In works by Stephen King where the United States Military makes an appearance, it is often portrayed in a negative light. Additionally, the U.S. Army is focused on heavily when the American military is mentioned; the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force, U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Coast Guard are rarely if ever mentioned in any of Stephen King's work.
In The Stand the United States Military is portrayed as being the main culprit behind the creation of Captain Trips. An unnamed Army base located in the California desert was where the superflu virus was created, and an MP guarding the front gate, Charles Campion, fled when the virus escaped containment, taking Captain Trips with him. At the direction of General William Starkey and later his aide and friend, Major Len Creighton, the U.S. Military engages in a brutal suppression campaign as it attempts to both contain the spread of the superflu virus and keep the American public and the world from knowing what has happened. Containment efforts take such forms as:
- Plan "Troy", a secret order created by General Starkey, ordering the execution of "uncooperative" members of the press.
- Operation Carnival- A wide-reaching effort at locking down areas affected by the superflu, preventing movement by the populace into or out of restricted areas, and suppressing media content "not in the national interest". The following were enacted under Carnival:
- Setting up roadblocks to block and otherwise control the flow of traffic, shooting anyone who tries to get past. The New Jersey side of the Lincoln Tunnel is one location where roadblocks are set up, as part of the overall quarantine of New York City by the military.
- Imposing martial law on areas affected by the superflu, and shutting down telephone communications to prevent those inside quarantined zones from contacting the outside world.
- Setting up perimeter guards around universities, such as Kent State, where a brutal massacre occurs as heavily-armed troops under Colonel Albert Philips are confronted by student protestors trying to break out of the perimeter. The soldiers then turn on each other, with an unknown end result.
- Imposing silence on the press, going so far as to station soldiers in radio and television news stations and preparing texts for media personnel to read.
- Boston, Massachusetts- WC-TV sees a violent uprising planned by its reporters and custodians, who seize control of the station and broadcast the truth for two hours before more soldiers storm the station and summarily execute the rebels.
- Los Angeles, California- The LA Times prints 26,000 newspaper copies revealing that the government is lying about the superflu and releasing information the government has forbidden them to release. The printings are discovered and soldiers execute the staff responsible for treason, but 10,000 copies make it out to the public nonetheless.
- Springfield, Missouri- Ray Flowers, host of "Speak Your Piece", begins taking uncensored calls and broadcasting the truth about the superflu. In response, a 20-man unit is dispatched from Carthage, MO to "take care" of Flowers. Two men refuse the order and are immediately shot. The men who comply barge into Flowers' studio and kill her on the air. Sergeant T.L. Peters, leader of the detail, is immediately shot by his own men afterwards.
- Commandeering barges to carry enormous numbers of superflu victims out to sea, where they are to be dumped.
- Burning bodies of superflu victims
- Burying flu victims in mass graves
Ultimately, the United States Military completely fails to either contain the spread of the superflu or to keep the truth from getting out. It simply becomes even harsher and more repressive as General Starkey, and then Major Creighton after Starkey is fired by the President, holds on to the bitter end and tries to do what he sees as his duty. The effect of the spreading chaos and sickness is felt throughout the military. Desertion and mutiny become significant, then massive problems for military leadership, and the ability of entire units to function vanishes as thousands of military personnel become ill with the superflu.
Operation Carnival steadily disentegrates as the units charged with carrying it out cease to be effective or even exist. With increasing speed, military personnel join civilian rioters and looters, stage mutinies against their commanders, commit suicide, die from any number of forms of violence or accidents, or desert into the growing chaos of a collapsing United States. Some stay at their posts until the very end, holding fast to their oaths of service, even as it is obvious that all is lost. When the dust settles in July, the United States Military has ceased to exist and virtually none of its personnel are left alive.
One notable instance of surviving military personnel is Doc, Virge, Garvey and Ronnie, four deserters who became raiders and rapists after the Army unit sent to Akron, Ohio disintegrated around them. Using a wrecker truck, the four men developed a routine of ambushing groups of survivors traveling on foot on the roads, either creating fake wrecks or simply setting up behind real ones. Either way, they would execute the men and take the women captive. Their activities ended when they were killed in a brutal failed ambush against Stuart Redman, Glen Bateman, Harold Lauder and Francis Goldsmith, where the four men lost a gunfight against the four survivors plus their own eight captives.
