- "This is a holy war. All of human history has led to this moment. If we lose, we will be the last of our kind. It will be a planet of apes, and we will become your cattle."
- ―Colonel McCullough [src]
Colonel J. Wesley McCullough was a United States Army Special Forces officer and the Commanding Officer of Alpha-Omega, his unit hunting down the apes. Because of his ruthless nature and the drastic actions he took to preserve human purity and supremacy, he was feared by the remaining army leadership. During the course of War for the Planet of the Apes, it is apparent he's not only at war with the Ape Colony led by Caesar, but also against the remaining U.S. Army.
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
At the end of Dawn, after receiving a distress signal from the San Francisco survivors, McCullough and his unit were dispatched from Lewis McChord aboard the U.S.S. Daedalus to hunt down and annihilate Caesar and his ape colony.
War for the Planet of the Apes
Assassination Attempt on Caesar
McCullough was first heard after his soldier, Preacher, told him that his platoon was unable to infiltrate one of the apes' trench after an attack went awry. McCullough, knowing the exact location of the ape village from Red's deal with Winter, infiltrated the waterfall with two soldiers.
While his fellow soldiers were killed, McCullough succeeded in killing Cornelia and Blue-Eyes, thinking Blue-Eyes was Caesar. McCullough then broadcast a message to his fellow soldiers that he (supposedly) killed Caesar. He was unaware of Caesar overhearing the message and realized what happened. He returned to the waterfall opening, only to see McCullough preparing to leave. As he prepared to jump, he turned and locked eyes with the real Caesar, confused as he turned to the bodies of Blue Eyes and Cornelia, which Caesar directed his gaze and became horrified and enraged at the death of his wife and eldest son. Realizing his mistake, McCullough opened fire at Caesar, but disengaged after spotting more apes emerging from the tunnels and jumped out through the waterfall. Caesar pursued, grabbing onto the cable and climbed, but McCullough cut the cable after Caesar knocked the M4A1 Assault Rifle out of his hand, sending the ape falling down into the water, while he escaped.
McCullough's forces regrouped near the beach at a military refuge but left early with a handful of soldiers to an abandoned weapons depot at the Border, preparing for the arrival of the U.S. Army. He and his forces came across the Ape Colony and instead of slaughtering them, took them as slave labor in order to build up their defenses at the Border.
Later, Caesar came across a scene of dead apes from his tribe, tied to large "X" shaped posts in the mountains, near the abandoned weapons depot. To his shock, he found his entire tribe captured. Caesar was captured and brought to the depot, where McCullough talked to him, learning the pair of apes that he killed were Caesar's wife and son. This causes him to understand why Caesar was after him, as he sarcastically apologizes since he meant to kill Caesar before he was amazed at how human-like Caesar looked. He then walked with Preacher and Red, one of their Donkeys, who kept Caesar in chains, to the pins where the apes were, and had him tossed in the pin with the adult apes, forcing him to help build a large wall, like the adult apes.
In the morning after delivering their national anthem, McCullough watched the apes work, and watched one of his men ordering Red, to whip an orangutan, who fumbled and caused a levee system to break. McCullough watched as Red savagely whipped the orangutan, and continued to watch as Caesar yelled at Red to stop, which caused the apes to halt their work in defiance. Realizing he gives strength to the apes, McCullough ordered Caesar and the orangutan to be brought to him. He told Caesar to make the apes resume their work, but Caesar demanded for food and water for the apes, which forced the colonel to kill the orangutan, then aimed his gun at Caesar. He prepared to pull the trigger, but stopped as he saw a female ape resuming the work, followed by the other apes. He then ordered Red to tie Caesar an "X" shaped post in the middle of the depot, for all to see.
Later that night, Red cut Caesar down, claiming that McCullough wanted to see him. In Admin, McCullough told Caesar that the apes would not receive food or water until their work was finished, while Caesar stated that they won't be able to finish without food and water. As Preacher told him to move out, Caesar stated he is aware the soldiers from the north weren't coming as reinforcements, which forced McCullough to remark on his intellect and reveal the wall's true purpose: to help defend the Alpha-Omega facility from the U.S. Army, whom he claimed fear him for his actions over the past two years and are trying to stop him. Caesar then taunted him for having no mercy and killing his own men. Enraged, McCullough stated Caesar's mercy is the cause of the Simian Flu and what brought humanity on the brink of extinction before stating ten months ago, he sent a recon group in search of Caesar and one of the soldiers, McCullough's son, suddenly lost the ability to talk. He went on further to say the person watching him also stopped talking, and the doctor overseeing McCullough's son came up with a shocking discovery before he as well stopped talking: the Simian Flu, still carried by all survivors, has mutated into a more devastating virus that affects the human brain directly, robbing them of their speech and forcing them to devolve.
