History of the World According to the Movies: Part 69 – World War II: The British Home Front


1942’s Mrs. Miniver is perhaps one of the best known movies set in the British home front during World War II that portrays people having to deal with the conflict at home and abroad. It is part news story and part propaganda so it’s not 100% accurate. Though they didn’t have the worst of it, the British had to deal with nighttime air raids or the possibility of having their house bombed. Still, this scene with Greer Garson and the German soldier is pretty relevant for such instances probably did happen. Also, the German pilot probably wasn’t going to fight again since he ended up a POW for the rest of the war.

World War II brought war in the homes of more people than any other conflict has before or since. Sometimes this consisted of having to dodge bombs and fire or having to deal with being occupied by Germany which presents horrors in of it itself. Of course, the British didn’t have to face the latter (save those in Jersey, and no, not that Jersey) but they still had to fight a war at home with having to adjust to a lifestyle accommodating wartime standards. Everyone had to do their part for the war effort whether it be serving in the armed forces, working in a factory or farm, serving in the Home Guard or other methods. Supplies were rationed, air raid drills were a part of life, sometimes kids were evacuated to the country, and there was always the risk a family could lose everything in a blink of an eye, even their lives, especially during the Battle of Britain. Britain was never more in danger than in the Battle of Britain when the German Luftwaffe tried to invade the country but were ultimately thwarted by the RAF. Later in the war, the RAF would go on regular bombing raids to Germany along with the USAAF forces, which would also bunk in Britain as a home away from home. It was also the time of Winston Churchill who was prime minister at time many would call it’s finest hour. Nevertheless, movies set in WWII Britain do present some inaccuracies which I shall list.

Winston Churchill:

Prime Minister Winston Churchill was a universally beloved leader of the good guys. (Yes, he was a great orator and an effective cheerleader but his popularity didn’t extend beyond a psychological concept like the “rally around the flag” effect that significantly reduces criticism of a character/government post-crisis. It didn’t last since he was kicked out of office months after Germany surrendered. He was also a racist and a staunch opponent of Indian independence or any kind of Indian autonomy {you don’t want to hear what he said about Gandhi}. He also had a militarist streak comparably to an unusually avid Tom Clancy fan to keep fighting WWII as long as he felt like it which made him unpopular with the British military. After Germany surrendered, Churchill ordered the British General Staff to work out a plan to rearm the German forces and launch an invasion on Russia which his terrified subordinates named “Operation Unthinkable.” Even his closest supporters thought this was insane. He also called his Labour opponents, “Gestapo” despite some of them serving key posts in his war cabinet.)

Barnes Wallis:

Barnes Wallis faced bureaucratic opposition in the creation of the Vickers Wellington bombs. (Contrary to The Dam Busters, Wallis never said he had. Also, the targets for Vickers Wellington bombs were already selected by this time. Not to mention, contrary to the film, there’s never been any truth whether bouncing cannonballs were the idea of Admiral Nelson, yet the ideal might’ve originated in the 16th and 17th centuries as the real Wallis once mentioned.)

Barnes Wallis was the chief designer of the Vickers Wellington bombs. (Contrary to The Dam Busters, while he was heavily involved with the bomb’s design which used his geodesic construction method, he wasn’t the chief designer.)

Wing Commander Guy Gibson:

Wing Commander Guy Gibson’s entire crew at 106 Squadron volunteered to follow him at his new command when it came to the Vickers Wellington bomb. (Actually only his wireless operator Hutchinson went with him to 617 Squadron.)

Guy Gibson was congenial, friendly, and gregarious. (Contrary to the Richard Todd portrayal, air crews and ground staff who worked with Gibson said he was a loner, strict disciplinarian, and having little personality. In other words, they saw him nothing more than a pain in the ass.)

Wing Commander Guy Gibson devised a “spotlights altimeter” after visiting a theater. (This devise had been used by RAF Coastal Command aircraft for some time back in the World War II era. Also, the idea for spotlights altimeter was suggested by a guy named Benjamin Lockspeiser when Gibson requested they solve a problem.)

Douglas Bader:

Douglas Bader was a stoic and cheerful man. (Reach for the Sky leaves out that he was regularly accused of being a reactionary racist who thought he should be Prime Minister. Yet, as a man with no legs, he’s a teddy bear compared to Oscar Pistorius.)

Dylan Thomas:

During the war, while his friend William Killick was away in Greece, Dylan Thomas took up an affair with his soldier friend’s wife Vera Philips, who Thomas had known since childhood. (While The Edge of Love implies this, there’s scant evidence on whether there was an affair between Thomas and Vera. Still, Thomas had been best man in Killick’s wedding and their wives were quite close to each other so having Vera move in with the Thomases wasn’t a big deal. Also, Killick returned from the war with PTSD and probably suspected the worst. Still, Dylan Thomas was an alcoholic.)

After William Killick’s violent rampage, Vera Philips persuaded Dylan Thomas not to testify against her husband. Yet, Thomas did so anyway. (Thomas didn’t testify against William. Also, William was acquitted by the jury on the advice of the judge not in defiance of him.)

Vera Philips:

Vera Philips was a glamorous night club singer. (Contrary to The Edge of Love, she was an eccentric sculptor who was trained by Henry Moore. As the real Dylan Thomas said, “Vera lives on cocoa, and reads books about the technique of third-century brass work, and gets up only once a day to boil the cat an egg, which it detests.”)

Battle of Britain:

RAF pilots were mostly British. (Actually, some of the RAF pilots actually were American, Canadian, Polish, Australian, New Zelander, Indian, and Czech.)

British pilots were well trained and experienced. (During the Battle of Britain since Great Britain was in a life-or-death situation, the training course for RAF pilots was repeatedly shortened as constant fighting took a death toll on the squadrons. New inexperienced pilots had a reduced life expectancy.)

British pilots usually survived most of their missions. (Most pilots were considered lucky if they survived at least 5 missions. As for bombers, well, the RAF only went on night bombing missions which were very dangerous for British airmen. Out of 100 British airmen sent on bombing raids, 55 usually ended up dead on average.)

It was the fast and maneuverable British Spitfires that won the Battle of Britain. (This is a popular notion you see in movies, recent statistics say that it was actually the Hurricanes that won the Battle of Britain since they were more durable, comprised of 55% of RAF fighters {Spitfires only made up 31%}, easier to land, and simpler to maintain and repair. Despite being slower and less aesthetically pleasing, the Hurricanes managed to shoot down 656 German aircraft while Spitfires shot down 529.)

The Battle of Britain actually swung into favor for the Allies because of the skill of RAF pilots. (Actually it had more to do with German miscalculation at command level than anything. The Luftwaffe already had a disadvantage flying far from home when its pilots were already tired. Also, while British could reload on fuel and ammunition when running low on either or have pit crews to fix their planes, German pilots had to return home, which limited their capacity for engagement. They also had to fly without escort protection. Not to mention, while RAF pilots could bail out or crash land if they were hit, they didn’t have much to worry about since they could be picked up from the sea by the British Coastal Command or could walk or take a train to the airfields. This resulted in a survival rate of 60% of RAF pilots and only 443 lives lost despite 1,220 crashes. Germans had to land on enemy lands and may risk having to surrender even to British civilian housewives like in Mrs. Miniver. The RAF also had radar while the Luftwaffe didn’t. Still, this proves that having home field advantage has significant benefits in this case.)

There was an Israeli RAF pilot. (Israel wouldn’t be a country until 1947 but there was a pilot from Egypt and one from Austria as well as two from Jamaica.)

The RAF No. 188 Squadron existed during World War II. (There was never a No. 188 RAF Squadron at this time, but there has been one in WWI but it has never been re-activated.)

London was bombed in August 1940. (It was bombed in September. Also, aerial battles were often fought in the countryside away from London to stop the German bombers before they hit the city.)

Most of the Battle of Britain was conducted during the night. (It was actually conducted during the day because the planes weren’t able to navigate at night yet. Also, their most likely targets were airfields, since coastal airfields were among the most hammered sites during the Battle of Britain.)

Evacuee Children:

British evacuee children weren’t afraid of farm animals and actually enjoyed the countryside.

If sent overseas, many British evacuee children were sent to the US or Australia. (Most overseas evacuees from Britain were sent to Canada whose contribution to the Allied effort during World War II is usually ignored. Besides, the Blitz occurred during a time when the US was trying to remain neutral and Australia was farther away and near danger itself. Also, there were a lot of things in Australia that could kill you.)

All British evacuee children returned to their parents by the end of the war. (Actually 40,000 British children went unclaimed by the end of the war. It’s possible that a British child may return home and find that Mom and Dad have been killed in an air raid or upped and left. Some who reached adulthood overseas decided never to return themselves.)

The Battle of Britain saw the end of German bombing in Great Britain. (Actually no, but the German bombings were less frequent after that time.)


The SIG stood for Special Identification Group which had German Jews serving with the British. (This is what the SIG was in Tobruk. It was a real organization in Britain but we’re not sure what this group did. In fact, we’re not sure what the initials in SIG stand for.)

US military personnel were executed by US MPs on British soil during World War II. (Yes, there were US servicemen executed on British soil yet contrary to The Dirty Dozen, US MPs weren’t legally allowed to conduct them. Yet, American servicemen could act as witnesses while executions of US servicemen were carried out by British executioners.)

Vickers Wellington bombs were highly effective weapons. (Yes, but unlike its depiction in The Dam Busters, they were almost suicidally dangerous to deploy because they not only required a heavy bomber to fly in a perfectly straight line at treetop height, which would make such planes painfully easy targets for anti-aircraft guns or passing fighters. The British were never able to develop a strong enough casing to withstand ground impact yet light enough to be carried by an aircraft like the Lancaster. Not to mention, the bombs had a nasty habit of rebounding unpredictably when used over even mildly choppy water. Thus, they were only really used for just one specific job of busting dams.)

British women put makeup on their legs when they couldn’t get any nylons. (Sometimes they used gravy.)

British houses were usually destroyed by bombs during this time. (Sometimes they were destroyed by some things like regular fires.)

Wooden “coat hanger” bomb sights were mostly successful. (Actually though the wooden “coat hanger” bomb sights were intended to enable crews to release Wellington Vickers bombs at the right distance from target, it wasn’t totally successful. Besides, while some crews used it, others came up with their own solutions, such as pieces of string in the bomb-aimer’s position and/or markings on the blister.)

The RAF had a 633 Squadron. (Contrary that there’s a movie called 633 Squadron, it didn’t exist, but there was a 613 Squadron though.)

There was a General Mountbatten. (No, but there was an Admiral Louis Mountbatten of the Royal Navy.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 68 – World War II: The Western Front


Stephen Spielberg perhaps tries to recreate the famous D-Day landings on the beaches of Normandy in his 1998 Saving Private Ryan. Though he went through great pains to recreate it as the veterans remember it, he couldn’t really film on the actual beaches since that would’ve been impossible and had to settle for the Irish coast instead. Still, while Spielberg tries to go to great lengths to get out his war is hell message, some of the movies fans don’t actually see it that way and actually delight in the carnage and war scenes giving it a feel of an army recruitment commercial. Nevertheless, if the scene at Omaha Beach doesn’t convince you that war is hell, then nothing will. Nevertheless, this movie has gotten a lot of praise from vets who were there which is good enough.

The Western Front during World War II is perhaps one of the familiar images we usually see in movies, particularly if they tend to consist of the landings on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day as well as the liberation of German occupied countries as well as the actions that help bring an end to the war. There’s a very good reason for this since it takes place in a safer part of the world unlike the action in North Africa, the 1944-45 part of the war was one in which the Allies were actually winning, and it includes Americans. Still, the Western Front also saw some action early in the war as well with the Maginot Line, Dunkirk, and the Germans taking over Belgium, the Netherlands, Norway, Denmark, and France. These aren’t nice things to remember and take place early in the war so they are rarely film but are seen on occasion like in Atonement or Mrs. Miniver. Also, you don’t have Americans and 1940 witnesses the Battle of Britain which the Brits would rather remember. Still, personalities in the Western Front would consists of favorites like Rommel, Patton, Montgomery as well as Omar Bradley and Dwight D. Eisenhower. Battles would include D-Day, the Normandy invasion, the Battle of the Bulge, the Liberation of Paris, and the final battle of Berlin. Nevertheless, movies set in the Western Front do have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel:

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel carried his Field Marshal’s baton with him on the beaches of Normandy which he used to help review the beach defenses. (Yes, he was there but he didn’t carry his baton or use it to review beach defenses unlike what we see in The Longest Day, which is your grandpa’s Saving Private Ryan back in the 1960s.)

Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt:

It was Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt’s idea to suggest sending Bittrich’s panzers to Arnhem. (Actually it was Field Marshal Walter Model’s idea as far as the book A Bridge Too Far says.)

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt refused to ask Adolf Hitler permission to release the Wehrmacht’s reserves and declared he wouldn’t “bow” to “that Bohemian corporal.” (Actually, Hitler had it set up so only he could order the reserve Panzer divisions to move. However, he was asleep during most of D-Day and his guards were too afraid to wake him up, so Runstedt’s basically screwed no matter what contrary to The Longest Day.)

General George S. Patton:

General George S. Patton’s controversy over his Knutsford speech pertained to him having insulted the Russians. (He did mention Russia in his speech but reporters left it out of their articles, which whipped a scandal on totally fictitious grounds. Still, it actually had more to do with Patton talking of “ruling the world,” after the war, in which members of Congress said he had no business commenting on post-war world political affairs. Others just objected to the notion of the US, Britain, or any other country “ruling the world.” However, to be fair, he wasn’t too fond of Russians or Jews for that matter. Ironically, Stalin may have admired him saying that the Red Army could neither have planned nor executed Patton’s rapid armored advance across France.)

General George S. Patton’s 3rd Army was situated to the south during the Battle of the Bulge. (Yes, but it was also one of 4 armies under the command of General Omar Bradley’s 12th Army Group.)

The prayer for good weather came from the words from General George S. Patton’s chaplain who said them before the Battle of the Bulge. (Actually those words came from the back of a small Christmas card that was printed for the troops on December 11th, 1944, 5 days before the Battle of the Bulge.)

General Omar Bradley:

General Omar Bradley foresaw the Battle of the Bulge. (Sorry, Patton, but Bradley dismissed the German operation at Ardennes as a “spoiling attack.” This resulted in his command to be virtually annihilated by the German attack. Eisenhower would transfer the remnants to General Montgomery’s 21st Army Group while quietly sidelining Bradley and giving him a fourth star for compensation {well, he did lead the first invasion of D-Day}.)

General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

General Dwight D. Eisenhower wasn’t present at the meeting when General George S. Patton to volunteer his army during the Battle of the Bulge, though other leaders present did discuss Ike’s decision. (Actually Eisenhower was present at the meeting. But he’s not in Patton at all.)

The Monuments Men:

Raphael’s Portrait of a Young Man was burned by the SS. (It’s very likely to still exist, though it was stolen by the Nazis. Still, the Nazis weren’t ordered to destroy art unless it was considered “degenerate” like Picasso’s. Raphael paintings wouldn’t’ be in this category. Also, the mines weren’t destroying centers for art, but places to keep them so they could put them in German museums.)

Though the Monuments Men stumbled on Nazi gold, it wasn’t seen as relevant to their mission. (Maybe in The Monuments Men, but this accidental discovery did more to end World War II than almost any soldiering on the part of the Allies since the world was still on the gold standard at the time. When word got out there was nothing backing the Deutschmark, the Third Reich had no way to fund their war effort anymore. This is why you see Eisenhower, Patton, and Bradley getting their picture taken.)

Jan and Hubert van Eyck’s Ghent altarpiece and Michelangelo’s Madonna of Bruges were recovered in haste before the Soviets arrived in Germany. (Actually they were recovered with leisure Altaussee salt mine, which was under American occupation.)

There were 8 Monuments Men. (There were actually 400 but it wouldn’t make an entertaining movie.)

Leonardo Da Vinci was referred to as “Da Vinci” during this time. (He was simply known as “Leonardo” even today by art historians because “Da Vinci” simply means “from Vinci.”)

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery:

General Bernard Montgomery was appointed Chief of the Imperial General Staff around the same time as General Patton was relieved of his command in Germany. (Montgomery became head of the CIGS in 1946, after Patton had died in December 1945.)

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery’s Force during the Battle of the Bulge was the 8th Army. (He was in command of the 21st Army Group. Also, during the Battle of the Bulge, the British 8th Army was stationed in Italy at the time.)


Tiger tanks were present at Dunkirk. (Dunkirk happened in 1940 while the first Tiger tanks saw action in 1942.)

The evacuation of Dunkirk was a last-minute effort with a huge fleet of little ships bringing the soldiers home. (Actually unlike what Mrs. Miniver depicts, most of the men evacuated at Dunkirk were brought home by destroyers, not a bunch of little boats. Also, the evacuation lasted more than a week. However, the British government deliberately created the myth of the little ships to boost morale after the disaster in France.)

Occupation of France:

The Gestapo ordered Parisians not to act when the German trucks arrived the next day. (Contrary to Casablanca, Paris issued absolutely no warning about the German advance at all. The German blitzkrieg overwhelmed the French so completely that all communications were either stymied or went astray.)


The US Marines stormed the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. (It was the US Army, yet The Desert Fox has the storming of the Normandy beaches to the tune of “The Marine Hymn” when it should be “The Caisson Song.”)

Germans Colonel Josef “Pips” Priller and Sergeant Heinz Wodarczyk attacked the Allies at Gold and Juno Beaches during D-Day. (They were both at Sword Beach at the time yet the attacked the Allies by themselves and were both badly hungover at the time.)

The Germans’ 159mm guns on Pointe du Hoc were gone by the time Colonel Rudder’s Rangers got there. (Yes, but The Longest Day doesn’t show that Rudder’s Rangers continued inland, found the guns, and destroyed them.)