No one else formerly on active or reserve duty with the American military is ever mentioned again in the story, though Randall Flagg's autocratic state appears to attract more technical professionals and those who value discipline and order than the Boulder Free Zone does. Ralph Brentner and Stu Redman are two veterans who went to the Zone. Carl Hough, a former Marine helicopter pilot and Vietnam War veteran, went to Las Vegas and became Randall Flagg's chief flight instructor.
Creech Air Force Base and Nellis Air Force Base, both located in Clark County, Nevada, play a significant role in the development and the destruction of Randall Flagg's autocratic state. Multirole fighter jets and helicopters located at Creech- which is referred to almost exclusively as "Indian Springs" in the novel- are found to be still operable and a handful of trained pilots begin a flight school for additional future pilots.
Five M67 Flame Thrower Tanks, nicknamed "flametracks" and "Zippos" during the Vietnam War, were recovered by the Trashcan Man and brought to Creech AFB, along with scores of explosives devices, timers, wiring, automatic rifles and machine guns, and laser sights and scopes for those weapons. In time, Flagg's survivors at Vegas had operating armored trucks, standard and flamethrower tanks, and numerous small arms and explosives.
Eventually, however, the genius of the Trashcan Man at finding military hardware out in the wastes turned to madness. Never a psychologically stable man, Trashcan Man was thrown back into the merciless taunts and mockery of his childhood by the good-natured teasing of some of the men at Creech AFB. He responded by rigging first fuel trucks to explode, then helicopters and more trucks. Two helicopters, ordered to fly a recon mission east of Vegas to hunt down Tom Cullen, exploded in midair, killing all aboard. With only six trainees left who were nowhere close to solo flight and no instructors, Flagg's aviation program was finished. In response, Flagg ordered that when he was found, Trashcan Man was to be put to death.
In a desperate attempt to make amends, Trashcan Man goes into a once-highly-restricted underground section of Nellis AFB and retrieves a nuclear warhead, which he brings to Las Vegas just as Ralph Brentner and Larry Underwood are about to be executed by dismemberment at Flagg's order. The Hand of God appears, the gathered crowd panics and runs, and the former U.S. Air Force warhead detonates, obliterating Las Vegas and everyone in it.
Colonel Abraham Kurtz of the U.S. Army serves as one of the principal antagonists of the novel, and the U.S. Army in general makes an appearance.
Colonel Abraham Curtis, as he is known in the 2003 film, leads an elite unit that responds to incidents involving extraterrestrial incursions.
The Mist: Novella
The U.S. Army makes an appearance in The Mist, in the form of a handful of soldiers who are stationed at the unnamed military base near Bridgton, Maine. That base houses the Arrowhead Project, a mysterious government and/or military program that no one from the base has ever shared any information on with locals. Nonetheless, word gets out in a small town, and people in Bridgton speculate about the Arrowhead Project and what it involves. Theories include "messing around" with "different" atoms, and attempting to open a portal into another dimension.
Sometime during or after a massive lightning storm that hit the Bridgton area during a scorching hot summer, the base was overrun by the mist, and none of its personnel were ever seen or heard from again. The only exception to this were the two soldiers who were caught in the Federal Market at the time the mist enveloped it. They kept a low profile at first, avoiding all contact with the civilians, then hanged themselves together in the store's stock room. David Drayton and Ollie Weeks, the latter a Vietnam War veteran, debated how much the "Army kids" knew, and why they hanged themselves, but came to no decisive conclusions.
It is unknown whether the United States Military overall succeeded or failed in responding to the mist as it continued to spread.
