NPR White House Correspondent Scott Detrow, reporting from Ukraine on Tuesday, noted a surprising but familiar slogan scrawled on the side of a damaged tank.
“We were driving too fast to get a clear picture,” wrote Detrow in a tweet, “but we just drove past a destroyed Russian tank with WOLVERINES spraypainted across it.”
About half the commenters on the post recognized the moniker. The other half made curious questions along the lines of, “What does wolverines mean? The name of some Ukrainian battalion?”
It is not.
Movie fans from Gen X and prior — or fans of late night basic cable — will recognize the slogan from John Milius’ 1984 popcorn invasion thriller, Red Dawnstarring Patrick Swayze, C. Thomas Howell, Lea Thompson, Charlie Sheen and Jennifer Grey.
In the film, Russia invades the US via sneak attack and a group of small town teens forms itself into a resistance. Taking the name of their high-school mascot they call themselves “Wolverines,” a moniker they spray paint on the sides of buildings and armored vehicles they’ve destroyed in order to terrorize Russian troops. Watch the film’s trailer below.
It’s easy to see why Ukrainian forces have taken to the name. Like the kids in the movie, they’ve suffered an invasion by what seemed an overwhelming Russian force and had to rally a resistance from their civilian ranks armed with vastly inferior firepower, but a strong will to defend their country.
It should be noted that there was a more recent remake of the film starring Chris Hemsworth in 2012 which may indeed be more familiar to the young men and women fighting in Ukraine. But that version had the invading force hailing from North Korea. Thus, the “Wolverines” reference more likely alludes to the 1984 movie featuring the Russians as adversaries.
And as it turns out, the NPR White House Correspondent wasn’t the only one who saw the spraypainted tank. Oleg Tolmachev, who is head of production at Ukrainian oil producer Naftogaz, shared a photo of his beaten up husk in the comments and wrote, “What do you know, I drove past it, too.”
Earlier in the day, Tolmachev had tweeted the same photo with less cheery commentary:
“On my drive west of #Kyiv (geolocation erased). A lot of burned out tanks and APCs, many industrial and residential buildings completely destroyed.”
We were driving too fast to get a clear picture – but we just drove past a destroyed Russian tank with WOLVERINES spraypainted across it.
— Scott Detrow (@scottdetrow) April 7, 2022
On my drive west of #Kyiv (geolocation erased). A lot of burned out tanks and APCs, many industrial and residential buildings completely destroyed @RipRawlings #UkraineRussianWar #Ukraine pic.twitter.com/r8OFZkkihH
— Oleg Tolmachev (@OTolmachev) April 7, 2022