During the Normandy invasion, the men from the Higgins boats leapt from their watercraft into the water, rushed through the waves, threw themselves behind the sea wall, and started firing on the enemy. (This is a scene from The Longest Day that distresses veterans of D-Day the most since it seems like a scene out of Rambo or some other action movie. In reality, the soldiers actually plunged in over their heads, inflated their life jackets, struggled to shore, hid behind the beach obstacles, crawled toward to the sea wall, and exhaustively threw themselves down. Sorry, Darryl Zanuck, but the landings at the Normandy beaches didn’t play out like Rambo.)

Brigadier General Theodore Roosevelt III made the decision to attack from Utah Beach. (It was Colonel James van Fleet who actually made the decision. Yet, General Roosevelt was the highest ranking officer on Utah Beach that day. Interestingly, he’s also the son and namesake of President Teddy Roosevelt, too so badassery was in the blood. Still, he knew that the improvised landing was a better idea than the planned one and even reconned the area with minimal cover, risking his life as well as insisted on leading the landing himself. Sadly, he wasn’t in the best of health then and would die a month later.)

The dummy paratroopers on D-Day were highly elaborate and lifelike. (Yes, they did drop dummies at the Normandy beaches. A total of 500 of them by the SAS in fact, for Operation Titanic. They also played recordings of battle noise, set off smoke grenades, and used their weapons to further enhance deception. But the dummies didn’t look as realistic like you’d see in The Longest Day. According to Imdb: “The actual dummies were fabricated from sackcloth or burlap stuffed with straw or sand and were only crude representations of a human figure. They only appeared human from a distance during the descent and were equipped with an explosive charge that burned away the cloth after landing to prevent the immediate discovery of their true nature.” )

British Captain Colin Maud spurred his advancing soldiers up the beaches of Normandy accompanied by his bulldog “Winston.” (This incident took place on the “Canadian” Juno Beach. Also, his dog was a German shepherd.)

General Simon Fraser, 15th Lord Lovat carried a Mannlicher Schoenauer Model 1903 carbine on D-Day. (Contrary to The Longest Day, he always carried his old Winchester rifle into battle, and D-Day was no exception. It was one of his well-known quirks.)

The Ouistreham casino was destroyed by the Allies during the landings at Normandy. (It had already been destroyed and replaced with a bunker by the Germans before that.)

British pathfinders landed on the headquarters of the German General von Salmuth, commander of the 15th Army. (Contrary to The Longest Day, they landed on the headquarters of General Reichert who was commander of the 711 division at Normandy. Von Salmuth and his 15th Army were at the Pais de Calais at the time, perhaps waiting for Patton’s fake invasion {the guy was basically the only general whom Hitler ever feared}.)

French civilians assisted the Allied troops during D-Day. (Sorry, but The Longest Day gets it wrong. For one, it’s unlikely that the Germans would allow any civilians to live to such close proximity to the ocean where it would be possible to signal to passing ships. Second, the bombings and other action at the Normandy beaches would’ve severely damaged if not, demolished any house there which would result in civilians getting killed on impact. Third, I’m sure that French civilians were more likely heading for the hills than assisting the Allied troops at Normandy mostly because they’d have to be complete idiots to do the latter.)

The USS Fremont was at the Normandy beaches during D-Day. (Actually it was in the Pacific during this time and would be involved with the Battle of Saipan 10 days later.)

During D-Day, Lieutenant Colonel Ben Vandervoort and Brigadier General James Gavin were both in their 50s. (Actually Vandervoort was only 27 while Gavin was in his mid-30s. Yet, in The Longest Day, they’re played by 50ish John Wayne and Robert Ryan respectively. Also, John Wayne was twice the age of his own character so what the hell casting agency? Seriously, my negative bias of John Wayne aside, the casting director for The Longest Day could’ve certainly have selected a much younger actor to play a 27-year-old like Paul Newman for instance.)

German machine gunners fired continuous rounds from their MG42s on D-Day. (Actually they were trained to fire at shorter bursts to avoid overheating their guns. To fire continuously would’ve resulted in their barrels to melt. Yet, you see this in Saving Private Ryan.)

Before D-Day, World War II was still going Hitler’s way. (Mr. Attenborough, by the time D-Day rolled around; the Germans have already had their asses beaten by the Allies. By June 6, 1944, the Germans had already suffered crushing defeats by the Soviet Union on the Eastern Front like Stalingrad and they’ve also been kicked out of Africa and later Italy. Furthermore, by this time Mussolini had been deposed by his own people and Italy had joined the allies. Thus, by mid-1943, the Germans were already on the road to inevitable defeat and D-Day was just going to make it a whole lot worse.)

The Normandy Invasion:

The “whack the mortar shell to initiate the fuse and throw it like a football” scheme happened on the beaches of Normandy. (There are two incidents of this but they were in Italy and Okinawa, not in Normandy.)

All but one of the Niland brothers died in World War II. (Though Private James Ryan was loosely based on Sergeant Frederick “Fritz” Niland, two Niland brothers actually survived the war and died in the 1980s. The other brother was Edward who was in a Japanese prison camp in Burma during the Normandy invasion and he died a year after “Fritz” {but at the time Edward wasn’t expected to make it knowing what POWs in Japanese custody faced and was deemed as missing and presumably dead}. However, contrary to Saving Private Ryan, “Fritz” Niland didn’t need to be rescued by Tom Hanks because he had gone to the 82nd Airborne Division several days following the Normandy invasion to see his brother Bob and found out Bob had been killed on D-Day when he arrived. He was shipped back to England and later to New York where he served as an MP during the rest of the war. However, the notion that Edward Niland died during the war is even in Stephen Ambrose’s books as well as by other WWII scholars.)

The HMS Repulse was among the bombarding ships at the Normandy beaches prior to the D-Day landings. (The ship was sunk in December 1941 and D-Day took place in 1944.)

The Germans used Tiger tanks on the American front during the Normandy invasion. (There were no Tiger tanks at Utah or Omaha Beach. There were Tigers used at Juno Beach but it was the one with Canadians and Brits.)

During the invasion of Normandy, 2 British paratroopers landed by mistake in a courtyard and chateau where a German general was staying. They were later captured and overwhelmed by 2 dozen German guards. (This actually happened but instead of a squad of guards it was one of the General’s middle-aged staff officers who successfully rounded up the British paratroopers only armed with a pistol, contrary to The Longest Day.)

US troops from the 82nd Airborne F Company were all mowed down as they parachuted into a village square surrounded by German troops during the Normandy invasion. (Actually contrary to The Longest Day where everyone from that company is wiped out as if they were fish in a barrel, 30 paratroopers from the 82 F Company managed to successfully land in or around the square with less than a dozen killed or wounded.)

French nuns treated the French wounded at Ouistreham during the Normandy invasion. (Actually contrary to The Longest Day, this didn’t happen in real life. Also, Ouistreham’s hotel and casino were already destroyed and converted to German bunker use.)

Colonel Vandervoort had a compound fracture on his ankle during the Normandy invasion. (Contrary to The Longest Day, he didn’t because he was a healthy 27 year old man unlike his John Wayne portrayal. Sorry, but a 54 man like John Wayne at the time is way too old to play a guy who was only 27 at the time. Interestingly, British actor Richard Todd played his own commanding officer Major John Howard in The Longest Day and there’s a scene where he’s next to a guy who’s playing him as a soldier.)

“Crickets” frog like devices that were used by the 82nd Airborne during the Normandy invasion. (It was only issued to the 101st Division at the insistence of General Maxwell D. Taylor after his experience of the assault on Sicily. Still, as Movie Mistakes states, “It should also be noted that the cricket was not shaped like a frog but was made mainly from brass by the Birmingham based THE ACME company, founded by the maker of the original London Police Force’s whistle manufacturer, and they did a special run of over 7500 for the order. This makes telling original D-Day crickets from fakes easier due to die marks and press marks.” Also, it’s unlikely that John Wayne’s character in The Longest Day would know the code.)

The Liberation of Paris:

German soldiers set conventional explosives on Paris bridges. (It’s seen like this on Is Paris Burning? but the Germans used surplus naval torpedoes under the Paris bridges to burn them up.)

After the liberation of Paris, Lieutenant Henri Karcher called his father on the phone to tell him he’s just captured a general. (Unlike Is Paris Burning?, the real Karcher would more likely to have called his father using a Ouija board because his dad had been dead since 1914.)

Liberated Paris didn’t have any blackouts. (The city still did and so would Bruges.)

Operation Market Garden:

Lieutenant General Frederick Browning was mostly responsible for the failure of Operation Market Garden. (There could be a number of things why Operation Market Garden failed, but unlike in A Bridge Too Far, if there was anyone to blame, it would probably be Montgomery.)

The tower of Sint Stevenschurch in Nijmegen was standing tall during Operation Market Garden. (It was destroyed by American bombing in February 1944 and wouldn’t be rebuilt until the late 1960s. Of course, A Bridge Too Far was made in the 1970s.)

The Battle of the Bulge:

The Malmedy massacre happened on a snowy day. (There was no snow during the Malmedy massacre. The snow came later which covered the bodies of 80 American POWs that were killed.)

The Malmedy massacre was carried out by specially prepared machine guns hidden in the back of trucks. (This is how it’s portrayed in Battle of the Bulge, but the Malmedy massacre was actually conducted by guards surrounding the prisoners.)

The Battle of the Bulge was fought on semi-arid mountainous land that was devoid of trees. (It was fought among the thickly forested and hilly Ardennes Forest. The 1965 depiction of the Battle of the Bulge makes it clear that the movie was filmed in Spain. Still, the 1965 Battle of the Bulge was a film former President Eisenhower hated so much he denounced it during a press conference. Also, WWII buffs, model makers, and historians hate this movie for the inaccurate tank designs, which are painted wrong.)

The Battle of the Bulge took place during a mild winter in Belgium. (Actually it took place during a bitterly cold Belgian winter. Yet, the filmmakers made a half-hearted attempt at recreating what would’ve been seen as a bitterly cold winter if the Battle of the Bulge had taken place in Florida! Heck, the terrible wintry weather during the battle was what actually allowed the Germans to operate while it negatively affected Allied air superiority. A historical reenactment of the Battle of the Bulge would’ve been more accurate in the form of a snowball fight in my neighbor’s wooded hunting grounds during a snow day {like in bitterly cold weather with at least over 6 inches of snow} than in this movie. May not be the most accurate rendition but at least the terrain and weather would be right.)

During the Battle of the Bulge, large numbers of American tanks sacrificed themselves against the heavy Tiger IIs until the enemy ran out of fuel. (The Tiger II tanks were already stranded by this point even without effort from the US, which is perfect for Allied aircraft to hit the Germans hard in the event of clear weather. Yeah, lack of fuel wasn’t the only weakness the Allies were willing to exploit from the Tiger tanks. Not to mention, the Germans only had 100 available for the Bulge operation. Also, the reason for the high Allied casualties in the Battle of the Bulge had more to do with a Nazi counteroffensive catching the Allies by surprise and the confusion that followed.)

The Battle of the Bulge was solely American operation. (What about Montgomery’s effort who took temporary command of two American armies on the northern half of the Bulge though his British troops were usually kept behind the Meuse River and were thus almost entirely out of the fighting. Still, it kind of counts. Also absent in Battle of the Bulge besides Montgomery’s role is Eisenhower’s decision to split the Bulge front into two as well as Patton’s response whose 3rd Army relieved the Siege of Bastogne. No wonder Eisenhower hated this movie.)


The Italians and French and Italians were utter incompetents and total war cowards who couldn’t fight. (Oh, sure they could, and did. For God’s sake Mussolini was overthrown and later killed by his own people as well as joined the allies as soon as they got fed up with Il Duce. Yet, there was a civil war in Italy between resistance and fascists forces which would continue until near the end of the war. As for the French, while there was a resistance movement, most of those who supported Marshall Philippe Petain’s coup in Vichy France either were fascist to begin with or saw no hope of Germany ever being defeated. Yet, when it was clear that Germany would lose, resistance groups formed and they were ready to welcome the Allies’ return with some of the best espionage work the world has ever seen. General DeGaulle’s Free French Forces also contributed thousands of combat troops in Bir Hakeim, Monte Cassino, and Ouistreham. Once France was liberated, they formed an army of 100,000 strong to take over support roles for British and American troops at the front lines.)

There was a real Battle of Romelle. (Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, there wasn’t.)

No one knows what happened to Glenn Miller’s plane. (Yes, but it’s very likely that Glenn Miller died from a combination of boarding a plane with a defective carburetor, piloted be a guy who wasn’t really qualified to fly the aircraft, and bad weather that would be a terrible obstacle for the Allies during the Battle of the Bulge. Sorry, conspiracy theorists.)

American pilots joined in the Eagle Squadron. (Sorry, Michael Bay, but there were a grand total of zero USAAF pilots who joined the RAF’s Eagle Squadron. Active duty US Army airmen would’ve simply not been allowed. Only US civilians served as Eagle Squadron pilots.)

Letters of transit signed by General Charles DeGaulle carried great weight in Vichy France and its territories. (Charles DeGaulle was a leader of the Free French movement so any letters of transit signed by him would’ve been meaningless, but don’t tell Captain Renault that.)

The Netherlands was under German occupation in April of 1945. (Most of the country had been liberated by this point, contrary to the movie Black Book.)

Dutch sheep managed to survive in the fields during the “Hunger Winter” of 1944. (Contrary to the movie Black Book, there were no sheep in the field by the spring of 1945. Also, people weren’t traveling by train at this point in the war either.)

French girls always preferred American GIs over their own countrymen. (If there’s a love interest in World War II movies set in the Western Front, she’s usually French and she’ll end up with the American GI protagonist. It’s the other way around in I Was a Male War Bride with the French guy being played by Cary Grant who marries an American servicewoman portrayed by Ann Sheridan. It’s the one he dresses in drag.)

The German-Swiss border was open during this time. (It was closed completely so you couldn’t travel by train between Germany and Switzerland anyway. Besides, the Germans knew that so many POWs would’ve wanted to escape there.)

Helicopters were used in the Western Front during World War II in 1944. (Except in Burma and a bit in the Coast Guard, helicopters weren’t around in military use during 1944. Yet, you see one in Eye of the Needle, which is based on a Ken Follet novel. Still, the Germans did have them.)

In 1940, Norwegian Lieutenant Thor O. Hannevig was abandoned by his soldiers and forced to face the Germans alone. (Actually he disbanded his unit and a small staff remained with him until he surrendered to the Germans. Not to mention, the German POWs he captured were still held and were handed over to the German forces directly unlike in The Last Lieutenant.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 67 – World War II: The Mediterranean


1961’s The Guns of Navarone is about a crack squad of International Forces sent to destroy those large guns off an island in Greece. Or as star Gregory Peck put it: “David Niven really loves Anthony Quayle and Gregory Peck loves Anthony Quinn. Tony Quayle breaks a leg and is sent off to hospital. Tony Quinn falls in love with Irene Papas, and Niven and Peck catch each other on the rebound and live happily ever after.” Still, it’s a movie that pertains to the trials and tribulations of international cooperation during the war in which people from different countries had to work together to a common goal.

For a good chunk of World War II, the Allies spent considerable time in the Mediterranean area whether it be in North Africa or Italy. Initially, the conflict in this area was originally against the Italy. However, Italy started getting its ass beaten which leads to the Germans coming to aid. Then the Italians get fed up with Mussolini that Il Duce is deposed by the Italian government and joins the Allies (Mussolini would later get rescued by German forces before being killed by his own people in 1945 in a very nasty way). Actually Italy’s switch had been a long time coming since Mussolini declared war on France, in fact. Of course, this leads to Germany overrunning Italy {and Italian civil war between fascist and Allied factions of the populace} which leads to the Allies having to liberate it, a process that took at least two years. Still, it’s this part of the war where you see the arrival of American forces, desert tank warfare, Mediterranean scenery (which may or may not be blown to bits) as well as personalities like Erwin Rommel, George S. Patton, and Bernard Montgomery. Famous battles include Tobruk, El Alamein, Monte Cassino, the Allied invasion of Sicily, and the Allied invasion of Italy. Also, a key setting of a lot of war romance movies most famously Casablanca. Still, unlike the Pacific, at least the war effort in this area isn’t 100% credited to the Americans. Nevertheless, there are some historical errors in movies pertaining to this theater, which I shall point out.

General George S. Patton:

General George S. Patton was an impressive orator with a deep gravelly voice. (Sure George C. Scott was totally awesome as Patton and won a well-deserved Oscar for it. However, the real Patton actually had a high pitched squeaky voice {which would’ve made Patton an unintentional comedy} yet he did manage to steal the spotlight while speaking. Yet, it wasn’t without practicing his posture, poses, and expressions for hours. He also purposefully cultivated his badass image with his immaculate uniform, dual holster pistols, etc. mostly to compensate for his weak and uninspiring voice. Still, the real Patton would’ve approved of his George C. Scott portrayal.)

During the conflict in North Africa, Patton said, “Rommel, you magnificent bastard, I read your book!” (Hate to let you down, but he probably never said it. Also, he never actually came against Rommel in combat, but the 1970 film addresses this during the North Africa campaign and Patton is pissed.)

General George S. Patton didn’t swear a lot. (Uh, the 1970 Patton had to actually tone down his swearing and he was a well known potty mouth. For instance, he’d never actually say “fornication” when “fuck” would do just fine.)

