- "Hello, boys! I'm baaaaack!"
- ―Russell Casse's last words.
Russell Casse (died July 4, 1996) was a Vietnam War fighter pilot and crop duster from Imperial Valley, California who sacrificed himself to destroy a City Destroyer threatening Area 51 during the War of 1996.
Russell served as a F-4 fighter pilot for the United States Air Force in the Vietnam War. Around 1986, he claimed that he was abducted by aliens and attested that they experimented on him that led to his trauma and his belief that they are planning to kill humanity. His story was disbelieved by the public, earning Russell mockery from his peers and consternation from his family.
When his wife got sick, Russell could not give her enough attention, because of his obsession in searching for clues about his abduction. This led to her death, and to Russell's drinking problem and straining his relationship with his children, especially his eldest son Miguel. He and his children live in a camper, and he worked as a crop duster pilot in California's Imperial Valley.
War of 1996
By the advent of the aliens' arrival in July 1996, Russell was arrested for papering city hall with leaflets from his crop duster in an desperate attempt to warn the public that the aliens are a threat. However, Russell was soon released as the authorities was focused on more pressing matters in light of the aliens. After the aliens began their attack, Russell and his family joined a large convoy of refugees and come across Captain Steven Hiller with a captured alien. Guided by Captain Hiller, the Casse family and the refugees traveled to Area 51.
Russell later volunteered in President Whitmore's counterattack on the aliens, assigned to fly a McDonnell Douglas F/A-18C Hornet. During the attack on Area 51, Russell was integral in destroying the alien City Destroyer, as he was piloting the only available fighter jet with a missile left to destroy the Destroyer's weapon port. All the others had exhausted their missiles. However, the AMRAAM missile jammed when he attempted to fire it. Russell then made a fateful decision by flying his jet directly into the weapon in a suicide attack. Before making his sacrifice, Russell sends a heartfelt request to ground control, which is also heard by Miguel, to "Tell my children...I love them very much." Russell's suicide attack succeeded in destroying the alien ship, saving Area 51 and his family.
After the war, Russell was remembered as a war hero, and his name is etched in a national memorial at Washington, D.C. alongside with other participants who also died during the War of 1996 after the capital was rebuilt. His death served as an inspiration to Jake Morrison, who looked up to him as a role model for proving that a broken person can become a better person.
Death and Sacrifice
- "We've got to stop them! I was kidnapped by space aliens 10 years ago! They did all kinds of experiments on me! They've been studying us for years, finding out our weaknesses! We've gotta stop 'em! They're gonna kill us all!"
- ―Russell trying to warn the public on television.
- "Good God! I've been sayin' it. I've been sayin' it for ten damn years. Ain't I been sayin' it, Miguel? Yeah, I've been sayin' it."
- ―Russell gloating on his justified warnings
- "Well, I'm, uh, Russell Casse, sir. And, uh... after 'Nam, I got into crop-dusting. And, uh... been doing that ever since. On a personal note, sir, I'd just like to add that, uh...ever since I was kidnapped by aliens 10 years ago,...I have been dyin' for some payback, and I...just want you to know that, uh... I won't let you down."
- ―Russell giving his background to Major Mitchell.
- "I picked a hell of a day to quit drinkin'."
- ―Russell, after nearly firing a missile
- "Payback's a bitch, ain't it?"
- ―Russell destroys an alien attacker.
- "All right, you alien assholes! In the words of my generation: Up... YOURS!"
- ―Russell, preparing his suicide attack.
Behind the Scenes
- In the original ending of Independence Day, Russell was disallowed to fly. However, he arrives at the end of the battle flying his crop duster (which he has been towing behind his motor home) with a missile strapped to its wing and flying it into the City Destroyer's weapon. Roland Emmerich and Dean Devlin admitted that this implied that Russell flew into the battle planning to commit suicide since he could not launch the missile from his plane and therefore scrapped it in favor of having Russell making the decision to sacrifice himself after he was in the air helping the cause, both for the emotional reason of allowing the audience to see Casse make the decision to die for the human race and the practical issue that having the biplane keep pace while flying amongst F/A-18s was "just not believable". This alternate scene was added in the movie's special edition. The scripted version is also included in the film's novelization.
- Russell's alien abduction story is never made quite clear on whether his claims were a real experience or his own delusion. The Marvel comic-book version however indicates that his abduction was real and that he was abducted by the same aliens that would arrive in force in 1996. In the novelization, Russell sees the alien captured by Steve Hiller and was unable to recognize it as the same creatures who abducted him, which left him doubting about his abduction. However, he only saw the creature's bio-suit, which in fact contains an alien that is described to be identical as his abductors.