- U.S. Army photo by Spc. Dustin D. Biven / 22nd Mobile Public Affairs Detachment
- The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros flub it.
- The screw-ups range from the Pentagon’s threat to bomb millenials converging near Area 51 to a “KnowYourMil” post about military systems that got it wrong.
Every day, scores of US military commands reach millions with posts aimed to inform and inspire: videos of valor, motivational photos, and, yes, puppy pics.
The military has codified the rules for managing these official accounts. But sometimes these social-media pros – even those at the four-star command responsible for the US’s nuclear weapons – fail miserably.
Here’s a blooper reel of some of the military’s most embarrassing and dumb social-media mistakes since 2016.
Remembering the Battle of the Bulge with a picture of a Nazi that massacred US troops
The official Facebooks pages of the Army 10th Mountain Division, the 18th Airborne Corps, and the Department of Defense all shared the picture of a Nazi responsible for the murder of more than 84 American prisoners of war in Dec. 16 posts commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, a fierce WWII battle.
I am dumbfounded by the decision to prominently display a Nazi on military social media on the 75th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge. pic.twitter.com/Do0mB7Guvj
— Brian Fickel (@USArmyPAO) December 16, 2019
The posts were later deleted, and the Army said that it “regrets” that the image was included in the post that was shared on social media.
- Spc. Kyler Chatman/US Army
The Department of Defense’s official twitter account shared this stunning image of an armored vehicle firing at a training exercise with the tag, #KnowYourMil.
The only problem – they named the wrong armored vehicle.
That’s a Stryker armored vehicle firing its 105mm gun, not a Paladin self-propelled howitzer as the DoD tweet identified it. One easy way to tell them apart is that the Paladin is a tracked vehicle like a tank, unlike the eight wheels on a Stryker.
‘The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today’
- U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jordan Castelan
On Sept. 20, 2019, the Pentagon’s Defense Visual Information Distribution Service (DVIDS) tweeted out a warning to millennials planning to attend the “Storm Area 51” event that day, suggesting it was going to bomb them.
“The last thing #Millennials will see if they attempt the #area51 raid today,” the tweet read. The accompanying image was a B-2 Spirit bomber, a highly-capable stealth aircraft built to slip past enemy defenses and devastate targets with nuclear and conventional munitions.
The tweet prompted some backlash online, and the next day, DVIDS deleted the offending tweet and sent out a new one explaining that “last night, a DVIDSHUB employee posted a tweet that in NO WAY supports the stance of the Department of Defense.”
‘#Ready to drop something much, much bigger’
- US Strategic Command
US Strategic Command, which oversees the US’s nuclear arsenal, ringed in 2019 with a reminder that they’re ready, at any time, to start a nuclear war.
Playing off the image of the ball dropping in New York City’s Times Square, STRATCOM’s official account posted a tweet that included a clip of a B-2 dropping bombs. The command apologized for the message.
In May 2018, the internet was debating whether the word heard on a short audio recording was “Yanny” or “Laurel.” Then the US Air Force joined the debate, referring to a recent strike on Taliban.
“The Taliban Forces in Farah city #Afghanistan would much rather have heard #Yanny or #Laurel than the deafening #BRRRT they got courtesy of our #A10,” the official US Air Force Twitter account said.
The A-10 gunship carries a fearsome 30mm cannon used to destroy buildings, shred ground vehicles, and kill insurgents. It can fire so rapidly – nearly 3,900 rounds a minute – that the sound of each bullet is indistinguishable from the previous one, blending into a thundering “BRRRT.”
The US Air Force apologized for the tweet and deleted it, acknowledging it was in “poor taste.”
‘I’m like really smart now’
In January 2018, President Donald Trump fired off a flurry a tweets defending himself in response to the headline-grabbing details in Michael Wolff’s book, “Fire and Fury.”
Trump said he was “like, really smart” and “a very stable genius.”
That prompted a tweet from comedian Mindy Kaling from her character in the office, with the caption: “You guys, I’m like really smart now, you don’t even know.”
The US Army’s official Twitter account liked Kaling’s tweet, to which she replied: “#armystrong”
By the following day, the US Army had unliked the tweet.
Tough. Bold. Ready.
- US Navy
In 2016, the US Navy celebrated the 241st year since the date of its creation with a tweet that combined three images into one: a warship, a fighter jet, and a painting of a historic battle.
But the birthday message didn’t go over well with one audience on Twitter: Turks.
The flag in that battle scene closely resembles that of Turkey, a NATO member and US ally, as Muira McCammon detailed in Slate.
The Turkish community on Twitter sharply criticized the US Navy, and the Navy deleted it.