Uncommon Courage: Real Life Events That Inspired and Became Hollywood Films

It’s hard in this day and age to find a good movie that is in fact based on real life events and happenings. Sometimes they are so altered that they hardly stay true to the original story and become just another Hollywood film. However, there are those that are based on real life events that not only entertained audiences, but also gave light to unbelievable events in the world that did in fact, really happen. Here are some of those real life events that both entertained and moved audiences throughout the world. A word of warning, there may or may not be spoilers ahead. 

1. The Battle of Long Tan — In 1966, Australian (ANZAC) soldiers were outnumbered 100 to 2500 in a battle that occurred on a rubber plantation known as Long Tan. During the war the Vietcong and NVA (North Vietnamese Army), attacked the Nui Dat base where many of the Australians were stationed. This attack served as the catalyst for what would later come to be one of the bloodiest battles of the war. When they reached the abandoned village of Long Tan, the Australians were suddenly ambushed by enemy forces. Not only did they have to fight off the enemy, but the troops also had to fight in the rain which made the battle even more difficult to endure. Some 53 years later, a documentary would be made about the battle (Sam Worthington narrates) and a film titled “Danger Close: The Battle of Long Tan.” The movie is set to be released in theaters on Nov. 8th, 2019 so for all you history, military and movie buffs out there, rally the troops and get to the theaters. 

2. The Horse Soldiers — It’s hard to imagine that just weeks after 911, we already had boots on the ground in Afghanistan. But according to new information surfacing in the years after, one unlikely group of soldiers became the first set of boots on the ground. This group of Army Green Berets went into the mountains of Afghanistan to secure a partnership with the Northern Alliance, headed by General Abdul Rashid Dostum. However, the group ran into a slight problem. Their vehicles couldn’t withstand the rough terrain of the mountains. So what else to do but to adapt to difficult circumstances. General Dostum helped to train the men to use the horses which gave the soldiers an added advantage. In 2018, director Nicholai Fuglsig chronicled the event in his film “12 Strong.”

3. Doss… Desmond Doss — Very few people know the story of Desmond Doss, but for World War II historians, Desmond Doss was the steadfast little soldier who enlisted as a medic and was deployed to Okinawa where the fighting in the Pacific was the hottest. Desmond was a pacifist who had to request and fight for permission to not carry a rifle into battle. He enlisted as a medic in the US Army, wanting to save lives rather than take them. Desmond proved himself to be a true hero by saving many of the men in his platoon, attributing his bravery to God. Close to 75 years later, Mel Gibson decided to put the story to screen when he directed the award winning film “Hacksaw Ridge.”

4. Seven Days in Entebbe — One small nation rose to become a giant in 1976 when an Air France flight from Paris to Tel Aviv was hijacked over Athens, Greece and rerouted to Entebbe Airport in Uganda. The Israeli Mossad agents caught wind of the incident and quickly sprang into action, knowing that time was of the essence. Sneaking in under the cover of darkness, a group of commandos carried out the raid and managed to rescue all but four or five of the hostages, all five hijackers and only one commando killed (the commando was the current Israeli Prime Minister’s older brother Jonathan). In the years to come, several documentaries and films would be made chronicling the events along with the 2018 film. 

5. The Coast Guard’s Finest Hour — Massachusetts has been known for several things, the Boston Red Sox, nutty drivers, orange road cone season and bad snowstorms. Okay, so maybe that’s not entirely the case. However, Massachusetts is well known for Cape Cod, its most iconic piece of coastline. Cape Cod later rose to fame not just as the home where the Kennedys and many others vacationed, but for a little known story that made both Cape Cod and Coast Guard History. In the winter of 1952, a howling nor’easter hit the Cape and scuttled a ship called the USS Pendleton off the coast of Chatham, MA. But for Coast Guard Boatswain’s Mate, Bernie Webber and his crew, the storm was only the beginning. Despite warnings not to go out in the storm, the men braved the strong currents, howling winds and icy ocean in order to rescue the stranded men. What film could this have inspired you may ask? The 2016 film “The Finest Hours.” 

