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2021 Feature, Large Newsroom finalist

The Cursed Platoon

About the Project

Greg Jaffe has been telling the stories of soldiers for a generation. His passport into the closed brotherhood of those who have waged war together is his deep experience with our endless wars and his empathy for those who fight them. The soldiers of “The Cursed Platoon” are raw with a sense of betrayal – at their commander in chief, who believed a lie; at their general officers, who dismissed their valor; at their platoon commander, who desecrated their service; and even at themselves, for failing to protect one another when they got home from Afghanistan.

Hundreds of readers reacted viscerally to the story’s emotional honesty, including 300 veterans who submitted responses to the piece. The Post published 20 of the most poignant messages from veterans as well as readers’ photos from their time in the military.

For the presentation of ‘The Cursed Platoon,’ The Post created interactive character descriptions of key soldiers that appeared after a user clicked on a highlighted name. We designed a sidebar that acted as a “digital cheat sheet” to identify and remind readers of the role and rank of 14 key members of the platoon. Rather than highlight all of the names of every individual platoon member, we programmed this design feature to appear selectively as readers advanced in the story so as to not interrupt the reading experience.
The Post also created a 13-minute documentary giving readers a chance to hear from the members of 1st Platoon as well as to experience the broadcast coverage surrounding 1st Lt. Clint Lorance. The video used a black backdrop effect on the article page, which encouraged readers to pause and interact with the video element. The video was later posted on YouTube and garnered 1.45 million views, making it one of the highest-watched videos on The Post’s YouTube channel.

To promote the story, The Post created several dynamic Twitter threads featuring the documentary and photo cards with the best quotes from select members of the platoon. The social team coordinated the posting of the story across its channels, including Facebook and Snapchat.

Most of the men of 1st platoon wrote to Jaffe, including this note from Dave Zettel, who was featured in the story: “Hey just wanted to let you know I truly appreciate you putting the effort in for the article. I finally went to get help, and the army is now medically retiring me. The article helped me prove I was actually in some crazy stuff over there. I can’t say thank you enough. Not sure where my path would of led if I didn’t end up talking to you.”