Before facing Erwin Rommel, Patton read his book on tank warfare. (Patton would’ve never read Rommel’s book on tank warfare because Rommel never completed it. However, he did write a book on infantry warfare. Still, the guy who actually wrote the book on German tank warfare was General Hans Guderian which is still available today {Though “Guderian, you magnificent bastard” doesn’t have the same ring to it}. Yet, Patton probably read this guy’s book though. Nevertheless, Patton was just as much a pioneer in tank warfare as Rommel was perhaps as far back as World War I and before. Patton’s pioneering and success in tank warfare was one of the reasons why he rose to the rank of lieutenant colonel as well as commander of the US Tank Corps by the end of World War I. In that time, he was celebrated by the press as “Hero of Tanks.” Before his assignment in North Africa, he ran a special army training center for its armored divisions which lead him to develop tank tactics as well as prepared himself for combat.)

When General Patton stood in a middle of a street during an air raid, he took potshots at the fighters to defy him by hitting him right in the nose and didn’t even flinch when one of them nearly succeeded strafing him. (Didn’t happen in real life, but that scene from the 1970 film is typical Patton.)

General George S. Patton slapped one shell shocked soldier during the Italian campaign. (He actually slapped hospitalized soldiers on two separate occasions. The soldier he slapped in the movie actually had malaria, not battle fatigue.)

General George S. Patton gave out a grudging apology in front of his divisions and medical personnel after he slapped a hospitalized soldier. (Actually he was genuinely remorseful and he actually slapped two hospitalized seemingly shell-shocked soldiers.)

General George S. Patton referred to himself as a Lieutenant General before the confirmation of his promotion became official. (He actually didn’t until he signed his official commission paperwork.)

General George S. Patton and General Omar Bradley were close friends. (Contrary to Patton, what Bradley and Patton had was a “working relationship” at best. Sure they served together in war and Bradley was a consultant on the 1970 film but the extent of his participation is largely unknown. Bradley despised Patton both personally and professionally and gave his former superior scant praise in his memoirs. In fact, Bradley admitted that if he was Patton’s superior officer during the slapping incident in Sicily, he would’ve not only immediately fired him, but also “would have had nothing more to do with him.” As Bradley’s subordinate on the Western Front, the only reason why Patton stuck around was because Eisenhower wouldn’t let Bradley fire him. And Bradley had a habit of firing senior commanders who he felt were too independent, or whose command style didn’t agree with his own. Patton certainly would’ve qualified. By contrast, Patton was only known to fire just one for cause during the war and after he giving the guy two warnings.)

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery:

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery was an overrated preening twit. (Well, Patton indeed portrays Montgomery like this and he did have a bad habit of overstating his own achievements and his proximity to Winston Churchill to play for his best advantage. However, we can’t forget that he was the guy who defeated Rommel both times at El Alamein as well as played a critical role in the invasion of Normandy with getting Operation Overlord off the ground, which was the largest amphibious landing in history yet he’s received no credit in history for that despite it being his most successful act during the war, at least by Americans. Though many say that there were fairly few other generals who could’ve put Operation Overlord off. Still, he was arrogant and reluctant to cooperate with others which made him increasingly unpopular, particularly with Americans. He may have saved Americans in the Battle of the Bulge but his assertion greatly offended them. He also had an extreme racist streak even by World War II Allied standards. Nevertheless, though he may have been a twit, he was a damn good general. Also, despite their rivalry, Montgomery actually admired Patton for his ability to command troops on the field while many of his British colleagues didn’t hold the colorful American general in high regard.)

Count Lazlo Almasy:

Count Lazlo Almasy was a dashing Hungarian explorer t whose sacrifices to save the woman he loved spelled his doom. (This sums up The English Patient who actually wasn’t English though the actor was. However, there was a real Lazlo Almasy was a real explorer who was part of Zezura club. Yet, he actually fought in the German Luftwaffe during World War II and died of amoebic dysentery in 1951. Also, unlike the Ralph Fiennes portrayal in The English Patient, recent discoveries heavily imply that the real Almasy was gay. As for the Claytons {the inspirations for the Cliftons}, they both died in the early 1930s, yet the woman did die in a flying accident.)

North Africa:

General Lloyd Fredenhall left Le Kouif after General George S. Patton’s arrival. (He actually left hours before Patton arrived. And he left in a Buick, not in a Jeep.)


The Australian 9th Division was known as “The Desert Rats.” (It was a nickname for the British 7th Armored Division. The Australian 9th Division was known as “The Rats of Tobruk” after Nazi propaganda denigrated them as being “caught like rats in a trap.” They started calling themselves “The Rats of Tobruk” with pride ever since.)

The Australian 9th division was commanded by a British captain. (Actually no British officer was ever placed in command of an Australian battalion at Tobruk. Also, The Desert Rats ignored the contribution of British, Polish, and Indian soldiers during the Tobruk siege from April to November of 1941. But at least there are no American soldiers in it.)

During the siege of Tobruk, there was a raid on an ammunition dump. (Contrary to The Desert Rats, this didn’t happen.)

El Alamein:

The British held the Germans at El Alamein right after the fall of Tobruk. (Actually Tobruk fell on in June 21, 1942. The first battle of El Alamein lasted from July 1st to 27th of that year. The group of soldiers in Sahara couldn’t be in the desert that long.)

The Italian Pavia division was stationed at Naqb Rala during the Battles of El Alamein. (Contrary to El Alamein: The Line of Fire, it was actually stationed by Folgore paratroopers. The Pavia division was further north from the line of the Qattara Depression.)


US enlisted personnel in the First Special Service Force in Italy were criminals and the unwanted of other units. (Contrary to The Devil’s Brigade, they actually were recruited from volunteers with “outdoors” backgrounds.)

The Anzio Operation took place in 1945. (The Anzio Operation was over by May 12, 1944 while the war in Europe ended in May 8, 1945.)

Italian women would rather hook up with a white American GI protagonist than a fellow countryman regardless whether the whole affair was a one night stand and the GI is married. (Cue to The Man in the Gray Flannel Suit in which Gregory Peck knocks up an Italian woman thinking it would be the last tail he’ll ever get before being transferred to the Pacific. And then he comes home to his wife played by Jennifer Jones, has three kids with her, and doesn’t tell her about the war time tryst when he finds out he has a 10 year old son in Italy. All in a movie that was released in the 1950s.)

Members of the First Special Service Force wore red berets. (They actually didn’t. According to Imdb: “All members of the Force eventually wore U.S. Army dress uniforms with U.S. paratrooper boots and distinctive red, white, and blue braided shoulder loops, overseas cap piping, and parachute wing backings.”)

The assault on the Monte La Defensa took place in the early daylight hours. (It took place at night in the dark.)

US soldiers wore a coverall type fatigue uniform during the invasion of Salerno. (The Army had deemed these type of uniforms unfit for field use in 1942. The Allied invasion of Italy took place in September 1943 so no US soldier would were them during that time.)

Soldiers participating in the Allied invasion of Italy wore no markings on their uniform whatsoever other than rank insignia. (Contrary to A Walk in the Sun, Imdb says: “It was standard practice to mark soldiers’ helmets with chalk numbers so that they would know which landing craft they were assigned to board for the invasion. It was also standard practice to wear insignia to denote the soldiers’ units for identification purposes, although sometimes the shoulder sleeve insignia were removed to impede enemy intelligence gathering.” But chalk and unit insignias wouldn’t look cool, right?)

The Police Battalion Bozen was a Waffen-SS unit. (It was actually a German police unit contrary to Massacre in Rome. They wore regular police uniforms and its members weren’t considered members of the Waffen-SS.

Major Hellmuth Dobbrick was at the Via Rasella as commander of the 11th SS-Police Company. (Contrary to Massacre in Rome, he was commander of the 3rd Battalion which comprised of 3 police companies. He also wasn’t present at Via Rasella. As for the 11th company, its commander was Lieutenant Wolfgasth who’s absent from the film.)


The HMS Barham was sunk by coastal artillery in the Mediterranean. (Contrary to The Guns of Navarone, it was sunk by a torpedo from a German U-boat.)

The British frogmen attacked the Italian ship the Otera in the Gibraltar harbor in 1941. (Contrary to The Silent Enemy, there was no attack on the Otera nor was there an underwater hand-to-hand combat between the British and Italian frogmen.)

Italian frogmen were easy to be seen during the Raid at Alexandria in 1941 since bubbles came from their breathing apparatuses. (Actually contrary to the 1962 film The Valiant, according to Imdb: “the Italian frogmen used pure oxygen ‘pendulum’ breathing sets, in which exhaled gas is returned to the tank via a carbon dioxide filter, rather than the compressed-air apparatus used in peacetime – precisely in order to avoid the problem of a tell-tale string of bubbles. “)

Crete was a safe haven for Allied forces. (By 1943, it had been occupied by Germany for the past two years.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 66 – World War II: The Pacific


The 1970 Tora! Tora! Tora! was a retelling of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by a collaboration of American and Japanese filmmakers. This film tells the story of the events leading up to the attack through the perspectives of both sides as well as put the story of Pearl Harbor as the story instead of it being a backdrop of some fictional tale. Though a flop at the US box office and critics (it was more successful in Japan), this film has gained great stature in later years, especially compared to the 2001 Michael Bay craptackular disasterpiece, which was a retelling of the attack through the eyes of a video game addict who flunked American history in high school. Still, even if this film doesn’t use CGI visual effects, Tora! Tora! Tora! is still top notch when it comes to the Pearl Harbor attack.

Though World War II Eastern Europe was a certified shit hole, the war in the Pacific wasn’t much of a picnic either mostly because East Asia had fallen prey to the imperial ambitions of the militaristic Japanese. And between 1930 and 1945, the Japanese military was one of the most horrifying to their enemies as well as to their own people (well, they’re up there). The Japanese had invaded China in the 1930s in a conflict known as the Second Sino-Japanese War which was the largest war in Asia and perhaps one of the costliest in human history. But by 1941, Japan had joined the Axis Powers while China had joined the Allies (well, it’s more complicated since the Chinese were a factious bunch). The conflict is still a topic of fierce controversy to this day in East Asia. Still, in the movies, it’s treated as a conflict chiefly between the Japan and the United States as well as begins with the Japanese surprise attack at Pearl Harbor and ends with the US dropping two atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that resulted in the Japanese surrender. The War in the Pacific is shown with big naval battles, jungles, starving civilians, and the inconsistent mistreatment of non-combatants. Let’s just say if the Japanese don’t get you, then the exotic diseases and wildlife will. Except if you’re on a cargo ship in Mister Roberts, which in this case it would probably consist of spending your days on a ship in boredom thinking that your comrades on active combat duty are having a much better time in the war than you. Nevertheless, movies set in this theater do have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto:

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said this in regards to Japan’s chances of war with America, “If we must, we can raise havoc with them for a year… after that, I can guarantee nothing.” (He actually said, “I can run wild for six months… after that, I have no expectation of success.”)

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto said after Pearl Harbor, “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.” (There’s no record he actually said this but he’s quoted as such.)

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was a brilliant strategist who opposed war with the United States because he thought it was a great mistake to underestimate US fighting potential. (Yamamoto knew these consequences {after all, he went to Harvard}, but unlike in Tora! Tora! Tora!, he wouldn’t have overly admitted this. He just dutifully worked out the Pearl Harbor attack plan throughout 1941 and he was ready to execute the plan by late November when the order was confirmed.)

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto was killed in 1942. (He died in 1943.)

Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto had all his digits by 1941. (Contrary to most of his movie portrayals, Yamamoto actually lost two fingers on his left hand during his service in the Russo-Japanese War.)

General Douglas MacArthur:

General Douglas MacArthur was adored by his men during his time in the Philippines. (Yes, MacArthur did bid an emotional farewell to his men when he left the Philippines. However, by the time he left, his men were actually fed up with him. For one, out of the 142 communiques he issued during the first period of his war service there, 109 failed to mention the bravery of any soldiers apart from himself. There was also a fuss about him accepting $500,000 as a personal reward from the Philippine president which was technically legal but ethically dubious. Yet, the 1977 MacArthur biopic can be forgiven for mentioning this since the story came out in 1979. Still, MacArthur’s patchy reputation was no secret.)

General Douglas MacArthur was ignorant of Philippine geography and proposed the attack as “Land at Leyte beach on Luzon, and then carry the fight to Manila.” (As is shown in the Gregory Peck portrayal. MacArthur may have been accused of many things, but ignorance of Philippine geography wasn’t one of them. As for his attack proposal, he did fight to retake both Leyte and Luzon but not at the same time because it would’ve been physically impossible since the islands are 500 miles apart. And MacArthur would know this.)

General Douglas MacArthur was a liberal who thought Japanese workers should’ve had a voice in the means of production. (For God’s sake, MacArthur was a Republican and wouldn’t have believed in the ideas of stripping landowners and expunging industrialists. Also, he didn’t personally direct the Japanese development after World War II since multiple documents prove that Washington set the goals and policy of the American occupation of Japan, not MacArthur.)

General Douglas MacArthur was a down to earth folksy man. (He was an ostentatious intellectual who once barged in on a subordinate catching him in a clinch with a lady. He ordered the guy, “Eject that strumpet forthwith.” Yeah, he said it like you’d expect someone from some Steampunk novel would. He was known to call his words, “those immortal heralds of thought which at the touch of genius become radiant.” And while Gregory Peck’s MacArthur says, “It’s my destiny to defeat communism, and only God or those Washington politicians will keep me from doing it,” the actual MacArthur said, “Only God or the government of the United States can keep me from the fulfillment of my mission.” In other words, he talked more like Martin Luther King Jr. than Woody Guthrie.)

General Douglas MacArthur said, “We shall return.” (He said, “I shall return” though the White House would’ve wished he did. Still, MacArthur was an arrogant blowhard.)

General Douglas MacArthur was perfectly at ease with meeting Emperor Hirohito. (Contrary to Emperor, MacArthur couldn’t stand being in the same room with him even after Hirohito apologized for Pearl Harbor. To be fair, MacArthur was a racist, even by the standards of his day.)

Admiral William Halsey Jr.:

William Halsey Jr. became a Fleet Admiral in 1942 and retired in 1945. (Contrary to his portrayal in the 1960’s The Gallant Hours, he became a Fleet Admiral in 1945 and retired in 1947. Nevertheless, due to his final rank, he remained on active duty status in the Navy until his death.)

The Second Sino-Japanese War:

Whatever the Japanese military did in Nanking was for no good reason. (It may seem so in City of Life and Death yet the military culture in Imperial Japan was particularly brutal as TTI claims: “consider that many of who were conscripted who were raised in a militarist culture who were abused or “punished” by their superior officers by being slapped or beaten or whatnot, many of which are in their late teens and early 20s, who just fought a brutal battle in and around Shanghai for months and won by a relatively close margin, who were pissed and came upon a city full of goods and people.” Yes, shit will happen.)

American Volunteer Group pilots were recruited from active or reserve US military forces in the United States. (They were actually recruited in Asia with full knowledge and approval from the White House. However, unlike the movie Flying Tigers, they were still in training by the time of Pearl Harbor. Also, until that time, they were just mercenaries but they did help FDR get around neutrality for awhile. Still, they weren’t integrated into the USAAF until late 1942. But thanks to Flying Tigers and God Is My Co-Pilot, most people don’t remember the AVG that way.)

The Chinese Communists ultimately won the Sino-Japanese War. (This is according to Chinese Communist propaganda films. In reality, the Communists actually played a small part in it. The Chinese Nationalists and their allies actually did most of the fighting though switching sides among the Chinese was common. TTI explains it best, “The Nationalists, Communists, and various warlords would alternately be fighting Japan (and getting slaughtered), fighting each other, doing nothing and hoping their enemies got taken out first, and siding with Japan.” As for weapons, the Chinese basically used anything they could get at the moment.)

Pearl Harbor:

The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor without warning. (They actually gave the US a warning several hours before the attack. However, the US military did drastically underestimate the Japanese war machine and never thought it could conduct a surprise attack so successfully. Not only that, they also doubted that Japan even had the technology or the engineering to create such an effective assault force. Even after the attack, many prominent men in the US military thought Germany was behind it {it wasn’t}.)

The Japanese fighter planes fired down and killed civilians during Pearl Harbor. (The Japanese were specifically ordered not to do this and they didn’t deliberately target a hospital either {though one medical staff member was killed}. Nevertheless, any damage done by Japanese planes on civilians or civilian buildings were just accidental. Yet, the US planes were firing on and killing civilians in the Doolittle raid such as in Tokyo and three other industrial Japanese cities but Michael Bay doesn’t show this.)

Two American fighter planes took off to fight the Japanese at Pearl Harbor. (Contrary to some films, 6 actually did.)

Theodore Wilkinson was a Captain during the attack at Pearl Harbor. (He was a rear admiral.)

The USS Antares was a tugboat. (It was a 12,000 ton cargo ship, yet it did tow a 500 ton bridge around Pearl Harbor.)

General Short received the report of an enemy midget submarine being attacked as well as the Pearl Harbor attack as it was going on. (He didn’t receive the report about the enemy midget submarine until the bombs started falling. Also, he didn’t receive the first notification about the Pearl Harbor attack until several hours after it ended.)

Civilian aviation instructor Cornelia Fort was around 50 at the time of Pearl Harbor. (Unlike what Tora! Tora! Tora! depicts, she was actually 22 but she’s played by a middle aged actress in the film. I mean having a 22 year old female flight instructor around just wouldn’t be believable. Oh, and she flew a monoplane, not a biplane as depicted.)

The Japanese flagship at Pearl Harbor was an aircraft carrier. (It was a battleship.)

The Japanese Zero aircraft at Pearl Harbor were green. (They were gray. Green Japanese Zeros didn’t exist until 1943 and they were Japanese Army planes.)

American naval ships like the Maryland, Nevada, Tennessee, and Pennsylvania were sunk and rendered irreparable during the attack on Pearl Harbor. (These ships survived the attack without much damage though the Tennessee was trapped while the Nevada was bleached. Furthermore, the Nevada was used in Tora! Tora! Tora!.)

