By Phil Briggs
From departing for boot camp, to the hours of downtime during deployments–heavy metal was the soundtrack to many of our military memories. Bands like, AC/DC, Van Halen, Metallica and Guns and Roses, provided motivation while performing mundane tasks from the FOB to the flight deck, but you might be surprised to learn just how important ACDC (and their fellow headbangers) have been to military operations.
When Rolling Stone reported, Malcolm Young, guitarist and co-founder of AC/DC, died Saturday at the age of 64, it struck a chord in my rock n roll soul. I cranked up “Shoot to Thrill,”and I scrolled through my social news feeds and read about the legendary rhythm guitarist’s life, his battle with dementia and condolences from fans.
While I always knew rock was instrumental to my life, I discovered that ACDC (and heavy metal in general) has played a supporting role in several military operations.
For example- the fateful Special Forces mission in 1993, where Army Veteran, CWO Mike Durant, was in one of five Black Hawk helicopters shot down by hostile forces in Somalia.
In the documentary, “AC/DC Beyond The Thunder” Durant recalls being held prisoner with a broken back, femur, cheekbone and eye socket, all while wondering if he was going to live. Then he heard a familiar sound, “It was the rotors of an aircraft and then Bong, Bong .. I hear the beginning of ‘Hells Bells’ start up, and it was just an incredible moment.” He described how the helicopters were circling the city with AC/DC blaring from loudspeakers. After the song ended, he heard the words, “Mike, we won’t leave here without you.”
What is more bad ass than a POW/ Rock n Roll rescue? How about our enemies surrendering after being blown away by the power of military grade heavy metal? Turns out it actually happened.
According to the BBC, On Christmas Day 1989, corrupt Panamanian leader Gen. Manuel Noriega was facing drug-trafficking charges and holed up in an embassy in Panama City. Refusing to give up and surrounded by a fleet of US Troops in Humvees with loud speakers, they blasted him with a playlist including; Van Halen, Judas Preist and ACDC’s iconic song “Shook Me All Night Long”. Actually, the entire playlist, has been saved on YouTube by George Washington University’s National Security Archive. Noriega surrendered by Jan 3, 1990. (Apparently he preferred opera?)
Heavy Metal was also sent to crush the Taliban in Afghanistan.
The Guardian reported reported back in 2010, “The sounds of Metallica and Thin Lizzy are now being used on the frontline in Afghanistan. Marines are allegedly blasting heavy metal into villages in Marjah, hoping to subdue the Taliban through ringing ears.”
The article described blasting The Offspring’s “Pretty Fly For a White Guy” and a US Special Forces Sergeant said, “children cover their ears and, it is claimed, insurgents lay down their arms. There are no obscenities, … but we tell them they’re gonna die”.
And according to Chron.com, even the CIA has cranked up the metal to break terrorist bastards. Their playlist apparently includes Drowning Pool, “Bodies”, Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and Marilyn Manson’s cover of the Eurythmic’s “The Beautiful People”.
The Barney Song, Disney’s “It’s a Small World” and the theme to Sesame Street have also been used.
So the next time you hear ACDC, open the windows and crank it up. You’re honoring Malcolm Young’s memory and showing your patriotism- One Nation Under Rock, With Liberty and Heavy Metal for All.