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1982, Best Summer Ever: “Megaforce”

August 7, 2012

Okay, so Megaforce presents a bit of a problem, since I haven’t actually seen the film per se. Sorry about that. It’s not available on Netflix or iTunes, and the only versions available on eBay are VHS tapes (I mean, really…VHS? Why don’t I just watch it on a zoetrope?) Thankfully the intrepid video pirates community members of YouTube have uploaded some clips, and based off them, I think I have a pretty good idea what it’s about. Basically, Megaforce is a kind of 1980s version of Act of Valor—a realistic film treatment of what was certainly at the time one of the US military’s most covert and elite special forces unit. I mean, shit, they had jumpsuits. Doesn’t get much more elite than that.

Okay, so here’s one clip. It’s an important one—here is where we are introduced to Megaforce.

Megaforce is surely  of interest to military historians as it provides a illuminating glimpse into the early days of asymmetric warfare in the post-Vietnam era. Counter-insurgency was barely a thing in the decade or so after the conclusion of Vietnam, but the military was clearly pouring a lot of energy into creating smaller, more nimble fighting units. These units would be able to engage and neutralize small bands of insurgents without having to claim and hold the battle-space. Hence, as we can see, huge troop deployments and heavy mechanized units—armor, artillery, etc—were replaced by light, fast motorcycles armed with rockets and machine guns.

Plus, people were really big into motorcycles in the early ‘80s. It was a carryover from Easy Rider.

Another minor but notable change is in the camouflage patterning on the vehicles. Throughout Vietnam and the post-Vietnam years, military camouflage was the standard OD green that harkened back to World War Two. But by 1982 it was clear that the greatest threat to US forces—assuming of course a proxy war, and not a full conventional engagement with Warsaw Pact forces—would come from the Middle East, whose instability had already erupted into violence on several occasions during the previous decade. For that reason, the vehicles sported an earth-tones based color scheme which would better blend in a desert environment, as well as an aggressive lightning-bolt design, which as any designer-van aficionado will attest, is the most effective pattern at projecting what would later be termed “shock and awe” (with the possible exceptions of either an alien landscape or a scantily-clad warrior woman—neither of which would be practical on a subcompact vehicle).

They probably put this on their Armored Personnel Carriers.

Now, here is a promotional shot from Megaforce, which shows the way that this unit’s battle-dress units and personal grooming standards differed from the regular army.

The control pad–while advanced in appearance–was probably an LED football game.

It was calculated that by the Vietnam War, soldiers were carrying roughly 150% more weight on their person in form of flack vests and other protective gear. To an extent this weight was offset by lighter weapons and ammunition, but where soldiers can ditch heavy encumbrances, they’re pretty much stuck with the body armor. This, along with the heavy helmets, was one of the biggest factors in the exceedingly high rate of casualties from heat-exhaustion. To that end, we see that Megaforce is outfitted with a stripped-down uniform that consists of a skin-tight jumpsuit. It’s light and probably weatherproof, and, more importantly, shows off the lean, muscular physique and impressive packages of the soldiers on the battlefield—both a good PR move, and a potent reminder of just who the enemy is facing and how big their cranks are.

You can’t even see their chest hair! And these guys call themselves soldiers?

The absence of a helmet is a bit puzzling, as one would think this would lead to higher rates of brain injuries. My only guess is that Megaforce eschewed helmets to show off the formidable manes of their soldiers. Great warriors of mythology (from Beowulf to Samson to Othello to Martin Riggs) have always been described as having a great, flowing locks. Probably this, too, was an attempt to project power and might, though it seems like a poor compromise. The headband is both utilitarian in a hot climate and sporty as all get-out.

Now, here we see what is doubtless declassified footage of Megaforce’s vehicular capabilities.

As you can see, Megaforce’s motorcycles (likely referred to as Two Wheeled Combat Vehicles Flying or “Twikvif”) can fly. This is an important modification, as civilian motorcycles are almost exclusively earthbound.  But there are number of other important takeaways from this clip:

* Megaforce members are very flamboyant, indicating that it recruits not from the elite units such as Rangers or Force Recon, but from the theater community and, possibly, aerobics studios. While this would seem counter-intuitive at first, but consider that it ensures that Megaforce recruits have no ingrained habits to be broken when training to Megaforce’s (admittedly) unconventional standards. Also, those are probably the only guys that could fit in those jumpsuits.

* Megaforce members seem awfully gay. I’m sure they’re not (most of them, anyway), but it indicates that the Megaforce community is far less homophobic than many heavily-male communities. It’s a fair bet that Megaforce units don’t blow off steam in the traditionally-masculine ways of drinking and carousing, but probably enjoy Greco-Roman wrestling, Broadway musicals, and, possibly, orgies. I’m speculating here, so don’t take this to the bank, but if Megaforce was around today it’s a sure bet they’d have movies like Cruisin’, Brokeback Mountain, and 300 on heavy rotation in the barracks.

Anyway, that’s Megaforce: a glimpse into the remarkable fighting unit that kept America safe during the Reagan era. I’ve not been able to ascertain what happened to this elite unit, but it was probably disbanded under President Clinton, because, well, Clinton just doesn’t strike me as a Megaforce kind of guy.

Still, there exists the possibility that Megaforce still exists under a tight veil of secrecy. It’s not too far a reach to speculate that it was Megaforce and not the Navy SEALS that killed Osama bin Laden. No disrespect to the SEALS (particularly since they could handily kick my ass), but while I didn’t see Act of Valor, I did see that Charlie Sheen movie, and none of those dudes had motorcycles that could fly. So which of those two units do you think punched the ticket of the most dangerous man in the world? Hey, it’s just logic.

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