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel:

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was playing golf the morning of the Pearl Harbor attack despite being notified before the attack that the Japanese embassy staff was leaving Washington D. C. (He had been planning to play golf that day but cancelled when news of the attack came in. Also, he didn’t know the Japanese embassy staff left Washington D. C. until perhaps the attack itself. Still, I’m not sure why Admiral Kimmel had the unfortunate first name.)

Admiral Husband E. Kimmel was a vigilant leader certain of an imminent attack on his base as well as did everything he could in his power to convince Washington of its inevitability. (Most historians say that he received several warnings about a possible attack on Pearl Harbor, but he felt they were too vague and tried to dismiss them. Furthermore, when he heard about the USS Ward sinking a midget Japanese sub {an hour before the attack began}, he chose not to go to general quarters due to the fact that there had been a number of false sub sightings in recent months. He also wanted to confirm the Ward’s report before acting on it.)

Dorie Miller:

Third Petty Officer Doris “Dorie” Miller served aboard the USS Arizona when it was destroyed by a bomb. (He served in the USS West Virginia, contrary to Tora! Tora! Tora!. Still, he probably would’ve never gotten the chance to act heroically enough to be the first African American to receive the Navy Cross if he was aboard the Arizona because the boat sunk immediately.)

Third Class Petty Officer Dorie Miller was carrying a tray of coffee service during the attack at Pearl Harbor. (He was carrying laundry.)

Second Class Petty Officer Dorie Miller comforted the mortally wounded Captain Mervyn S. Miller after a torpedo struck the USS West Virginia. After his death, Miller delivered the man’s last orders to the ship’s executive officer then manned a twin .50 caliber Browning anti-aircraft machine gun. (This is how the scene is set in Pearl Harbor but it’s wrong. For one, Miller was a Third Class Petty Officer as well as a ship’s cook and he was first ordered to carry injured sailors to places of greater safety and then assist the Captain. Second, the Captain refused to leave his post continuing to direct the battle until he died of his wounds just before the ship was abandoned. Third, it was Ensign Victor Delano who comforted the Captain in his final moments. Fourth, Miller was actually then ordered to help load a machine gun but assumed control of an unmanned weapon instead that Delano had to show him how to fire it, saying later that Miller “did not know how to fire a gun.” Still, pretty heroic for a black guy named Doris {I just think it’s funny such a badass guy like him had such a girly name}. Nevertheless, Pearl Harbor screwed Ensign Delano royally.)

Doolittle Raid:

Colonel Doolittle recruited single-engine fighters to fly on bombers for his famous raid in Japan. (Actually, Doolittle would’ve never taken a sniff at the two main guys in Pearl Harbor because single-engine pilots weren’t qualified to fly multi-engine bombers. Instead, he’d recruit guys who were participants from qualified bombardment squadrons. From the historical record, Doolittle actually recruited guys from the 34th Bombardment Squadron and the 17th Bombardment Group popularly known as “The Thunderbirds.”)

The Doolittle raid killed off several American fighters, including one from a Japanese anti-aircraft gun. (No American Doolittle Raiders were killed during the actual raid. There was however, one raider who died in a plane crash afterwards as well as two others who died from crash related injuries, and five perished in Japanese captivity {4 executed, 1 by malnutrition}.)

The Doolittle raid was carried out in calm weather. (It was launched on stormy seas.)

The Guadalcanal Campaign:

US Marines during the Guadalcanal Campaign wore camouflage covers on their helmets. (They wore bare M1 helmets though a few used burlap.)

Guadalcanal was a tropical paradise. (Contrary to The Thin Red Line, it was kind of the opposite, it was a jungle with dangerous animals, annoying insects, and extremely high temperatures. Yet, no soldier in that movie was seen sweating.)

Most US deaths during the Guadalcanal Campaign were combat-related. (Most of the deaths at Guadalcanal were due to poor living conditions than actual combat. But you wouldn’t know it from The Thin Red Line.)


Kamikazes were used during the Battle of Midway. (The Battle of Midway took place in 1942 while Kamikaze pilots were never used as official policy in Japan until toward the end and would’ve been fairly rare by that time. Still, remember that the film Midway was filmed in color with a zero special effects budget in 1976. Most of the stock footage used for this battle was from Iwo Jima and Okinawa since most color footage was filmed late in the war. Also, it wasn’t unusual for planes from both sides to crash into enemy ships. Nevertheless, despite the lack of special effects and plenty of technical details later found to be inaccurate due to later findings of the ship wreckage from the battle, Midway is considered a much better film than the Michael Bay craptastrophic retelling of Pearl Harbor {which was attacked by the people who survived it}.)


The Americans used tear gas during the Battle of Okinawa. (They never used tear gas in any battle during the war.)

Iwo Jima:

Japanese General Kuribayashi committed suicide. (We know he didn’t survive the battle but we don’t know how he died since no surviving witnesses ever came forward. Yet, his death in Letters from Iwo Jima is plausible.)

Lt. Colonel Nishi took his own life after being blinded during the battle. (This is based on rumor but it has never been confirmed.)

Lt. Colonel Takeichi Nishi was close friends with General Tadamichi Kuribayashi. (Contrary to Letters from Iwo Jima, it’s said their relationship was rather antagonistic.)

The Burma Railway:

During the Burma Railway’s construction, unruly POW officers were sent to a metal punishment box without water until they complied. (In real life, Col. Saito would just have Nicholson and his officers executed if they didn’t obey. In Bridge on the River Kwai, this doesn’t occur to him. Then again, the real Saito was said to be a rather benevolent prison warden.)

Only British POWs were sent to work on the Burma Railway. (Most of the people who worked on the railway were civilians, rather forced labor from Burma, the East Indies, Thailand, and Malaysia. As with POWs, they weren’t all exclusively British as Bridge on the River Kwai implies. By the way, the Burma Railway construction resulted in the deaths of 13,000 Allied POWs and 80,000 to 100,000 civilians.)

Kanchanaburi POW camp was captured by American paratroopers. (It was liberated by British and Indian infantry troops after Japan had surrendered. So unlike The Railway Man, Colin Firth had to stay longer.)

Bridge on the River Kwai:

British Lt. Col. Philip Toosey took charge of building the Bridge on the River Kwai and forced his own men to build it in order to increase their morale. (Toosey took charge of the construction in order to keep his men alive. He thought this was the better alternative to keep his soldiers safe while not giving aid to the enemy and never felt any obligation to work with the Japanese. Not to mention, he encouraged sabotage and chaos during the construction as well. He also has an honorable reputation and it was said that many of his soldiers greatly objected to the Alec Guinness expy portrayal in The Bridge on the River Kwai. Then again, Toosey wasn’t the only inspiration for Col. Nicholson. As for the William Holden character, he was actually invented for the movie to provide more action and a part for a bankable American actor.)

Col. Saito was a ruthless commandant at the POW camp during the construction of the Kwai Bridge. (He was actually a very benevolent warden and he and Toosey would become friends after the war for the rest of their lives. Oh, and he was a sergeant and second in command of the camp. Still, unlike in The Bridge on the Rive Kwai, the real Saito actually survived the war and attended Toosey’s funeral.)

The Bridge on the River Kwai was destroyed in a commando raid right after its construction. (The original wooden bridge was destroyed in a bombing raid. Yet, it was supposed to be a temporary bridge anyway. The second steel bridge was bombed as well but it was later repaired and still stands in use today. Still, both bridges had a service of two years before they were destroyed by aerial bombing raids.)

The Japanese engineers for the Kwai Bridge were terrible. (Contrary to Bridge on the Rive Kwai, the many of the Japanese engineers for the Kwai Bridge were actually graduates from the best engineering schools including American and British universities. Oddly enough despite this film being sort of denigrating to the Japanese, it was popular in Japan during its original run. Then again, conditions during the Burma Railway’s construction were much worse than depicted in the David Lean epic.)

Liberation of Burma:

The Liberation of Burma was conducted entirely by American forces. (This is the premise of Objective, Burma!. However, the majority of the Allied forces that actually liberated Burma from the Japanese were British, South African, Indian, and Chinese. The British 14th Army played a major role and was known as “The Forgotten Army” because of the part they played there. Still, at least the Americans did play a part and Merrill’s Marauders did exist. Nevertheless, Objective, Burma! Caused massive offense in Britain and among the troops of many nationalities in the China-India-Burma theater since their role was written out. During its release in 1945, Warner Bros. had to withdraw the film from British theaters after a week and re-released it in 1952 with extra documentary footage that included a fleeting hat-tip by General Wingate.)

The 503rd Parachute Regiment served in Burma. (They served in New Guinea.)

The Sullivan Brothers:

George Sullivan was in sick bay while the USS Juneau was sinking. (Contrary to The Fighting Sullivans, he and his brother Al survived the sinking. Al drowned the next day while George died 4-5 days later of dementia when he took off his uniform and swam off in search of his brothers.)

PT 109:

The crew of PT 109 rescued a group of US Marines trapped on a Japanese occupied island called Choiseul before the ramming incident. (Contrary to PT 109, this happened after the ramming incident. And it wasn’t the only boat to rescue the trapped Marines either but part of a small flotilla.)

The survival of PT 109 wasn’t anything special except that its commander was John F. Kennedy. (Well, yes, as far as the historic memory goes today, especially since it was the reason that PT 109 was made and why people today still remember it. However, back in the day, the survival of Kennedy and his crew was special enough that correspondents from the Associated Press and the United Press International hopped on the rescue PTs before they found out PT 109’s maroon skipper was Lieutenant John F. Kennedy {then known as Ambassador Joe Kennedy’s son}. That just made the story pass into national legend, especially since Kennedy would later become president.)


World War II in the Pacific was primarily a Japanese vs. Americans ordeal. (Actually it was more like the Japanese vs. practically everyone who happened to be there and allies at this time {though there were those who collaborated with the Japanese in Asian countries particularly a few Chinese warlords}. In fact, World War II in that region may have begun as early as 1931 with the Japanese invasion of Manchuria.)

The Japanese military was exceptionally brutal since Japan had culture of cruelty. (The Imperial Japanese military was indeed this during the 1930s and in World War II. However, Japanese civilization was not always this cruel in its history, despite the myth that Japanese brutality during World War II was derived by their warrior culture is still taught in American schools. A few decades earlier, the Japanese military had troops led by gentlemen officers and treated their prisoners just as humane or better than many Western countries did. Yet, in the 1930s, Japanese society was seized by a mass frenzy of militarism that resulted in Japan being taken over by a military dictatorship that had imperialistic ambitions. Still, since most people don’t know much about Japan, it’s assumed that Japanese conduct during World War II was related to their samurai culture or the notion of fighting to the last man. However, the reality had more do with the Japanese High command’s distorted and very selective interpretation of either as well as the climate of militaristic fascist imperialism in the Japanese government {since the values that Bushido actually promotes aren’t really that different from the code of chivalry or from similar systems in other cultures}. Yes, historical Japan was a militaristic society to some degree but it also highly valued the principle of self-restraint except between 1930 and 1945 of course. Oh, and even at the height of the Japanese military junta and the cruelties committed as well as its status as an Axis power, Japan was one of the friendliest nations for Jewish refugees fleeing the Holocaust.)

Japanese soldiers valued their lives less than Americans, and that they were particularly eager to die in service to their Emperor. (Between the 1930s to the end of World War II, most Japanese soldiers were conscripted into the military consisting of people the Japanese government would view as potential troublemakers like the dispossessed, poor, unemployed, criminals, and rootless younger sons. Still, the Imperial Japanese military was no fun place to be with torture being used on a regular basis {so they could abuse others} and it was filled by people who definitely didn’t want to fight for their Emperor but did so because they had no other choice. Yet, there were patriotic Japanese soldiers who willingly fought for their country but many of them were American {20,000 Japanese Americans fought for the US in World War II and despite being targets of racism and being sent to internment camps, they were still treated better than Imperial Japanese soldiers. One Japanese American combat unit was among the most decorated}.)

Navajo code talkers were employed in the Pacific during World War II. (Yes, but while movies imply that the US had only used Native American code talkers in the Pacific, this wasn’t the first time. The US also had used Native American code talkers during World War I in Europe. But by the time World War II rolled around, Hitler already knew about the use of code talkers and sent cover agents to study Native American dialects before the US entered the war. No Indian code talkers were used in Europe because of this.)

Navajo codetalkers had bodyguards whose job was to kill them to prevent them from getting into enemy hands. (Actually the bodyguards were used to protect the Navajo code talkers from other US soldiers who’d mistake them for being Japanese. There’s no evidence that they were order to kill them to prevent their capture, yet tell that to Windtalkers.)

American P-40s and Japanese Zeros fought at wave top heights with aircraft darting various obstacles. (No, Michael Bay, they wouldn’t have because such tactics would’ve been suicidal for both participants.)

Japan was forced to enter World War II against the United States in the Pacific. (This is implied in Tora! Tora! Tora! But it’s actually wrong. Individual Japanese military personnel, yes, but Japan as a country, no. It was actually the United States that was forced to go to war with Japan in the Pacific. Part of what led to Pearl Harbor was American outrage over Japanese aggression in China and its much publicized atrocities during occupation, especially the Rape of Nanking. What led to this kind of aggression was a combination of economic problems during the Great Depression {it had been hit hard}, the rise of right wing extremists in their government that paved way for a military dictatorship, increasing militarization fueled by imperial ambitions, and radical modernization. Nevertheless, the Japanese public is still uncomfortable about acknowledging their country’s horrifying atrocities during that time. Japan hasn’t formally apologized to the nations it had formerly invaded {this doesn’t mean that it condones its past behavior. In fact, just the opposite. Rather, it’s just that the Japanese may just be too ashamed to admit their crimes in World War II}. Still, it’s said that Japanese occupation in Asia was filled with widespread cruelty, exploitation, racism, sex slavery, and genocide with millions dead, mostly consisting of civilians.)

Prior to Pearl Harbor, there was an US oil embargo against Japan. (No, there wasn’t at least in the formal sense, just a de facto prohibition of oil shipments through the denial of export licenses.)

The Japanese sought an aggressive alliance with Germany despite naval opposition for some reason. (Tora! Tora! Tora! doesn’t really get into this. However, the Japanese sought an alliance with Germany thinking that it would keep the US out of the war it would be forced to fight on two fronts {didn’t work}. Some officers in the Japanese Navy opposed a German alliance because they thought it would increase the chances of war with the United States {for which the navy wasn’t prepared for [they were right]}. Others thought that continuing the war in China would mean more money for the army and severe cutbacks for their own service. Still, Germany and Japan didn’t make good allies with each other.)

Japan sent troops to Australia. (They never set foot in it. The only attack it launched was in 1942 when the Japanese bombed Darwin and left. But they did have sub crews to go to shore on remote locations for fresh water.)

Japanese Zeros were faster than American Warhawks. (They were very maneuverable planes which got off the ground easily but were considerably slower than most American fighters.)

Japanese Zero guns had had terrible accuracy record. (They actually could decently hit American planes except in Michael Bay’s Pearl Harbor disasterpiece.)

There wasn’t much airplane fighting in the Pacific as there was in Europe. (Actually in the Pacific theater, air warfare played a bigger role than it did in Europe. I mean the Americans bombed the living shit out of Japan, even before they dropped two atomic bombs on them. Still, air warfare in the Pacific isn’t covered as much because it’s difficult to portray massive fire raids against civilians in a heroic light. And Hollywood always has to portray the Americans as good guys.)

Japanese soldiers and civilians would rather commit suicide than accept defeat. (Yes, there were a high number of suicides on the Japanese side and there could be no doubt. However, while the Japanese Imperial military establishment had a reputation for not surrendering, it didn’t always mean that all Japanese soldiers and civilians were willing to do so. However, Wikipedia does have sourced stats on the Japanese who did surrender to the Americans under its Imperial Japanese Army article. Japanese POWs did exist {estimated 19,500 to 50,000} and there are Japanese veterans from the war who are still around. Still, much of the mass suicides had more to do with Japanese propaganda showing Americans as a cruel and merciless bunch who’d rape all captured women as well as kill or torture the men.)

Japanese POW camps were subject to the rules of the Geneva Convention. (Japan wasn’t a signatory of the Geneva Convention until 1953 so Allied prisoners had no expectation of being treated in accordance with them. In fact, the Japanese treatment of POWs led to a review and update of the conventions in 1949. Still, you wouldn’t know it from Bridge on the River Kwai when Lt. Col. Nicholson gets all up in Saito’s ass about it. He also didn’t realize that under the Geneva Convention enlisted POWs can be compelled to work, but only in specific industries that don’t help the enemy’s war effort. Then again, Japan wasn’t a signatory of the Geneva Convention at the time so it’s not like Alec Guinness’ character would be court-martialed for anything worse than treason. Still, it’s amazing he lasted so long in the movie without getting fragged, which probably would’ve more likely happened to him once he tried dragging sick men out of the hospital to work on the bridge.)

Emperor Hirohito was a powerless figurehead who didn’t want war with the United States. (Well, we’re not sure what his role in World War II was and it’s been hotly debated to this day. However, for hundreds of years, while the Emperor has had a special place in a ceremonial and religious aspects, his post didn’t always grant him real power, even if tradition said otherwise. Still, he wasn’t really against the war or technically powerless but he wasn’t exactly the guy running the place either. Responsible or not, to try him for war crimes would’ve been a big mistake, though he did have to renounce his divinity and cooperate with the US.)

Being a US Merchant Marine was one of the worst jobs in the Pacific. (Sure Merchant Marines didn’t get much recognition for their actions and they spent their days doing mundane tasks and languishing in boredom on a cargo ship which isn’t a glamorous job. However, serving on a cargo ship wasn’t the worst thing that could happen to someone in the US Navy in the Pacific Ocean during World War II. Being a POW in a Japanese prison camp was.)