He then told Caesar how he killed his own son, by holding a gun to his head and looking at him in the eyes, an act of empathy, before pulling the trigger. McCullough also stated his superiors tried to convince him that the mutated flu can be medically dealt with, but he accused them of not learning from anything over the past twelve years since the apes escaped from the city, and Preacher stated that the Colonel decapitated his superiors heads, but spared one to leave a message: "If they wanted to relieve me of my command, they would have to meet me here and do it themselves". Horrified by McCullough, Caesar asked how many men will be coming from the North, and the Colonel believed to be a large number to probably all of them and they would likely kill the apes as well. He finally told Caesar that he didn't mean to kill Blue-Eyes, but claimed it to be a happy coincidence if his fate was to inherit the Ape kingdom. This sent Caesar into a fury, lashing out at him before he was subdued by Preacher and Red. The Colonel then berated Caesar and sympathizes with his pain, claiming he's conflicted and unable to think. Looking Caesar in the eye, he asked him what would've happen to the apes if Caesar killed him, or if killing him was all he cared about before sending him back to his post.
In the morning, the Donkeys gave food and water to the apes, however when it was Caesar's turn, Red poured cold water all over him, a sign of the Colonel wanting Caesar to starve. Caesar was left on the post for the rest of the day up to night, starving and shivering from the dropping climate, before being cut down by Red. McCullough told Red and Preacher that in the morning Caesar would be put to work if he survives the night. During the night, one of his men spotted weird activity with the apes and took Red, a Donkey and a few men to investigate, unaware that Nova, a carrier of the mutated Simian Flu, had infiltrated the depot and fed Caesar water and food, and with her and the other apes, restored Caesar's resolve. Rocket revealed himself and got into a scuffle with Red to let Nova escape. McCullough questioned Rocket on who else was there but was given and seeing he was a friend of Caesar, he had Rocket sent into the pin with the other apes while the soldiers swept the perimeter.
Infection of the Simian Flu
The next day, McCullough, Preacher and Red approached Caesar's cage, surprised to see him still alive. As McCullough told Red to put Caesar to work alone on the upper rocks, McCullough spotted Nova's doll, whom she left it with Caesar, buried underneath the hay and demanded to know where it came from. Not answering, McCullough directed Red to put Caesar on the rocks as he investigated the doll, unaware that he had unknowingly infected himself with the mutated virus.
That night as he marveled his late son's photo at dinner, McCullough's infection spread as blood began to pour from his nose, robbing him of his speech and sent him into a primal state, almost downed a bottle of whisky, ransacked his office and barricaded the door. Unaware that all the apes had escaped the depot, McCullough went to his bed and continued to drink in his primal state, not paying attention to to the U.S. Army's arrival at dawn and began a fire-fight with McCullough's forces.
McCullough, still retaining a little intelligence while being hazed and animalistic, reaching for his spilled whiskey bottle until he felt something brush against his head. McCullough looked up to see a freed Caesar, who's still set on his vengeance, holding the gun McCullough had resting on a crate close to the bed, revealing the dried blood on his nose and around his mouth, and made hissing noises as he tried to tell Caesar to kill him. Caesar became shocked and turned his gaze to the ground, spotting Nova's doll and surmising the colonel was infected. Using what little intellect he has left before losing it, McCullough grabbed the gun, pulling back the hammer and placed the barrel against his head, signifying that he wanted Caesar to pull the trigger out of empathy, as McCullough did with his own son. McCullough closed his eyes as he waited for Caesar to grant him a mercy death. To McCullough's shock, however, he opened his eyes to see Caesar withdrawing the gun from his head and placed it back on the crate. He looked at McCullough and saw him for what he really was: a twisted coward. McCullough became even more shocked as he saw Caesar rise and walk back a few steps, realizing he wasn't going to kill him but left McCullough with a choice: kill himself or live like an animal. Realizing he's the architect of his own end and that humanity cannot be saved, a sorrowful McCullough grabbed his gun and placed it on his cheek, pulling the trigger and ending his life.
