was Clark, the morning shift controller.
I opened the door to see a scene so twisted that even to this day I remember every detail. The control room was nearly totaled. Radios ripped out, papers and manuscripts everywhere, radar screens smashed to pieces.
When the police came, I gave the full report. It took 11 days to repair all the equipment and get the room fully functional. The security guard on duty that night was fired. They even started considering installing security cameras (I know, I know, today that seems like a normal thing to you, but it wasn’t back in the day). Police had no idea what to make of it, they just urged us to report anything suspicious.
I used the 11 day break to sort myself out, and by the end of that forced vacation, I was convinced that all of this was caused by some deranged woman, possibly a mental patient? Whatever made me sleep at night, right? I came back to work on March 4th. I was a bit worried about working nights again, but I was convinced that whoever did this was far gone by now. The next month or so was very uneventful, just how I liked it.
Iowa was scheduled to get hit with a big snow storm that day. Most of the flights were grounded, but some were still in the air, and I had to work. I hated it because if we did get hit with heavy snow, I’d probably end up being stranded. I wish that was the worst thing that happened.
Around 11pm that night, when it was already snowing big time, I received radio message from a small private jet that was some 50 miles away. They were getting caught in heavy winds and the pilots wanted to land on our airport immediately. Now, jets like that would traditionally be too big to land at our strip, but the emergency like this called for overriding of guidelines.
“Flight 676, you are cleared to land, but we have to remain in contact at all times, this strip’s pretty short, do you acknowledge?” “Sure thing, let’s just put this puppy down, shall we” the pilot said. It was snowing heavily by that point. Thankfully, we had a cleanup crew deice and clean the runway before they headed home, so it was still in decent condition. Again, back then, we were way more relaxed about the rules. I took a look at the strip to make sure it was clear.
And out of nowhere, just when I forgot about her, she appeared. She was just slowly strolling down the strip, about 100 yards away from the tower. Her bare feet slowly moving across the freezing asphalt.
The worst part about it… She was looking straight at me again. Again with those crazy fucking eyes.
This is when I realized what the most disturbing thing about her was… She wasn’t blinking. I was looking at her for good 2 minutes, winds and snow blasting in her face, and she wasn’t blinking. It was almost as if she didn’t want to lose a fucking millisecond of looking straight at me. “Oh god…” “Flight 676, maintain, I repeat, maintain the altitude until further communication.” “Traffic Control, this is 676, that is a negative, we cannot maintain with head winds like this. We have to land. Are we clear? We are 6 minutes away.” I couldn’t risk the lives of people up in that plane. I had to land them, despite this… whatever this was walking down the runway. “Cleared to land 676.” I put down the radio and looked through the window. She was now some 10 yards away, coming closer to the tower.
Though I shouldn’t under any circumstances leave the control room, I ran down to the first floor and locked the outside door. I knew she was close and I knew she was coming.
When I got back to the room, I heard the radio. “Control Tower, we are approaching the runway, please advise” “Rotate 3 degrees right, acknowledge.” “Copy that, we see the lights now. See you soon!” I looked up through the window and could see the plane in the distance. There was no trace of the woman on runway. I sighed a breath of relief. I was going to deal with this issue after the jet had safely landed.
At that moment, a loud noise broke through the tower. I didn’t want to believe it, but I was afraid that the first floor door had slammed open. How the hell? I locked it, I know I did. And then, goosebumps overcame me again, almost as if my body could feel something that I couldn’t.
My first instinct was to lock myself in the bathroom again, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t leave the radio.
Footsteps on the metal stairs were getting louder. She… I assumed it was her, wasn’t running at least. But the violent sound of footsteps made me think she was, what, slamming her feet into the ground with every step she made? “676, this is Traffic Control, I have visual confirmation. Clear to land.” I heard the control room doors open. This is when I realized just how afraid I was. You know, I’m almost 70 now and am not embarrassed to admit how scared I was at that moment. Matter of fact, I was so scared that I couldn’t even turn around, if you can believe that. I just couldn’t face what was behind me. This was very unusual because I was always composed and rational. Always, whether it was being stuck in a ditch in Vietnamese jungle or being nearly hit by an 18-wheeler on the highway. Always calm. And there I was, staring straight at my radio, unable to turn my head and face it.
I’m sure your friends on the internet will laugh at how I reacted, but I guarantee most of you would behave the same. Your body just doesn’t behave normally when terrified.
“Traffic Control, 30 seconds out, here we go” came from the radio. I slowly pressed the talk button on the radio, my teeth literally chattering. “All… all clear” I muttered. Then I felt a cold breath on my neck.
She was behind me. Breathing slowly into my neck. I could feel the lips move up to my ear. You know when you were a kid and someone was messing behind your back, making faces or bunny ears and you could somehow feel it? I could feel the mouth an inch form my ear, though I couldn’t even see her with the corner of my eye.
I was still nearly paralyzed. I admit, I used to ashamed of my inability to act in this surreal situation. But now when I look at it, no one can tell me they’d react any differently. It just wasn’t earthly situation, you know?
“Come down… to field… come down.” The whisper crawled into my ear. You’d normally think that hearing a voice would somehow defuse the situation, or at least brush away any thoughts of supernatural, but that voice was so different than anything I’ve ever heard. I’m not a writer, I can’t explain it. It was cold, inhuman even. But what scared me the most was the anger I felt in it. Though she whispered, I could feel the rage. And, I don’t even know how to put it into words, her voice lacked something that every other voice had. I don’t know.
“Touched down! Traffic Control, 676 is on the ground. Hope you have some hot chocolate ready!”
The woman behind me snapped back and I heard what I assumed was running. I forced myself to turn around just in time to her running out, barefoot. “676… welcome” I made myself say into the radio. Though my legs were still foreign to the rest of my body, I propped myself up and looked through the window. I was expecting to see the woman running out, but she was nowhere to be seen. I thought that she was still in the building.
This time I managed to get the security guy on the radio and he showed up few minutes later. He did a full walkthrough the tower, but no trace of the woman. I started feeling relieved only when the police showed up. They thoroughly searched the building with no success. They did notice the trace of footsteps coming from the neighboring corn field to the tower, but there were no prints going back.
Imagine my situation at the time, just take a second to think about it. You are the only one to ever see this woman, I’ll call her a woman. I wouldn’t be surprised if the police started thinking that I was hitting the bottle during work. I decided to keep it to myself until I could prove there was this person disrupting (or haunting?) the airport. I couldn’t really quit, and honestly, would you? Probably not. I mean, yes, these were two absolutely surreal experiences, and I did feel some sort of intangible hazard, but I didn’t think my life was ever in danger. I decided to stick with it. Winter was almost over, anyways. Spring brought more horror than winter ever could.
Trucks of the 1st Infantry Division of the United States Army are loaded into a Landing Ship Tank (LST) in Dorset, United Kingdom, on June 5th, 1944. The LST forms part of Group 30 of the LST Flotilla. The 1st Division was one of the two divisions that stormed Omaha Beach in Normandy, France on D-Day suffering high casualties. It secured Formigny and Caumont in the beachhead. (AFP PHOTO/Getty Images)
A painting by Ken Riley depicting the 29th Infantry Division storming Omaha Beach on D-Day, 6 June 1944. The 29th “Blue and the Grey” was comprised of National Guard Units drawn from both the North and the South, USA.