The Japanese military actually had an air force. (The Imperial Japanese Air Force never existed. Both the Japanese Army and Navy used planes.)

Geisha communities were still in business during this time. (They were shut down by the Japanese government during WWII.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 65 – World War II: The Eastern Front


My main reasons why I have Roman Polanski’s 2002 picture The Pianist as a picture for the Eastern Front during World War II is that it manages to bring both the action of the war and the Holocaust in the same film as well as to such a personal level as Adrien Brody’s well deserved Oscar-winning portrayal of survivor Wladyslaw Szpilman. Szpilman may have survived both of these events through the kindness of strangers and sheer dumb luck but he lost practically everything in the process. Still, the Second World War brought the conflict much closer to home than any other war has before or since and The Pianist greatly embodies the experience of those on the Eastern Front whether they be soldiers, civilians, or targets of genocide.

If there was any place during World War II you didn’t want to be in (with the possible exception of Nazi Germany), then Eastern Europe would probably take the cake. The Eastern Front was perhaps the one of the bloodiest theaters of the war with a death toll mounting to over 25 million alone, making the war in the Eastern Europe perhaps one of the worst wars in history by itself. It was also wracked with lots of genocide if you know what I mean. Hollywood usually doesn’t cover this part mostly because you can’t have have an English speaking protagonist in these movies. Yet, there are plenty of these movies covering the Eastern Front that were made in Russia and the rest of the former Soviet Union. Another reason why it’s not very much represented in Hollywood is due to the Cold War and the fact that much of the war in this region was conducted under Soviet forces led by Josef Stalin who was among the Allies. And if it weren’t for Soviet Russia being on the Allies side, then they would’ve lost the war.This isn’t an easy fact to swallow but it’s rather important despite how uncomfortable Americans were about Communism and how bad Stalin was, Russia was the primary Allied power in this region. This doesn’t really fit well with the whole idea of World War II being fought to make the world “safe for democracy” while the US and Britain joined forces with a leader who had absolutely no interest in it and also committed many crimes against humanity like genocide. Still, another event taking place on the Eastern Front that many would be more familiar with is the Holocaust since most of Hitler’s death camps would be built in Eastern Europe, especially in Poland. Millions would be killed in these camps particularly Jews who were one of the Nazis’ primary targets. Many would be killed in massacres as well. Still, many movies pertaining to World War II in this region have their share of inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.

The Holocaust:

Almost every European Jew knew he or she was, lived among Jews, and practiced Judaism. (Actually many European Jews had assimilated into mainstream European culture, many didn’t practice Judaism, some even married non-Jews, and some even didn’t know that they were Jewish at all nor identified as Jews either.)

The local populace outside the concentration camps didn’t know that the Holocaust was happening even if there was a death camp in their neighborhood. (Of course, there were people who said that they had no idea that the Holocaust was happening in their towns but I’d just call these people being in flagrant denial. Besides, there’s no way that anyone nearby the death camps wouldn’t be ignorant of the Holocaust. I mean you can’t deny something terrible was going on after seeing the sight of black smoke and the stench of burning flesh afterwards. You can’t shelter a kid from that.)

Most Jews knew about the gas chambers at concentration camps during the Holocaust. (Most of them didn’t know anything about the gas chambers at the concentration camp until they were either in one {which was too late to tell anyone about them} or after the war during the Allied concentration camp liberation.)

The Nazis only went after Jews. (They also went after other people as well including people who were married and friends with Jews, gypsies, gays, social radicals, scientists, Soviet POWs, and later rich Poles.)

European Jewish people would never betray each other even if they had to pay with their lives. (Schindler’s List and The Pianist correct this with the Jewish Police.)

Concentration camp prisoners were always well fed, visibly clean, trimmed, and hairless. (Of course, no one could make a historically accurate Nazi concentration camp scene without starving the actors. Besides, the real images from concentration camp of naked and starved prisoners full of lice would’ve been particularly horrifying.)

It wasn’t unusual for German boys to strike up a chat with concentration camp inmates through a fence. (This is a premise for The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. However, there would absolutely be no way for a German boy to stroll up to the fence for chats with camp inmates because he would’ve been shot on site the first time he tried son of an SS officer or not. Also, unlike what the film implies, even an 8 year-old German boy would certainly know who Adolf Hitler was.)

The public knew that the Nazis were capable of staging a mass genocide. (Actually while anti-Semitism had been pervasive in Europe for a millennium up to World War II, most people at the time would’ve thought the idea of a Jewish genocide as monstrous and unthinkable. Unfortunately, this is why the Nazis came so close to succeeding because nobody thought they’d do, despite evidence and even survivors until Allied troops saw the death camps for themselves.)

King Christian of Denmark publicly wore a yellow Star of David in defiance of a Nazi order that all Danish Jews do so. (This is a myth for Danish Jews were never ordered to wear a yellow star in the first place.)

Anne Frank:

Anne Frank received her diary after her family went into hiding. (She received it on her 13th birthday a few days before the family went into hiding. The makers of the 1959 film about her probably just wanted to save money because most of her diary takes place in the Secret Annex anyway. Also, when her diary was published some of the names were changed to preserve anonymity.)

Wladyslaw Szpilman:

Wladyslaw Szpilman stumbled away from the Treblinka train as the Jewish police officer said “Don’t Run!” (Contrary to The Pianist, this didn’t happen exactly as Szpilman recounted it though he was saved by a Jewish policeman while his whole family was gassed. However, some of that train scene consisted of some material Roman Polanski supplanted from his own Holocaust experience. Oh, and Szpilman had other friends who helped him besides the couple of entertainers featured. Still, Adrien Brody is almost a dead ringer for the real thing.)

Oskar Schindler:

Oskar Schindler didn’t start helping Jews until he saw an old one armed man killed by Nazis in his factory. (Actually he tried to save as many Jews possible almost from the moment the Final Solution was implemented. Nevertheless, it was Itzhak Stern who discovered a way to use the channel of forced labor to Schindler to help his fellow Jews. He even traveled to Budapest, Hungary where he met with representatives of Jewish organizations to tell them what was happening in Poland as early as 1942. Not to mention, he also worked as an agent for the Abwehr during the 1930s before arriving to Krakow which was headed by Admiral Wilhelm Canaris who was covertly working against the Nazi regime. And it was his Abwehr connections that helped him protect his Jewish workers from deportation and death in Nazi concentration camps. Of course, Spielberg kind of exaggerated Schindler’s journey from greedy jerk to hero in Schindler’s List.)

Oskar Schindler was German. (He was born in the present day Czech Republic and so was his wife. They were ethnic Germans though but not technically German citizens. Still, Schindler was never as good looking as Liam Neeson.)

Oskar Schindler’s factory hired Jews all through the Second World War. (Actually most of his original employees in his enamelware factory in Krakow were Poles and he switched to hiring Jews because they were cheaper and after he hired Itzhak Stern.)

Oskar Schindler named Jewish workers at his Krakow factory to be taken to what is now the Czech Republic in 1944. (At this time, some claim that Schindler was in jail for bribing the brutal SS commander Captain Amon Goeth during the latter’s investigation of corruption by the SS. As for Stern, well, he wasn’t even working for Schindler then. Also, there’s evidence that the names of the factory workers were compiled in 9 lists, the first 4 of them by a corrupt Jewish security police named Marcel Goldberg, who was a loathsome figure who accepted bribes to get people on the list which resulted in some Jews being removed. The Jews who worked for Schindler didn’t have fond memories of him and would’ve made a poor character in Schindler’s List. Schindler may not have written a lot of the list but he’s said to be primarily responsible for the fact there was one.)

Emilie Schindler did nothing to aid the Jews under her husband’s care except stoically support her philandering husband. (Emilie was also involved in her husband’s efforts though she was a forgiving wife. She cooked for the workers and cared for the sick at her husband’s second plant in the present day Czech Republic as well as assisted in her husband’s heroic efforts that she was honored as a Righteous Gentile as well. Her husband meanwhile he provided for his workers well beyond giving them the security of employment. He spent his own money providing them food, clothes, and medical care. He’s even said to provide weapons for them, too. He encouraged them to practices their religious rituals including Jewish burial rites. He accepted a shipment of 2 boxcars of literally frozen Jews and personally aided them in their recovery.)

Oskar Schindler was named a Righteous Gentile in 1958. (He was actually named in 1993 nearly 20 years after his death and during the time when Schindler’s List was filmed. His wife was also named a Righteous Gentile after her death as well.)

Invasion of Poland:

Plumbing fixtures were untouched during the bombings of Warsaw. (Contrary to The Pianist where water was still in the bathtubs after the bombings, you wouldn’t be able to get a bath if you tried since there was no running water. Maybe Wladyslaw Szpilman lived near a river or something. Then again, maybe the water had been in the bathtubs for a very long time.)

The Soviet Front:

Russia fought for the Allies in early 1941. (Contrary to Pearl Harbor, in early 1941, Russia was still an ally to Nazi Germany. The Russians wouldn’t switch sides until June of that year once the Germans invade the Soviet Union. And even then, Russia wouldn’t be considered one of the Allies until January of 1942.)

Female Soviet soldiers were hopeless, uncommitted fighters, and sexual predators. (No wonder Cross of Iron was said to be misogynist. Then again, since it’s a film by Sam Peckinpah, no one should be surprised. Still, Soviet women were allowed a more active role in combat than women in any other nation during World War II. Many Soviet women served as highly decorated fighters, pilots, and snipers.)

Whistles were used in the Soviet Army as signals for attack. (They weren’t.)

Soviet soldiers never attached bayonets on their rifles. (Soviet soldiers always went into battles with bayonets on their rifles.)

Snipers could duel each other over the vast expanses over the empty ruins of Stalingrad without collateral casualties. (Except that during the Battle of Stalingrad, these ruins weren’t empty but had hundreds of thousands if not millions of soldiers crammed into an area that was only a few square miles.)

15-year-old Sacha Fillipov was hung by  Major Konig. (Contrary to Enemy at the Gates, the boy was hung with several other children by the Germans on Christmas Eve 1942. He was a spy for the Russians though and did exist. However, it’s likely Konig didn’t.)

The “Zagradotryad” wore regular Red Army uniforms. (They were an NKVD {secret police} unit that was responsible for shooting retreating troops. Thus, they’d wear NKVD issued uniforms.)

Mass attacks were utilized at Stalingrad. (Those attacks you see in Enemy at the Gates were never utilized in Stalingrad because open squares were few and far between. Actual fighting took place in street-to-street and entire battles could take place in a single building. But what World War II would be without tanks? Still, The Pianist does have a scene where a battle takes place in an entire building even though the movie takes place in Warsaw.)

“Oy Kozaro” was a Russian fighting song. (It’s a Yugoslav fighting song. Russians wouldn’t know this.)

The Red Army never had enough rifles or ammunition to arm their soldiers. (They actually were swimming in guns following the German invasion. Still, some units at Stalingrad did suffer from rifle shortages mostly due to logistics problems. Yet, there’s no evidence that Soviet soldiers were sent to attack the Germans with one weapon for every two men. Nor is there any record of any Soviet soldier being sent into combat unarmed.)

If the West had overcome its anti-Soviet prejudice, then World War II wouldn’t have happened. (According to Mission to Moscow that is. Seriously, this is the most fucked up shit I’ve ever heard. Still, according to historian Robert Osborne, “At the time this movie was made it had one of the largest casts ever assembled … When it was shown in Moscow, despite all the good will, people who saw it considered it a comedy—its portrayal of average, everyday life in the Soviet Union apparently way off the mark for 1943.” However, it is based on what US ambassador Joseph E. Davies thought about the Soviet Union, propaganda or not. Nevertheless, he’s usually derided as a political naïf and “useful idiot” for the Stalin regime and for good reason.)

Leon Trotsky and his followers were spies for Germany and Japan during World War II. (Trotsky was in Mexico at this time trying to stay alive. Stalin would eventually catch up to him though. As for Trotsky’s followers, do you think they’d give a shit about Germany and Japan? No. Besides, wasn’t it Stalin who signed the non-aggression pact with Hitler? Yeah, and little did Stalin realize that Hitler would break the pact with Operation Barbarossa in June of 1941 by invading Soviet territories. Oh, and there’s evidence that Soviet intelligence had full knowledge about Operation Barbarossa but Stalin refused to accept it until it was too late.)

Josef Stalin:

Josef Stalin’s purges were a justified investigation against pro-Nazi spies. (Oh, for fucking God’s sake! Doesn’t anyone behind Mission to Moscow ever understand that Stalin staged his purges in the 1920s and 1930s which wiped out up to 30 million of his own people? His purges during this time would significantly weaken Russia before the German invasion in 1941. Not only that, but his killing off of experienced officers would also hinder Russia’s defense capabilities for a time as well, which is why the Germans were able to go as far as they did. Still, if you want to make a movie about tolerance for other countries and cultures, don’t have it take place in Stalinist Russia {at least one that features Stalin as a good guy} or any place that has a leader known for committing crimes against humanity.)

Nikita Khruschev:

During World War II, Commissar Nikita Khruschev (yes, that one) feasted and resided in luxury while his soldiers languished in a damp basement. (Khruschev wouldn’t be happy with his portrayal in Enemy at the Gates. This is a man who considered a flush toilet as an unnecessary luxury and at his meals on oak plywood. Russian officers didn’t lead decadent lifestyles at all.)

Nikita Khruschev led the Red Army during the Battle of Stalingrad. (The real leaders were Vasilevsky, Chuikov and Zhukov. Good luck finding them in Enemy at the Gates, because they’re nowhere to be seen. Zhukov’s efforts in World War II led him to be such a popular war hero that Stalin couldn’t kill or imprison him despite his jealousy of Russia’s most famous war hero.)

Vassili Zaitsev:

Soviet sniper Vassili Zaitsev engaged in a sniper duel with a German Major Erwin Konig. (No sniper named Konig has ever been identified in the German records, though Zaitsev claimed this. Yet, unlike Enemy at the Gates, the sniper duel is said to have lasted for 3 days until Konig was killed if it happened. Zaitsev also said that he was the head of the Berlin sniper school but there’s no information to verify that. Actually other than Zaitsev’s memoirs, there’s no documentary evidence to prove that Konig actually existed, or that the duel ever took place. It’s pretty likely that Zaitsev either made the whole thing up or just didn’t know who the guy was.)

Vasili Zaitsev carried a romance with Tania Chernova who was also involved with Commissar Danilov. (He never claimed to have any relationship with anyone during the war, let alone be in a love triangle involving his boss. However, it’s said that Zaitsev and Tania were involved {despite being no love triangle since Tania could never have met Danilov for his contact with Zaitsev was limited} but they later separated and were each wounded in landmines. Both thought the other person was dead though Tania later found out that Zaitsev ended up marrying another woman and became devastated. She never married because of her love for Zaitsev. Zaitsev, on the other hand, he might’ve went to the grave thinking that Tania never survived the war. Actually the love story in Enemy at the Gates has more basis in historic fact than the sniper duel despite loud protests from critics who thought it as an unnecessary Hollywood addition to the gritty sniper duel action. Also, the rank of commissar was eliminated in October 1942, well before the end of the Battle of Stalingrad.)

Vaisili Zaitsev was a peasant pressed into military service in the Soviet Union’s darkest hour. (He was actually an experienced hunter with some education as well as had been a technical clerk in the Soviet Navy in the Pacific fleet. Also, he was a senior sergeant during the Battle of Stalingrad. In Enemy at the Gates, he’s a naïve shepherd boy who’s especially good at killing.)

Vaisili Zaitsev was an ace sniper. (He wasn’t said to be the best. Also, there were more than a million men fighting on both sides in Stalingrad.)

Tania Chernova:

Tania Chernova was an innocent sniper girl. (Except that she’s said to have a tough military background as an expert sniper with a long roster of kills. Oh, and while her and Zaitsev were involved in real life, her relationship took a back seat to her assassination missions. Also, Tania was said to be from the US and wouldn’t be speaking English in a British accent.)

Tania Chernova was wounded during an evacuation from Stalingrad. (She was wounded during an attempt to find and assassinate German General Frederich von Paulus, commander of the 6th Army, when a female sniper ahead of her stepped on a mine. Severely wounded, Zaitsev carried her back and they never saw each other again. But in Enemy at the Gates, she and Zaitsev are reunited at her hospital bed and live happily ever after.)

The Bielski Brothers:

Tuvia and Zus Bielski were the oldest brothers. (Actually out of the four Bielski brothers in Defiance the birth order is as follows: Tuvia, Asael, Zus, and Aron. They also had six other brothers and two sisters.)

Tuvia Bielski was emotionally conflicted over killing a policeman responsible for his parents’ arrest. (Yes, he killed the guy but he had no emotional qualms over it. Actually the Bielski brothers were fearsome fighters who targeted many Nazi collaborators, often executing entire families. They wanted to send a message loud and clear such as, “if you target Jews, there’s going to be hell to pay from us.”)

The Bielski group found the Soviet partisans greatly unhelpful. (Their alliance with the Soviet partisans wasn’t the most comfortable. The Soviets were fairly anti-Semitic while the Bielskis weren’t so fond on Communism. However, Tuvia knew how to deal with the leaders by downplaying the group’s Jewish identity and exaggerating their pro-Communist sentiments. That and proving his group’s worth with frequent acts of sabotage against the Nazis. The Bielskis alliance with the Soviets was an uneasy one but they managed to work fairly closely together, though Defiance implies otherwise.)

Asael Bielski was in his twenties during his time with the Bielski partisans. (He was 33 and was 4 years older than his brother Zus as well as 2 years younger than Tuvia contrary to Defiance.)

