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This Is War: Watch the Libyan Revolution Explode through the Lens of a Helmet Cam — Part 2

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Libya Part 2 short

Humphrey Cheung worked in tech journalism and IT for years. Then, this spring, he had enough. But instead of switching jobs, he strapped on a digital camera, armor, and flew to Libya. This is what a real rebellion looks like.

What you'll see here is a unique crawl through the battle against Qaddafi from the helmet-mounted GoPro Hero attached to Humphrey—a digital camera imagined for ski slopes and skate parks, not warzones. You'll see rebels fighting not in fatigues and IR goggles, but in jeans and t-shirts. They're not outfitted with anything resembling a modern arsenal, but with whatever they can scrape together. Jeep and tank hybrids, welded together. Scavenged anti-aircraft guns stuffed onto the backs of pickups. Rusty tech refuse that works—most of the time. And you'll see it as the rebels see it every day. Improvised, dirty, and effective—and only possible to see like this because of an age in which you can capture hours of HD footage from a little box on your head.


Today we bring you part two of the Battle of Galaa—the rest will follow every day this week. Below, Humphrey's first-person account of the action to go with his first-person footage.

Check here for Part 1 of the battle.

The Long Empty Road

In a scene that would repeat itself throughout the battle, we had to run on open terrain to get to the next set of buildings. Much of this running early on was on asphalt, but later we were running on very soft sand. We were incredibly exposed during these runs and running faster was the only way to live.


By this time I realized the rebels didn't have a cohesive fighting structure. There were no squads, no sergeants, no NCOs... it was more like a mob with guns and RPGs. Also, I noticed that very few rebels used their weapon sights and preferred simply step around a corner and spray their entire magazines downrange.

I started giving the rebels in my group colorful nicknames

Binoculars - Older rebel with a graying beard who escorted me much of the way up the hill. He would scout the scene with binoculars and tell us when to duck and when to run. Unfortunately, he was shot in the upper arm towards the end of the battle.
Bryan Adams - Young rebel wearing a flak jacket and carrying a steak knife. He told me he learns English by listening to Bryan Adams.
Brad Pitt - Wielding an AK47 and sporting blue/black camo, I filmed this rebel chatting on his mobile phone during the battle.
The Doctor - Wearing a purple t-shirt, this rebel carefully aimed his shots with clinical precision.
The Heavy - One of our machine gunners who was a complete badass. This guy was shot in the leg, but continued reloading his gun while rebels were bandaging up the wound.
The Kid - 17-year-old kid who carried two ammo boxes

Building Hopping

While running from building to building, I wondered why Ghaddafi's army had been so stupid to leave them standing. After all, they were providing us excellent cover since they were made of concrete and heavy stone. These weren't sissy wood and drywall houses you see in the United States, but houses that could take significant small arms fire and cannon (small) hits.


After every run, the rebels and I would basically collapse and rest for several minutes. We'd also fill up our water bottles with cool, crisp water from the wells attached to each building. Never has water tasted so good.

While resting, I would show the rebels the video I had taken with the T3i. Huddled around the LCD screen, they gave an approving thumbs up and called their buddies to look. While I was happy at the temporary boost in morale, I was also concerned that one of them might act braver than usual because a camera was recording.


Check back tomorrow for Part 3 of the battle.