6. Operation Valkyrie — It’s hard for many to imagine that there were indeed members of the Nazi party who were appalled by what Germany had become during World War II, but for Clause Von Stauffenberg it became apparent that Germany was not the country he had come to know. He and several others rallied together to infiltrate the Nazi party from the inside and even went so far as to attempt to assassinate Adolf Hitler. However, the plot failed and the conspirators were ultimately put to death for the plot. Yet the history books and Hollywood alike have been inspired by the event, sparking inspiration for numerous films and documentaries, including 2008’s “Valkyrie.” If you haven’t seen it, it’s worth the watch as Tom Cruise’s portrayal of General Von Stauffenberg is phenomenal.

7. Remember the 19 — About two years ago I had been to the movies to see a small film called “Only the Brave” and walked out of the theaters absolutely SPEECHLESS. The film tells the story of the “Yarnell 19” who were a group of wildland firefighters sent to battle a blaze that had sparked up in Yarnell, AZ. The fire had grown so out of control due to the high winds and the dry terrain that the firefighters were trapped down in a box canyon where their shelters failed and 19 of the 20 man crew perished, their only survivor being rookie firefighter Brendan McDonough. Today there are memorials all over Arizona and Brendan McDonough works as a motivational speaker and writer who worked closely with family and friends of his brothers to bring “Only the Brave” to the screen so their story would never be forgotten. 

8. Evacuate the Beach — Circling back to some of the events that played out during World War II, it’s hard to imagine being a soldier in the midst of hot fighting—but what about being trapped on a beach with 400,000 troops, the Germans closing in and you have nowhere to go? That’s exactly what happened during the Evacuation of Dunkirk in 1940. Over 400,000 British troops (again it’s hard to tell exactly how many) were trapped on the beaches in the city of Dunkirk in Northern France with no way out. The Germans were closing in and with every second that ticked by, the troops realized that they were sitting ducks. With the help of civilians, many of these men were able to safely cross the English Channel and return home where they would once again be called to fight. Christopher Nolan, who directed the 2017 film “Dunkirk,” not only read of accounts in books, but had also interviewed men who were there during one of the most nail biting moments in the history of World War II and the whole world. 

9. Schindler’s List — An Iconic Steven Spielberg film of the same title, “Schindler’s List” tells the story of Oskar Schindler (portrayed by Liam Neeson), a very prominent businessman who has many connections in the Nazi Party. Ultimately he undergoes a change of heart when he witnesses the true horrors of the Holocaust and is credited with saving over 1,200 Jewish citizens during this period in history. Schindler was born in what is today known as Moravia and became a businessman who owned several factories in Poland. At many of these factories were Jewish employees who were in danger of being deported to the concentration camps throughout Europe. Schindler, even at the risk of his own life, repeatedly intervened on behalf of many of his workers and was able to save them from certain death. Schindler was honored with the “Righteous Among Nations” and posthumously presented the “Medal of Remembrance” for the lives he had saved. Even after his passing, Schindler was remembered not just by historians, but by his workers and their families who lobbied and financed for his body to be repatriated to Israel where he is buried. 

10. The Canadian Caper — In 1979, the Iranian Revolution was in full swing. Shah Mohammed Pahlavi and his family were ousted from their rule and Iran was plunged into a revolution that seemed to bring back bitter memories of the Cuban Revolution. Revolutionaries stormed the US Embassy in Tehran and began taking hostages. Six of the hostages however were able to escape and made their way to the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor’s house where they were held for close to a month and a half before the CIA had gotten wind of what happened. Tony Mendez, one of the CIA’s top agents, went to Tehran with his partner to try and find a way out. Ultimately, they came up with an unbelievable cover story that worked! The six were drilled in their new identities as a Canadian film crew and were able to be smuggled right out from under the noses of the revolutionaries. In the end, Canada took credit for the operation due to safety reasons for both the hostages and the CIA agents. In 2012, actor and director Ben Affleck decided to put the story to screen in the film “Argo” and with the help of Tony Mendez himself, brought a once classified story to light. 

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