Tuvia Bielski met his wife Lilka in the forest in Nazi occupied Belarus during his time in the war. (Maybe but she was his step-niece of his second wife. She was also half-his age and perhaps would’ve been a teenager at the time contrary to Defiance. His second wife would’ve made a more suitable love interest. Still, Tuvia looked more like Eli Thompson from Boardwalk Empire with darker hair than Daniel Craig.)

Zus Bielski left his brothers to join the Soviet partisans. (The Bielskis stayed together until the last few months of the war when Moscow took direct control of the partisan fighters ordering Zus and Asael into separate units.)

The heroism of the Bielski brothers lay primarily in their willingness to wreck revenge on the Nazis. (Actually they weren’t the only group wreaking revenge as other Jewish and Eastern European groups did the same. Their real heroism lay primarily with their work in rescuing and protecting other Jews including those too weak or old to fight from almost certain death. This resulted in the rescue and survival of over a thousand Jews under their watch.)

The Bielski group had an egalitarian society within their ranks. (According to one book about women in the Holocaust, some of the Bielski brigade members said that the brothers ate better and the fighters had first pick among the women as sexual partners. “There is no equality in any place and there was no equality in the forest either,” according to one survivor.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 64 – World War II: Nazi Germany


Charlie Chaplin’s 1940 film The Great Dictator is a not so thinly veiled satire on Nazi Germany filmed while war was raging in Europe. Here Chaplin plays Adolf Hitler expy Adenoid Hynkel of Tomainia who’s a power hungry totalitarian despot with dreams of world domination. Chaplin hated the Nazis and made this movie specifically to reduce Hitler and his regime down to size. He also played on any similarities he had with Hitler such as the mustache as well as did thorough research for this comedy. For instance, Hitler actually did have a globe in his office and his public speech sequence looks like it was a parodied scene from Triumph of the Will. Though it was banned in Nazi Germany, it’s said that Hitler actually saw it twice. Chaplin would’ve given anything to know what Hitler thought of it. Still, this is truly one of the greats.

World War II is a common topic in a lot of historical films, wait a minute, more like a whole film genre. Not to mention, it’s such a popular history topic that most of what you saw on The History Channel consisted of World War II stuff during its Hitler Channel days, which will be sorely missed. Of course, it is one of those times in history that people most fondly remember. Many of us know and/or related to people who served in it and there are plenty of veterans still alive today though they’re dying off as we speak. Still, unless you live in Germany or Japan it’s a war many people remember fondly since it’s a time when we were fighting countries who either attacked us or that one of our enemies was a truly evil dictator known for committing great crimes against humanity. Nevertheless, many World War II movies usually have themes that pertain to love of country, courage, camaraderie, and all the things of how war can bring the best in us. They also show  awesome weaponry.

Of course, you couldn’t talk about World War II with Nazi Germany which lasted from 1933 to 1945. During this time Germany was ruled by a totalitarian dictator and the closest thing to the Anti-Christ Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party best known for being so fanatically racist that they’d commit genocide for it as well as having ambitions for world domination. Since they started things like World War II and the Holocaust, there could be not doubt that they were the bad guys and have been portrayed as convenient enemies in fiction. They are also known for their stylish uniforms, advanced weaponry, and other things. Yet, much of the bad things that happened in Nazi Germany at the time continue to haunt the German people to this day. Nevertheless, many WWII movies tend to have some misconceptions of Nazi Germany which I shall list accordingly.

Adolf Hitler:

Hitler had very good vision. (He was extremely far sighted that he couldn’t read without his glasses unless the text was very large. Yet, in most movies, he’s not wearing any when he’s in his headquarters.)

Hitler wore civilian clothes during World War II. (He actually didn’t wear civilian clothes during the war unless you count his pajamas. Also, it would’ve been unthinkable for him to receive an officer or approve a military plan while not in uniform.)

Adolf Hitler was an evil genius. (He was kind of an asshole who was kind of shitty at everything yet somehow unbelievably successful kind of like his Charlie Chaplin expy in The Great Dictator or if Forrest Gump was used as a Bond villain. Not to mention, he receives too much credit made by people around him and a lot of his own contributions to the German war effort {besides starting it} were failures. In short, he was an evil bastard with more luck than brains.)

Nazi Party:

All Germans were Nazis. (There were plenty of German civilians and soldiers who didn’t agree with Hitler and his policies, especially if they were Jewish or knew someone who was like Oskar Schindler. Most of the kids in the Hitler Youth had little choice of whether to join or not and much of the military consisted of conscripts as well.)

German aristocrats supported the Nazis. (Some did but a lot of them didn’t. Sure there were German noblemen who supported the Nazis like Herman Goering and there were sympathizers outside the country {like Charles Lindbergh before the war}. Many aristocrats in Germany weren’t too keen on the Nazi equality approach and sometimes saw the Nazis as a bunch of lower-class hicks since Nazism was a populist grassroots movement despite being anti-democratic and racist. Many aristocrats were also officers in the German army and Hitler hated officers. Also, some German nobles were sent to concentration camps themselves, many were involved in Hitler’s assassination plot, and some noble families were even notable for their Nazi opposition like the Hapsburgs. Still, you think noblemen would make ideal Nazi supporters but it really wasn’t the case. In fact, Anti-Nazi noblemen were disproportionately more common than the arrogant Nazi aristocrat you see in films.)

The SS and Gestapo were utterly evil.

The swastika has always been a symbol of racial and ethnic superiority. (This is only because the Nazis made the swastika their logo. It’s actually an ancient symbol from India and has a very different meaning. In Japan, a swastika is used to denote a Buddhist temple.)

Most Nazis had blond hair and blue eyes.

The Nazis had rediscovered the lost city of Tanis in 1936. (It was never lost in the first place and there have been numerous archaeological digs before the Nazis ever took power. Also, it was under British control.)

Nazi Germany had an efficiently run government and had a decent economy. (Actually the Nazi government was as inefficient as you’d expect most governments to be as well as full of internal corruption and egotistical rivalries. Also, prior to the war, the German economy was on the verge of collapse and might have been the reason why the Nazi Germany took Austria and Czechoslovakia before military conquest was the only thing to prevent economic meltdown because there weren’t free targets left to exploit.)

The Knights Cross was a Nazi decoration for actions in the Spanish Civil War. (It’s a World War II decoration.)

Popularity of the Nazi party was driven by racial superiority and the idea of a strong military. (Actually most of the core of the Nazi political machinery was the urban lower class consisting of impoverished skilled workers, intellectuals, and nationalistic military men. Your typical Nazi supporter would’ve been a recent lower class arrival particularly someone who was used to being relatively well-off and respected but had fallen on hard times as a result of the Depression. Mostly these people were angry for being “robbed of their rightful place” in the high status parts of society and wanted to get back up there to form a new ruling elite. Popularity of the Nazi party was driven more or less by envy, resentment, and fears of inferiority. You can see why the Nazis weren’t well liked by the Prussian aristocracy, the bourgeoisie, and the intellectuals of the Weimar Republic.

On the day of the July 20 plot, Otto Remer arrived at Josef Goebbels place unannounced. Goebbels placed a cyanide capsule in this mouth and handed the phone to Remer hoping he’d speak to Hitler to confirm that his Fuhrer was still alive. (Contrary to Valkyrie, the scene with Remer and Goebbels didn’t happen that way. From Imdb: “Remer issued the orders to secure Berlin as per the implementation of Operation Valkyrie but realized that something was wrong. Remer immediately telephoned Goebbels and discussed the matter with him. He was then invited to visit Goebbels whereupon Goebbels arranged telephone contact with the Wolfs Lair and Remer was allowed to confirm that Hitler was still alive.”)

The Wehrmacht:

The German Wehrmacht was capable of taking over most of Europe despite being rubbish shots.

German soldiers greeted each other by using the Hitler salute. (Actually the Wehrmacht only used the Hitler salute when they were greeted by Der Fuhrer himself. Yet, you see German officers Heil Hitlering each other in World War II movies all the time regardless of whether they’re in the Wehrmacht or the SS.)

The Wehrmacht was a much nobler than the SS. (Well, yes, but that doesn’t mean it was clean because it wasn’t. The rank and file of the German military was just as susceptible of Hitler’s race-hating propaganda as the rest of Germany. It also ran brutal POW camps for Soviet prisoners, enforced illegal Commissar and Commando Orders {instructions to enforce Soviet commissars and British special operations troops out of hand}, and helped the understaffed SS Einsatzgruppen transport and massacre Jews. By 1939, despite that their personnel weren’t technically Nazis {party membership was banned in the German military} the Wehrmacht was basically like any other branch of government in Nazi Germany, highly politicized, and constantly competing for Hitler’s attention and patronage. Besides, the Wehrmacht’s increasing politicization came at the expense of its military professionalism. By 1941, its operational plans had become seriously divorced from the reality as they based more of their planning upon racist assumptions about their enemies, which they didn’t attempt to redress. Still, the deeply perception of a “clean Wehrmacht” was promoted by the self-serving memoirs of the German brass who escaped execution after the war. The truth is that while the Wehrmacht wasn’t as evil as the SS, they still had a deep commitment to Nazism as well as a depressing litany of war crimes.)

The German officers who tried to kill Hitler were liberals who actually cared about the Jewish people as well as wished to close the concentration camps holding them. (While Valkyrie portrays the conspirators as democrats who believed in equality, most of the plotters were aristocrats who were primarily monarchist and extremely conservative with anti-Semitic and classist views. Their objections ranged from Hitler being too murderous toward the “gutter races,” to empowering the lower and middle classes or because he was simply losing the war. Many of them also had every intention of fighting on against the Soviet Union as well. Still, it would’ve been difficult for an audience to get behind protagonists who only disagreed with 40% of Hitler’s ideals.)

The Germans lost the Battle of the Bulge because they were running out of fuel. (They were running out of other supplies. Also, Eisenhower denounced this in a press conference.)

German weaponry was rather high tech. (Most German soldiers were armed with a Mauser bolt-action rifle, the Karabiner 98 Kurz which was a slight modernization of a weapon their grandfathers would’ve been familiar with, later they used any gun they could find. However, the Nazis did create a lot of military technology many armed forces still use today, particularly in the machine gun category. Still, their greatest wartime innovation actually isn’t a weapon at all but a “jerry can” that could be opened and closed without tools, was self-sealing without additional parts, included a spout rather than required a funnel, couldn’t be overfilled as a fail-safe against heat and vapor expansion, and was still cheap to manufacture despite being much more sturdy. It’s been used by both military and civilians to this day {so you’ve probably seen one or even own one} but you wouldn’t see it as part of the best in Nazi military technology. Sure a “jerry can” is just a container you may use to carry gas for your mower but it would something your Allied soldiers would’ve loved to get their hands on.)

German soldiers dropped leaflets to African Free French soldiers that they’d be treated well if they surrendered. (German soldiers may have stuck to the Geneva Convention when they captured British and French soldiers, but they’d occasionally massacre African prisoners of war.)

Germany conquered Turkey and Switzerland by 1942. (Does the person who made Enemy at the Gates know that these countries remained neutral and independent during World War II? Also, if Switzerland was already conquered by Germany at this point in the war, then why would Allied prisoners desperately want to escape there? )

German soldiers were allowed to wear beards. (German regulations prohibited the wearing of beards except in the front lines and in other situations shaving was impossible. Having German soldiers wearing beards in Stalingrad would make sense. Yet, a desk sergeant in Berlin wouldn’t have one.)

German vehicles were emblazoned with Nazi Party swastikas. (They were emblazoned with the Balkenkreuz a straight armed cross which was the emblem of the Wehrmacht.)

All German soldiers had buzz-cuts. (Most Wehrmacht haircuts were about 1-2 inches long.)

The Heer (German Army):

German panzer tanks closely resembled Sherman tanks with the exception of Nazi decoration.

The MP-40 sub-machine gun was a common weapon for the German military. (You see this German gun a lot in movies but it really wasn’t a very common weapon in real life and was only really useful in short range fire fights like in Stalingrad. It was issued to paratroopers, tank crews as well as platoon and squad leaders.)

Halftracks were the primary transport vehicles for the German Army. (Actually these vehicles you usually see in World War II movies only moved the heaviest German artillery pieces. Most German supplies including the majority of light and medium artillery was pulled by horse drawn limbers. Many suggest that the Germans didn’t resort to chemical warfare during World War II was due to their reliance on horse powered transport to support their mobile style of maneuver warfare. Still, if anyone saw a WWII movie in which most of the German Army’s supplies was moved by horses, they would probably complain that the filmmakers didn’t do their research {except maybe WWII veterans}. And yet, the German Army actually did rely on horse transport that many would consider obsolete by the 1940s.)

The Heer was composed mostly of panzer units. (Actually it was mostly composed of infantry units. In the German Army, pure infantry divisions outnumbered panzer divisions by at least 5 to 1.)

Most German Army units had mechanized equipment. (Actually the vast majority of mechanized equipment went to the panzer divisions while infantry divisions marched everywhere on foot relying almost exclusively on horses for logistical support. WWII Heer infantry divisions were almost identical to those in WWI in this respect. Still, even at the height of German motorization, it’s said that only 20% of German Army divisions were fully motorized. Rommel’s Army in North Africa was one of them yet only it was impossible to rely on horses in the desert. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from watching World War II films.)

Panzer tanks were reliable weapons. (I know that German tanks are seen as a marvel in military technology but Nazi tank technology wasn’t very good. Not to mention, German manufacturing wasn’t cranking out as many tanks as the US and Russia were. Until partway to the German campaign in Russia, the Germans were building fast and relatively light tanks, which were good against people but terrible against other tanks. Even Rommel could admit this. A single Russian KV-2 tank held up the elements of the 6th Panzer division for over a day. And in the ambush at Krasnogvardeysk, 5 KV-1 tanks destroyed 43 German tanks with no losses whatsoever. Their most reliable tank was the medium Panzer IV which had an equal armament and armor as a Sherman tank and the Russian T-34, which would soon outnumber the German tanks significantly. Besides, it was an infantry tank designed not to engage in armor but it was easy to accessorize. Then you have the late war heavy Tiger and Panther tanks which were fearsome opponents on paper but they also suffered from rushed development and were never as reliable in service as their American and Russian counterparts. They also couldn’t stay out in the open very long since they made easy targets for Allied planes. So much for German tank technology.)

The Panzerfaust was a rocket launcher. (It was a anti-tank weapon with a huge gun but it didn’t shoot up rockets.)

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt:

Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt was a good friend to Erwin Rommel and supported the July 20 plot. (Unlike what The Desert Fox implies, Runstedt wasn’t the genial old man the movie makes him to be. In fact, Runstedt and Rommel had a contentious relationship at best. His disagreements with Hitler were purely tactical and he had no sympathy at all for the July 20 plotters in which he called their efforts, “base, bare-faced treachery.”)

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel:

Erwin Rommel was disgusted by Adolf Hitler’s command of the war. (He eventually did but not at first. He disagreed with Hitler’s tactics and brutality but he did fight for Hitler whether you like it or not. Yet, he was never a Nazi and there’s very little evidence he ever personally held any anti-Semitic beliefs. Still, while The Desert Fox doesn’t show it, Rommel sincerely admired Hitler and remained on good terms with him personally at least until the Second Battle of El Alamein when Hitler ordered “victory or death,” after Rommel requested permission to retreat and resupply. It was an order he’d promptly ignore with his faith in Der Fuhrer broken. As for looks, he bores a much closer resemblance to Daniel Craig than James Mason.)

When ordered to commit suicide, Erwin Rommel couldn’t bear to tell his fifteen-year-old son that he was being taken away to die. (Moving scene in The Desert Fox but it’s wrong. As his son Manfred remembers, Rommel just promptly told him, “I shall be dead in a quarter of an hour.”)

Erwin Rommel was involved with Claus von Stauffenberg’s plot to assassinate Hitler with a bomb planted in Der Fuhrer’s briefcase. (Well, it’s actually a bit complicated. Rommel did want peaceful negotiations with the Allies as well as Hitler removed and certainly knew about Stauffenberg’s plot as well as lent his support, but most historians doubt that he was involved with the July 20 plot. He just didn’t think assassinating him first was a good idea since he believed it would spark a civil war between Germany and Austria as well as make Hitler a martyr for a lasting cause. Instead, he wanted Hitler arrested and tried for his crimes, then executed like Saddam Hussein was. Still, evidence shows he couldn’t believe that Der Fuhrer was responsible for the Nazi regime’s crimes and ascribed the blame to various subordinates.)

Erwin Rommel had one child. (He actually had two. Aside from his son Manfred, he had a “niece” named Gertrud Stemmer he sired in an illicit affair with a local fruit seller named Wallburga {this happened before Rommel met his wife}. He continued to support her from the time she was 15 and they remained close for the rest of his life. He’d also wear a plaid scarf his daughter made for him during his African campaign. Gertrud was 30 when her “uncle” committed suicide.)

Erwin Rommel was in perfect health during the Normandy breakout. (He had his staff car shot up by R. A. F. fighter bombers over a week before Operation Cobra started that left him badly wounded. At the time of the Normandy breakout, he was in a French hospital.)

Erwin Rommel was a Field Marshal during the North Africa campaign. (He wouldn’t be promoted to Field Marshal until the war shifted to Western Europe. In North Africa, he was still a Lieutenant General.)

Colonel Count von Stauffenberg:

Count von Stauffenberg lost his right eye in North Africa. (He actually lost his left eye as well as his right hand, and two fingers on his left hand. He’d later joke that he never really knew what to do with so many fingers when he still had all of them.  He also had been treated for his wounds without morphine or any other anesthetic. Still, Stauffenberg did look a little bit like Tom Cruise, except that he was almost a head taller than the actor who portrayed him in Valkyrie.)