The Mist: Film
The U.S. Army appears in the film adaptation of The Mist, with a handful of soldiers stationed at the nearby unnamed military base visiting Bridgton, Maine on leave. A few military police arrive to cancel all passes into town, but the mist rolls in before they or the other soldiers can depart to return to base. One of the MP's is captured and filled with eggs by a spider-creature, and two of the three soldiers in the Federal Market commit suicide. The third, Private Jessup, is a local and remorsefully confesses what the military was doing at the nearby base that caused the mist to appear. Mrs. Carmody deliberately whips her followers up into a religious frenzy, and has Jessup thrown out of the store to be killed by the creatures in the mist.
Just after shooting everyone else in his Scout, David Drayton gets out to face the creatures and be killed himself, but by then the U.S. Army has arrived, routing the mist and the creatures in it with automatic weapons, flamethrowers, Humvees, and M1 Abrams tanks. Additionally, the Army column brings with it tracked personnel transports, carrying civilians they have rescued back to Bridgton. Two soldiers find Drayton outside the Scout, distraught as he realizes he killed the others with him, including his son, for nothing when help was only moments away.
The United States Military does not appear, but is mentioned in, King's 2006 novel about a world-wide "Pulse" sent through the cellular phone network causing an apocalyptic collapse of civilization as the affected "Phoners" descend into savagery. After escaping Boston as the city burns down overnight, Clayton Riddell and Tom McCourt discuss whether the military will be responding, coming to rescue people. They realize that as the military has come to depend on the modern cellular network to even mobilize, its bases and personnel will be quite isolated and unable to coordinate actions. The fate of the United States Military and its personnel and installations is unknown.
The United States Military does not appear, but is mentioned in, King's 1983 novel Christine. Roland D. LeBay, first and (at the beginning of the story) only owner of a 1958 Plymouth Fury named Christine, joined the U.S. Army in the 1920's to escape his family's insurmountable poverty. He carried his unending supply of anger with him into the Army, allowing him to survive the Great Depression, World War II, and the Korean War. Always gifted when it came to working on machines, LeBay became a valuable member of the Army's motor transport operations, maintaining everything from 2.5-ton trucks and jeeps to officers' staff cars and personal vehicles.
LeBay's deep hatred and resentment of nearly everyone and everything in the entire world caused him to get into many fights and speak with extreme disrespect toward those of higher rank on many occasions, meaning that despite his ability as a mechanic LeBay never managed to get promoted past master sergeant (E-8) at any point in his military career. He was reprimanded, demoted, and thrown in the stockade numerous times. LeBay finally left the Army in the 1950's, married, and bought his Plymouth. To the end of his days, LeBay would think and speak of his service often, addressing Arnie Cunningham as "soldier" when Cunningham and Dennis Guilder stop by LeBay's yard to look at Christine. LeBay hated the Army, but hated it less than most everything else in his life, hence the degree of nostalgia for his days in the service once he was retired.
One of LeBay's brothers served in the U.S. Army Air Corps during World War II aboard a heavy bomber, and was killed when German anti-aircraft guns shot down his plane. LeBay himself never mentions this; given his cold indifference toward his siblings, this is not surprising. Dennis Guilder learns about it from George LeBay, another of Roland LeBay's brothers, during the course of the novel.
- The Stand: Captain Trips
- The Stand
- The Stand (miniseries)
- Dreamcatcher (film)
- The Mist
- The Mist (film)
- Cell (mentioned)
- Christine (mentioned)
Behind the Scenes
- In "The Stand", Lloyd Henreid reflects that the United States government- specifically the military- once owned a great deal of land in the otherwise-empty deserts of the Southwest. Apart from Creech and Nellis, Nevada contains more than half a dozen other military facilities, mostly Army National Guard armories and depots. The former Project Blue base, where the superflu was defeloped and from which it escaped, was somewhere in southeast California, and Edwards Air Force Base was a 3-hour drive from Vegas. Yuma Proving Ground, a 1,307.8-square-mile facility used for testing military vehicles and weaps and one of the largest military installations in the pre-plague world, is a 5 hour drive from Las Vegas. Given the extreme skill with which Trashcan Man navigates the wastes as he searches out weapons and hardware for the Walkin Dude, any of these facilities would have been possible stopping points in his travels.