War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations
War for the Planet of the Apes
At first glance, McCullough was ruthless, merciless, highly intelligent, and extremely resourceful. Every action he took was driven by his desire to keep the human race alive, which he took to an unsettling and murderous extent. Once the Simian Flu began causing the devolution of humans to a more primitive state of being, McCullough decided to kill any humans infected by the mutated simian flu, including his own son, showing that he would go to horrific lengths to survive and (in his mind) ensure the survival of the human race. When infected with the virus himself, he elected to take his own life rather than live as a primitive being.
McCullough's hostility put him in a confrontation with the northern army, who believed the virus could still be dealt with medically, he frequently exhibited his power through fear and intimidation, killing without hesitation and torturing and starving Caesar as a public example to his enslaved apes, however, McCullough was able to recognize strengths in his own enemies, marveling at Caesar's intelligence, willpower and leadership but at the same time challenged what Caesar's revenge would achieve for either of their races. McCullough, in spite of his ruthlessness and cruelty, was a very reserved man, rarely losing his temper and maintaining his public image as a great leader for his men.
Despite the men in McCullough's unit being generally loyal to him, who they saw as a great leader, Caesar and the northern army (correctly) saw McCullough as nothing more than a delusional-psychopath, as evidenced by his lack of remorse for his actions, as well as the fact that he believed that all of his actions were justified. McCullough was capable of dishonorable tactics, after he learned of the location of the apes' outpost, he infiltrated it in the dead of night, in an attempt to assassinate Caesar, only to kill Blue Eyes (who he mistakenly believe to be the ape king) claiming the killing to be an act of war.
McCullough was unreasonable in his beliefs, this is evidenced by the fact that when Caesar showed mercy to his men, following the Battle of the Muir Woods Park, as a message that the apes do not desire war with the humans and that they only want peace between their respected races, he responded by attempting kill the ape king, which resulted in the death of Caesar's wife and eldest son, when Caesar brought this up to him, McCullough was somewhat conflicted but soon justified that'd it only be a matter of time before the apes enslave humanity. He even remarked if Blue Eyes was fated to rule the ape kingdom, he was glad to kill him since he might end up like Caesar.
After becoming infected with the evolved Simian Flu, robbed of his speech and devolving, McCullough's true personality surfaced for the first time before his suicide; as he was a man twisted by fear of devolving to an animal, which forced him to go to the extreme to kill any human showing signs of devolving from the Simian Flu, including any scientist who believes a cure can be found, and to kill all apes. Knowing his fear will put him in a confrontation with his men, McCullough put up his facade as a ruthless man to keep the hope that humanity could be saved, but deep down he knew there was no hope and chose to fortify himself with any resources he obtained along the way.
- Expert Tactician: McCullough was a highly skilled tactician, as he and the men under his command, manage to avoid being captured by Caesar and the ape army for the last two years, however, despite this; McCullough's arrogant, delusional and psychotic traits proved to be his downfall, as McCullough had the apes build a wall to protect him and his men from the Alpha-Omega faction from the north, who were going to execute them for their crimes of murdering innocent humans who had been infected by the mutated Simian Flu. Unlike Caesar; McCullough failed to realize that the wall they were building, would not protect him or his men as seen when it was bombarded by projectiles from helicopters.
- Skilled Marksman: McCullough was a highly skilled marksman, while in the shadows, he was able to shoot and kill Blue Eyes and Cornelia without either seeing him.
- Expert Leader: McCullough had proven to be a capable leader as he encourages his men to fight for humanity and to destroy the Ape Colony, even motivating them in their fearful moments, McCullough is hinted to have had previous military experience and used them to his advantage in his many battles. He also gained respect from the Donkeys by letting them have a position in the army and fight along the human soldiers.
- McCullough was the secondary antagonist of the Revelations novel and the main antagonist of both the War comic books and War for the Planet of the Apes.
- Colonel J. Wesley McCullough's full name is revealed in the War for the Planet of the Apes screenplay.
- McCullough's role in the CE series ultimately corresponds with that of Otto Hasslein in the APJ Pentalogy: Both men become aware of the possible end of humanity, and undertake a self-appointed crusade to prevent humanity's end, by any means necessary.
More to come...
- War for the Planet of the Apes: Revelations
- War for the Planet of the Apes (BOOM! Studios)
- War for the Planet of the Apes (novelization)