Count von Stauffenberg approached Erwin Rommel when the Allied armies were sweeping across the Rhine. (The Germans were still containing the Allies at Normandy at this time. The Allies wouldn’t break out until after the assassination attempt.)

Count von Stauffenberg was a fan of Richard Wagner. (He hated Wagner.)

Count von Stauffenberg was a decorated World War I veteran. (He would’ve been too young fight in that war.)

Count von Stauffenberg placed the briefcase bomb on a peg table leg during the July 20 plot. (Contrary to Valkyrie, Stauffenberg placed the bomb on a block table leg, which proved crucial in saving Hitler’s life. This is because a guy named Colonel Brandt moved the briefcase bomb to the other side of the block away from Hitler because he was trying to get a better view of the map. The blast blew away from Hitler and towards Brandt, ironically killing the latter.)

Captain Wilm Hosenfield:

Wilm Hosenfield was a high ranking senior combat officer in the German Army. (Contrary to The Pianist, He was only a captain and served as a “sports and culture officer” {activities director} in Warsaw.)

Wilm Hosenfield rescued Wladyslaw Szpilman on a personal whim. (Though suggested in The Pianist, Szpilman wasn’t the only one he rescued nor was his kindness towards him not on a whim {though the movie was told in his point of view so Hosenfield’s kindness would seem this way}. Hosenfield had used his position to save numerous Jews and Poles from death as far back as September of 1939. He even worshiped in the local Catholic churches as well as made an effort to learn Polish so he could talk to those he befriended. Unfortunately, he’d later die in a Soviet prison camp in 1952.)

General Henning von Tresckow:

During the attempt to blow up Hitler’s plane, General Henning von Tresckow delivered the bomb to Colonel Brandt at the aircraft and later retrieved it from Berlin. (Contrary to Valkyrie, Tresckow’s deputy Fabian von Schlabrendorff did both in real life in March of 1943 before Count von Stauffenberg was crippled in the P-40 attack that April. Oh, and he was still a Colonel at the time and wouldn’t be promoted until June 1944.)

General Karl Matzer:

General Karl Matzer was an impulsive and hardcore Nazi. (Contrary to Massacre in Rome, he was a reserved officer who was cautious in implementing harsh policies.)

General Ludwig Beck:

Ludwig Beck was in his civilian clothes during the July 20 plot and managed to commit suicide afterwards. (The day of the Hitler death attempt with the suitcase bomb was the first time Beck wore his military uniform in 6 years contrary to Valkyrie. Also, he failed to kill himself twice that another officer ended up finishing him off.)

The Kriegsmarine (German Navy):

German U-boats usually shot defenseless young sailors who were stranded from sunken enemy fleets. (Actually, though Hitler ordered them to do so, most German U-boat crews usually assisted the survivors of ships they sunk usually because the captain could be interrogated, used as a bargaining chip, or convinced to switch sides. Some stories have German U-boat crews giving survivors navigation aids and supplies. Most German U-boat captains were also afraid of how their crew would be treated in the event of captured so many conveniently ignored Hitler’s orders. The Allies, on the other hand, would attack German U-boats on sight regardless of whether or not there were rescued merchant men inside.)

In the spring of 1942, the U-571 was captured by an American submarine in which the crew went on board to steal its Enigma machine. (This is part of the plot to the movie U-571, which is seen as one of the most historically inaccurate movies of all time and for good reason. First, the real U-571 was never captured but was actually sunk by an Australian plane off the coast of Ireland in 1944. Second, by 1942 the Allies had several Enigma machines already many of them in England’s Bletchley Park. Not only that, but the Enigma had already been deciphered by this point, like 7 months before the US entered the war. Thus, such mission by an American submarine crew would’ve been an unnecessary waste of tax dollars by this point, just saying. Not to mention, Tony Blair actually condemned U-571 in Parliament as an insult to the Royal Navy {who basically captured the Enigma machines with no help from the US}. Even worse, the U-571’s director managed to dedicate the film to the real sailors who captured the Enigma machines whose memories he just desecrated in the most tasteless gesture a filmmaker could ever make. It would be as if the British made a movie about their soldiers defeating the Japanese at the Battle of Midway. Still, this movie was inspired by a real story of the U-110’s capture by the HMS Bulldog back in 1941. Yet, the Bulldog’s crew was just after the codebooks.)

Schnellboots were referred to as “E-boats” by the Germans. (The Germans referred to them as “S-boats.” “E-boat” is an Allied designation.)

Very few sailors on a German U-boat crew believed in Nazism. (The German Navy may have been the least political of the Wehrmacht services. Yet, the number of true believers among U-boat crews was among the highest at least later on in the war since U-boat crews experienced staggering casualties {30,000-40,000 U-boat sailors died in the war}. Not to mention, most military recruits by then would’ve come straight out of the Hitler Youth either heavily indoctrinated or more entrenched in Nazi ideology. Still, you wouldn’t know it from Das Boot which takes place early in the war.)

Admiral Lutjens was a fanatical Nazi supporter. (He’s depicted this way in Sink the Bismarck!, but his support was far from enthusiastic in real life. He greeted everyone up to and including Hitler himself with the traditional German naval salute instead of “Heil Hitler.” He’d also wear his Imperial navy dagger on his Kriegsmarine uniform. His crew weren’t diehard Nazis either.)

The Luftwaffe (German Air Force):

The Luftwaffe was a formidable foe against Allied planes in World War II. (Yes, they’re seen as a formidable foe in World War II but they mostly were committed to a tactical bombing role and their strength as a fighting force was significantly damaged by the Battle of Britain. Though Hitler ordered the Luftwaffe to strategically bomb major cities, it wasn’t equipped to do this. Yet, it was the first Air Force to use paratroopers, which greatly impressed the Allies that they built their own airborne divisions for Normandy.)

Herman Goering was late to the conference with Hitler that took place before the July 20 assassination attempt. (Goering wasn’t at the conference at all that day.)

Messerschmitts had British engines. (They had German engines made by Daimler-Benz unlike in Valkyrie.)

German paratroopers descended with a kit bag attached by a line to one leg. (This is an an American and British technique, not used by the Germans.)

The SS:

The Waffen SS was an elite Special Forces organization. (The only extra training the SS received was purely ideological and functioned more like the Secret Service than the Green Berets and thought of as a little more than thugs, not front line soldiers, at least before they started to push their recruitment as front line units which was in 1943. Not to mention, it was said that some SS divisions received worse combat training and equipment as non-SS divisions. No Waffen-SS unit ever achieved a better kill ratio than the Heer’s best troops.)

The Waffen SS was the unit that massacred Jews during the Holocaust. (It was the Einsatzgruppen-SS that were death squads and they consisted of 15,000 members in 6 groups with 2 never seeing any action. Still, they were responsible for the death of more than 1.3 million people. Their most infamous was the massacre of 33, 771 near Babi Yar, a ditch near the capital of Ukraine.)

The Waffen SS consisted of only German members. (It was a mostly volunteer organization that consisted of many recruits across Europe ranging from Germans, Austrians, White Russians to French, Scandinavians to even Muslim Bosniaks and Indians. It was kind of like a Nazi French Foreign Legion that had around a million personnel at its height. The reason being that while the German Army could only recruit German citizens, the Waffen-SS didn’t have such restriction.)

The SS wore black uniforms. (A common mistake in many World War II movies. From Imdb: “The Black SS uniforms were discontinued at the start of the war in 1939 and replaced by the green/gray uniform. Only Waffen SS tank crews wore black uniforms in combat. This was not, however, the all-black uniform worn by the pre-war SS, but rather a short, black waist-cut coat similar in style to that worn by tank crews in the Wehrmacht. “)

Amon Goeth:

Amon Goeth was a recipient of the 2nd class Iron Cross, the Sudetenland Medal, and the Silesian Eagle. (He never actually won any of these. Also, his importance in the political machinery of the Holocaust is overplayed in Schindler’s List. He was never promoted above the rank of Captain and never had any sort of political or military power.)

Amon Goeth was a very sadistic Nazi commandant who loved murdering people during the Holocaust. (Some people criticized the Spielberg for including such a “blatantly evil” villain like Goeth in Schindler’s List, claiming Ralph Fiennes’ portrayal of him was too pointlessly cruel to be believable. However, unbeknownst to many viewers, Spielberg actually toned down the kind of monster Goeth was. Goeth was a guy who regularly tortured people in a special dungeon built under his villa for this specific purpose, fed prisoners alive to his starved dogs, shot playing children with his sniper rifle. He’s also believed to have personally murdered 500 people {amounting for a quarter of deaths that occurred in his camp} and much more. His camp had the highest death rate by far that didn’t include a gas chamber. And, yes, there are tons of evidence and documentation as well as countless witnesses for all of it. Not only that, but in September of 1944, Goeth would be relieved of his position as commandant at Kraków-Płaszów concentration camp as well as charged by the SS for failure to provide adequate food for prisoners under his charge, violation of concentration camp regulations regarding the treatment and punishment of prisoners, and others. However, the SS would commit him to a mental institution but would later be found by Polish and Amercian soldiers and executed not far from the site of his camp. Still, even toned down, he’s considered by AFI as the highest ranked non-fictional villain in movie history.)

The Gestapo:

The Gestapo wore those snazzy black outfits. (First, it was the SS who wore those. Second, since they were the secret police of the Third Reich, the Gestapo would either be wearing gray police uniforms or more often no uniforms at all. Actually, in Nazi Germany, you wouldn’t be able to recognize a member of the Gestapo.)

The Gestapo was ruthlessly efficient political police force in Nazi Germany. (They were also constantly understaffed and overworked and only counted on helpful German citizens or paid informers of occupied countries. Anne Frank and her family were turned in by an informer who worked for the Gestapo. Gestapo officers were selected primarily for their political reliability, rather than their professionalism {though there were effective agents who served there}. Yet, they weren’t as skillful with other espionage agencies as they were with sowing terror. The Third Reich’s truly scary counter-espionage agency had been the SD {security department within the SS} that were always driven to do their best, but even they weren’t that very effective. )

Gestapo Chief Herbert Kappler was a tired worn out man who’s disillusioned by the Nazi cause and thought that the fall of Nazi Germany was imminent. (Contrary to his Richard Burton portrayal in Massacre in Rome he was a zealous Nazi and was sent to Rome exactly for this reason. There, he organized round-ups of thousands of innocent victims, oversaw raids on Jewish homes for looted valuables, and was a key figure for transporting Italian Jews to Nazi death camps. Also, he was 37 years old. Oh, and the massacre was ordered by the SS and his superior was SS Captain Karl Wolff.)

The Hindenburg:

14 year old Werner Franz was doused with water once he escaped from the burning Hindenburg. (According to Wikipedia Franz: “escaped the flames after a water ballast tank overhead burst open and soaked him with water. He then made his way to the hatch and turned around and ran the other way, because the flames were being pushed by the wind towards the starboard side.” As of 2012, he’s still alive along with Werner Doehner who was 8 at the time.)

Circus performer Joseph Späh escaped by grabbing a landing rope from the Hindenburg. (There was no landing rope on the Hindenburg. According to Wikipedia he escaped by “smashing a window with his home movie camera (the film survived the disaster), and held on to the side of the window, jumping to the ground when the ship was low enough, surviving with only a broken ankle.”)
The Blutner baby grand piano was in the Hindenburg during its final season. (It was aboard during its 1936 season but not on its final flight in 1937.)

The Hindenburg’s crew repaired a tear in its cover as it drifted lower and lower in the Atlantic. (This happened but it was on the Great Zeppelin, not the Hindenburg.)

Captain Ernest Lehman and Dr. Hugo Eckener were very wary of the Nazi Party. (Contrary to the 1975 Hindenburg film, these two guys didn’t see eye to eye as far as the Nazis were concerned. Eckener hated the Nazis and made absolutely no secret about it while Lehman was very accommodating to the powers in Berlin to advance his career and the fortunes of the Zeppelin Company. Though the 1975 film has Lehman protesting using a ship to drop propaganda leaflets in 1936, he was perfectly eager to do this to the extent that he launched the ship in a dangerous wind condition, bashing its tail. Eckener actually lashed out against Lehman for endangering the ship to please the Nazis. Because of Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels blacklisted Eckener in the press forever after despite him being a national {or international} hero.)

There was a conspiracy to destroy the Hindenburg airship. (Nope, the 1975 film gets this wrong. It was more or less due to a series of preventable events with the ignition coming out of nowhere.)


No male spectator removed his hat and no military personnel saluted while a German national anthem was played by a military band. (This would simply not happen in Nazi Germany.)

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris was behind the plot to assassinate Winston Churchill. (This is the plot in The Eagle has Landed but the guy was a member of the German Resistance who was involved in several plots to kill Hitler and shared information with British intelligence. It’s very unlikely that he’d sign off on a plot particularly under orders from Heinrich Himmler and would’ve at least done something to sabotage it. He chose his agents on their Anti-Nazism as much as their competence. Still, there actually was an attempt to kill Churchill {which included assassinating FDR and Stalin as well}. Yet, it was headed by Otto Skorzeny, the man who rescued Mussolini but the plan foiled before they could get anywhere near the leaders. Also, they knew that Churchill was away at Tehran at the time and the assassins were sent there.)

Banners in Nazi Germany had inscriptions in Gothic type during World War II. (Hitler actually banned all Gothic types in 1941, saying that they were of Jewish origin.)

Urban German churches in World War II had stain glass windows in place. (Priests, nuns, and other clergymen had removed the stained glass windows from the churches and buried them outside the cities so they wouldn’t be destroyed if the Allies bombed Germany.)

The SA stormtroopers were around in 1936. (The Brown shirts ceased to exist after The Night of the Long Knives in 1934. Though they lingered, it was significantly weakened, almost pointless since the SS had taken over most of their duties by this point.)

The Germans used Scopolamine during their interrogations. (It wasn’t tested as a truth drug until the 1950s.)

Admiral Wilhelm Canaris and Henrich Himmler got a long great with each other. (They detested each other.)

Nazis enjoyed listening to Gustave Mahler. (Mahler’s music was banned in Nazi Germany because he was Jewish.)

Germany stood a chance of winning World War II. (Let’s just say Hitler was never really so close to winning World War II mostly because of his attempt to invade Russia. Let’s just say he should’ve learned from Napoleon that invading that country is never a good idea. Still, this resulted not only in utter disaster but also with Josef Stalin joining the Allies as he was going to be in the winner’s corner of the war no matter what.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 63 – Life in 1930s Europe


Tea with Mussolini is a 1999 film by Franco Zeffirelli which is loosely based on his childhood. The Scorpioni was a real group of English women in Florence (but there were no Americans) but I’m not sure if one of the members had tea with Il Duce. Still, what Zeffirelli said about the leader of the group greatly explains why Maggie Smith was so perfectly cast. Though she’s called Lady Hester Random in the movie, he said, “I don’t remember if she was called Hester, but I remember this terrible, fantastic woman. She was the dowager of the community. I remember the many outrageous things she did because she could afford to be arrogant and bossy.”

1930s wasn’t a great place to live since tough economic times had brought political troubles along with it since several authoritarian regimes emerged in many European countries like Italy and Germany but they weren’t the only ones. Mussolini and Hitler were just the most memorable because their delusions of grandeur led them to invade countries like Ethiopia and Poland. Then there’s Russia which is ruled by the iron fist of Josef Stalin but we don’t see 1930s Russia in movies because we have some idea the guy’s either starving his people, staging purges, sending people to gulags, and other atrocities. Yes, Stalin was a paranoid beyond all doubt except that one time when he signed a non-aggression pact with that guy from Germany but I’ll get to that later. Then there’s the matter with Spain in which a simmering of a decades long ideological conflict in the nation had exploded into a civil war between the Nationalists led by Generalissmo Franco, which was backed by both Italy and Germany and the Republican Loyalists backed by the Soviet Union. Of course, we remember this war for many of the people who signed up to fight there like Ernest Hemingway and George Orwell as well as for Pablo Picasso’s heart-wrenching Guernica. It was a nasty war but Franco won and managed to rule Spain until the 1970s. Still, there are plenty of things the movies would get wrong about Europe in the 1930s which I shall take time to list accordingly.


Georges Melies didn’t receive much recognition for his film work until 1931. (His prestige in the film world started to grow in the late 1920s and in December 1929, there was a gala retrospective of his works at the Salle Pleyel. He was made Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur and received a medal by fellow filmmaker Louis Lumiere {of the Lumiere brothers}. However, none of the enormous praise he received helped his livelihood or decreased his poverty. Still, his renewed recognition had nothing to do with a young orphan boy rediscovering his automaton.)

Georges Melies lived with his granddaughter Isabelle during his later years. (His granddaughter’s name was Madeleine Malthête-Méliès. However, she wasn’t technically Mama Jeanne’s granddaughter though but you wouldn’t know that from watching Hugo. Also, by the time Hugo takes place, Melies had only been married to Jeanne for five years as his second wife, though she was his longtime mistress before then but you can’t include that fact in a movie catered for kids.)

The Spanish Civil War:

The Republican Loyalists were the good guys in the Spanish Civil War. (Sure the Franco Nationalists weren’t the good guys in this conflict and were allied by Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. But this doesn’t mean the Republican Loyalists were exactly nice guys either. Both sides committed atrocities and the Republicans were backed by Stalin.)

The Republican Loyalists believed in democracy. (Some of them did as did many people outside Spain who fought on their side. However, the Loyalist side also included Stalinists, Trotskyists, and Anarchists who you could hardly call democratic supporters. You could say that the Republican side was united in that they didn’t want Franco to rule.)

Francisco Franco was a Fascist. (He claimed he was and undoubtedly had Fascist support, but many historians think he was just after power and just wanted to introduce his own brand of totalitarianism.)

American volunteers in the Spanish Civil War received Purple Hearts for their service there. (Though you wouldn’t know it from My Dog Skip, there were no military personnel in that war, only volunteers who didn’t receive military awards of any kind. So Willie’s dad was probably lying.)

Fascist Italy:

Benito Mussolini was friends with Adolf Hitler. (They were more like frenemies, which The Great Dictator pretty much sums it up perfectly. Mussolini was jealous of Germany’s military strength that he made many stupid mistakes as well as things way above his pay grade in order to keep up with Hitler. As TTI says, “Despite their similar ideologies, Mussolini always had a fractious relationship with Hitler. In 1935 he threatened to intervene during the Nazis’ first attempt to occupy Austria, and signed the Stresa Front with Britain and France to block further Nazi aggression. It wasn’t until the Spanish Civil War that Il Duce and Der Fuhrer found themselves on the same side. Even during the war, Mussolini and Hitler distrusted each other so much that they often didn’t make the other privy to major military operations {Mussolini didn’t tell Hitler about his plans to invade Greece, for example}.”)

Benito Mussolini had a popular following in Italy. (He was never especially popular in Italy {as shown by what his own people did to him and his mistress in World War II}. However, he was initially and surprisingly admired abroad, not just by fascists like Hitler and Franco, but many British and American politicians, journalists, and intellectuals viewed Il Duce’s outwardly efficient and well-organized regime as a potential role model. That is, until Mussolini’s invasion of Ethiopia.)

Benito Mussolini made the trains run on time. (He claimed to have done this but some observers called Il Duce out on this.)


Poland was a free country before Hitler invade it. (It had been under a military dictatorship since the 1920s but you wouldn’t be able to tell from the movies. Still, at least it was a dictator from their own country and not some other nation like Germany or Russia.)

Stalinist Russia:

The Moscow Trials between 1936 and 1938 were fair. (They are seen this way in Mission to Moscow {which is a Hollywood movie made in 1943}, but the actual Moscow Trials were nothing more than for show in which Stalin used to rubber stamp the executions of his old Bolshevik comrades. The charges against these people were basically trumped up and the defendants were tortured into confessing. The trials are often considered a part of Stalin’s Great Purge. Yeah, they were totally fair, not.)

The notion of Stalinist Russia being a backwards tyranny was just a silly prejudice. (Stalinist Russia may not have been considered a 3rd world country but it was still very much a tyranny under the rule of a very brutal man who went to great lengths to establish absolute power in Russia. No wonder Mission to Moscow’s screenwriter was blacklisted after World War II.)

Stalinist Russia was a plucky place working toward the day when it would be a democracy, which was a day just around the corner. (Really, Mission to Moscow? Democracy just around the corner in Stalinist Russia, a corner of a Siberian prison cell or gulag that is. Besides, under Stalin, the prospect of Russia being a democracy was at its nadir at this point. I mean Russia was more likely to become a democracy under the Czars than this guy.)

Madame Molotova still had her swanky perfume works at this time. (She actually had her business confiscated and nationalized by the Bolsheviks and in Stalinist Russia, produced only one scent Red Moscow.)


Austria had been a free country before the country fell to the Third Reich. (Before the Anschluss, Austria had been under a fascist dictatorship for four years. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from watching The Sound of Music.)

The Von Trapp Family:

The von Trapp family escaped Salzburg by going through the Alps to Switzerland. (They actually didn’t go through the Alps which would put them at Hitler’s springtime retreat at Berchtesgaden in Germany. So the Alpine trek was out of the question. In fact, the von Trapp family just took a train to Italy since the dad was born in an area that used to be part of Austria prior to World War I. Thus, they could claim Italian citizenship but who wants a beloved singing family to escape to another country held by a fascist dictator?)

Captain Georg von Trapp was a strict disciplinarian as well as a humorless and emotionally distant father. (Actually contrary to his Christopher Plummer portrayal, the actual George von Trapp was a kind man who greatly enjoyed musical activities with his kids and even rocked the violin during family concerts. He’d also make handmade gifts for his kids in his workshop. Also, the reason why he used a whistle to call his kids was that he had a weak voice as well as about half-dozen kids on a large estate. His family was greatly annoyed but this portrayal because he was the cool dad, while Maria von Trapp was the strict one and was said to have a terrible temper. But having Julie Andrews playing the strict parent would be unthinkable! Besides, having Georg as the strict disciplinarian allowed Christopher Plummer to be as miserable as he wanted. However, the real Maria did like Christopher Plummer even if the guy couldn’t care less doing The Sound of Music, which made him a star.)

Captain Georg and Maria von Trapp were married right before the Nazis moved into Austria. (Uh, by the time the Nazis moved into Austria, Georg and Maria were married for nearly 10 years with a couple of kids. Also, while Christopher Plummer was 35 when he played Georg, the real guy was 47. The real Maria was 22 so I don’t blame the casting agency.)

Captain Georg von Trapp had no trouble turning down the Nazis when they offered him a post in the Kriegsmarine when they moved into Austria since Georg had anti-Nazi beliefs {but so did most of the Austrian nobility}. (Though it’s true that Georg didn’t like Nazis, he was offered a job in the German Navy before the Anschluss. The Nazis wanted to recruit him because of his extensive experience with submarines and Germany wanted to expand its U-Boat fleet. Still, unlike in The Sound of Music where Georg tells the Nazis where they could shove it, the real Georg seriously considered taking their offer since his family was in desperate financial straits and he had no marketable skills other than his training as a naval officer. He decided that he couldn’t serve the Nazi regime but the Nazis continued to woo him.)

The von Trapp family had to flee Austria because the Nazis had threatened to arrest Georg. (Georg was never in serious danger of being arrested by the Nazis since he turned down the Nazis’ offer before they took over the country. They couldn’t arrest him even if they wanted to. Also, after the von Trapps left in 1938, he and his family returned for a stay for several months in 1939 before departing for good without incident.)

The von Trapp family had to flee Austria after the Salzburg Music Festival before the borders closed. (Actually Hitler took over Austria in March of 1938 while the Salzburg Music Festival is in June. The von Trapp family couldn’t do both.)

Max Detweiler was the von Trapp family’s music director who gave up his life to save them. (Max is a fictional character. Their music director was their priest Reverend Franz Wasner who acted as such for over 20 years and accompanied them when they left Austria.)

Maria Kutschera gave up her dream of becoming a nun when she fell in love with Georg von Trapp. (Actually, she fell in love with the man after their marriage, though she did like him and his kids a lot. Still, she had to be pressured by the Mother Superior to accept his proposal for she wanted to get her out of the convent anyway. Their marriage was more about practicality.)

George von Trapp was a baron. (His hereditary title was “Ritter” which means “knight” in German and is an equivalent for baronet. Also, in 1919, the nobility was abolished in Austria so his legal name was “Georg Trapp” yet he continually used the von as a particle of courtesy.)

The villa at Aigen in Salzburg, Austria was the von Trapp family’s ancestral home. (The von Trapp ancestral home was in Pola which is in present-day Croatia, which they were forced to abandon due to World War I. Besides, by this point, they had lived in homes in Zell Am See and Klosterneuburg. The von Trapps moved to their Salzburg home in 1922 after the death of Georg’s first wife. Also, the home wasn’t as grand as depicted in The Sound of Music.)

The von Trapp family became the Von Trapp family singers before they went to America. (The whole Von Trapp Family Singers thing started because they lost their life savings thanks to the Nazis damaging the Austrian economy as well as Georg’s poor business decisions that left the family virtually bankrupt. Since they were in need of funds, they entered a music competition which was Maria’s idea {she was a very resourceful lady}. Yet, entering the music business caused Georg a lot of embarrassment.)

While a convent novice, Maria Kutschera was hired as a governess for Captain Georg von Trapp’s children. (She was hired as a tutor to the young Maria Franziska {a. k. a. Louisa} who had come down with scarlet fever and needed her lessons at home.)


Upper-class dinner parties in the 1930s had men and women seated separately. (Actually most upper-class dinner parties in the 1930s were seated on a boy-girl-boy-girl basis. And it wasn’t unusual for people to sit next to someone of the opposite sex who wasn’t their spouse.)

Catholic clergymen wore the poncho style chasuble in the 1930s. (Actually they wore the “fiddle back” style at the time. Poncho style chasubles are modern.)

Flapper and sheik clothing was popular in 1931. (These styles were popular from 1925-1928. By 1931, they’d be considered outdated. Yet, this is the Great Depression so those outfits were probably some of the good ones some people had at the time to go to the club.)

It wasn’t unusual for barber shops to be open on Sundays during the 1930s. (Depends on the location but certainly not in the American South.)

Measles vaccines were in existence at this time. (They weren’t until at least the 1970s or later.)

Most European countries at this time were relatively free. (Unless you live in Britain, France, Scandinavia, Switzerland, or the Low Countries, you were probably living under a dictatorship by 1939 either run by Fascists or made use by them. Yet, you wouldn’t know it from movies set at the time.)

1930s straitjackets had buckles on them. (Straitjackets wouldn’t have buckles until the 1980s, before then, they were laced with eyelets.)
Radios played almost immediately after turned on. (Before the radio transistor, all radios used tubes which took many seconds to warm up before providing any sound.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 62 – 1930s Great Britain


Tom Hooper’s 2010 Academy Award winning film The King’s Speech is perhaps the most famous movie about Great Britain in the 1930s apart from all the murder mysteries. Here Colin Firth stars as the stammering Bertie (King George VI) and his private struggle with public life as a member of the royal family and later as a constitutional monarch. His supportive wife Elizabeth (the future Queen Mother) is played by Helena Bonham Carter. Is it 100% accurate? No, since you have Winston Churchill supporting Edward VIII’s abdication when he actually opposed it in reality but no one wants to see that. Still, this is a very good film about what it’s like to be a monarch in the modern world.

Great Britain is particularly memorable in the 1930s mainly due to the fact that many an Agatha Christie murder mystery tends to be set at this time. Even if the work isn’t set in the 1930s originally, it somehow becomes the default template. Still, in movies, 1930s Great Britain is one of the more ideal times for having a good murder mystery at someone’s country estate. But 1930s Great Britain isn’t just a period filled with murder and mayhem since it’s also the the time when you have Fascist leader Oswald Moseley who was the inspiration for Roderick Spode in P. G. Wodehouse’s Jeeves and Wooster series.There were also plenty of rich Brits who also had some sympathy for the totalitarian type like Miss Jean Brodie, most of the Mitford family, and others. Yet, there are two great events in the 1930s that are particularly memorable to Britain in this decade. First, there’s the abdication of Edward VIII who is said to give up the throne for a twice divorced American which leads to the ascension of his stammering younger brother. Second, there’s World War II. Nevertheless, movies don’t tend to get all the facts right and I shall list the inaccuracies for you.

Winston Churchill:

Winston Churchill dined with Josef Stalin in 1939. (No, he didn’t until 1942 when Great Britain and the USSR were allies in World War II.)

Winston Churchill supported George VI’s ascent to the throne. (He actually one of Edward VIII’s fiercest supporters during the abdication crisis and advised him: “Retire to Windsor Castle! Summon the Beefeaters! Raise the drawbridge! Close the gates! And dare Baldwin to drag you out!” He even rewrote some of Edward VIII’s abdication speech. George VI wasn’t exactly fond of Winston Churchill being appointed prime minister during World War II. However, they weren’t friends until they had to confide in each other on the war and the governance of Britain. Still, you have to have Churchill supporting Bertie in The King’s Speech because Edward VIII was a Nazi supporting dickhead. I mean Churchill might’ve thought appeasement was a bad idea but he wasn’t endowed with 20/20 hindsight to see that George VI would’ve made a better king than his older brother, especially in what was to come. Nevertheless, Churchill’s mistake over Edward VIII’s abdication was one of the reasons Britain ignored his warnings about appeasement in the first place.)

Winston Churchill was fat at this time. (He wouldn’t be overweight until later in his life yet, he’s seen as chunky in most portrayals of him during the 1930s and WWII.)

King George V:

King George V preferred his son Bertie (George VI) on the throne over his brother David (Edward VIII). (Actually by the time he died he not only preferred Bertie but also his 9 year old daughter Elizabeth over Edward on the throne. He most famously said, “I pray to God that my eldest son [Edward] will never marry and have children, and that nothing will come between Bertie and Lilibet and the throne.”)

Queen Mary of Teck:

Queen Mary of Teck had a guttural German accent. (Recordings reveal she didn’t. Also, she was born and raised in Britain, which is why Queen Victoria thought she’d make a suitable bride for her grandson. Yet, this grandson was actually George V’s brother Albert Victor who died so George married her instead.)

Queen Mary of Teck was a cold and heartless mother. (Actually she wasn’t but she did keep a stiff upper lip. Also, she was a kleptomaniac and fanatic jewelry collector.)

King Edward VIII:

Edward VIII was pressured to give up the throne for love. (Actually, he abdicated because of his Nazi sympathies. Wallis Simpson was just an excuse.)

Edward VIII’s trip on a Mediterranean cruise with Wallis Simpson was exposed to the British press as a “Royal Scandal!” (Actually the British papers famously covered it up thanks to the king’s friend Lord Beaverbrook who convinced all his fellow newspapermen to agree to complete discretion. All that was printed out on that paparazzi moment from Britain was a passenger list with Wallis’ name on it. British censors even snipped out even more lurid reports out of foreign newspapers at customs.  Most people in Great Britain didn’t have any idea about Edward VIII’s affair with Wallis Simpson until December of 1936.)

Most of the allegations about Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson having sympathies for the Nazis was just based on rumors. (Except that it’s not for there’s plenty of evidence. According the Guardian’s column on reel history has this snippet, “a 1933 report by the Austrian ambassador that Edward said to him: “I hope and believe we will never fight another war but if we do, we must be on the winning side and that will be Germany, not the French”. A public speech to the British Legion in 1935 in which he advised his audience to “stretch forth the hand of friendship to the Germans”. A 1936 letter from the German ambassador to Adolf Hitler saying “King Edward, quite generally, feels warm sympathy for Germany”. British Foreign Office papers suggesting that a Nazi plot to put Edward back on the throne when they invaded Britain was cooked up with Wallis’s involvement. Wallis’s notoriously dazzling smile on meeting Adolf Hitler in Germany in 1937. Edward’s frequent Nazi salutes during that trip, and cheerful fraternisation with the likes of Josef Goebbels, Hermann Goering and Rudolf Hess. Edward’s own admission in an article he wrote for the New York Daily News in 1966 that “along with too many other well-meaning people, I let my admiration for the good side of the German character dim what was being done to it by the bad”.” As his cousin Prince Ferdinand of Prussia said that Edward, “was quite pro-Hitler, said it was no business of ours to interfere in Germany’s internal affairs either re Jews or anything else, and added that the dictators were very popular these days and we might want one in England before long.” Let’s just say that having an affair with a twice divorced 40 year old American wasn’t the most scandalous thing about King Edward VIII despite it causing a constitutional crisis. It’s more likely he gave up the throne due to overwhelming evidence that he had vocal Nazi sympathies, which the Duke of Windsor {Edward VIII} would air in public until at least the 1960s. Still, even after his abdication, the British Government would send the former king to govern the Bahamas since his willingness to enter an alliance with Germany was seen as a threat.)

Edward VIII was called “Edward” by his family. (His family and friends called him, “David.”)

Edward VIII was a brooding hunk who gave up the throne because he couldn’t be the best king without the help and support of the woman he loved. (Edward VIII was pathologically hated by quite a number of people largely due to his being by all accounts, both selfish and an absolute jerk. Also, his abdication wasn’t a big sacrifice to him since he didn’t want to be king in the first place. After all, he didn’t want opening Parliament and christening ships get in the way of his jetting around the world to party and leave his stammering little brother do all the king stuff {which he dreaded and never got used to}. His relationship with Wallis was not what you’d call a great love story and more of what you’d see on a sleazy reality show on TLC. He’s said to be a whiny and needy husband while Wallis was kind of a nagging shrew though at best it would’ve been a relationship you’d call, shall we say dysfunctional. According to the Guardian: “One close friend, Mrs. Humphrey Butler, recalled a scene at a dinner party when the then Prince of Wales asked Wallis for a light. “Have you done your duty?” Wallis asked. “Little man gets on his haunches, puts up his hands and begs like a dog,” remembered Mrs. Butler. “She then lights his cigarette. Horrible to see.”” Not to mention, Wallis didn’t really want Edward to abdicate or marry him but she was sick of him by then. She may have given in if there was a crown involved, but she knew she was trapped by the time of Edward VIII’s abdication. They may have stayed together until Edward’s death but their married life consisted of the couple indulging in their hobbies of throwing house parties where they screamed at each other in front of guests, having affairs, and talking about how great Hitler even well into the 1960s. Seriously, Madonna, why make a movie about this romance which really wasn’t that great?)

Edward VIII wanted children. (If he wanted kids, he wouldn’t have married Wallis Simpson who was like 40 by their wedding. To suggest that he wanted to have children is untrue.)

Edward VIII was drunk during the abdication crisis. (He was actually sober throughout the whole ordeal for which his friend Stanley Baldwin gave him credit for. Still, abdicating the throne for his brother was probably the best thing he ever did and Britain was so much better off because of it.)

Edward VIII was the first British monarch to abdicate. (Richard II, Lady Jane Grey, and James II gave up the throne in their lifetimes, though they probably didn’t have much of a choice. Edward VIII was the first British monarch to do it without having someone trying to overthrow him.)

Edward VIII put Benzedrine into champagne at a cocktail party. (Actually his friend MP Chips Channon did this.)

King George VI:

George VI started working with his speech therapist Lionel Logue a few years before the abdication crisis. (He had actually been working together before his daughters were born back in the 1926 and they both hit it off immediately. Still, George VI’s relationship with Logue in The King’s Speech was long considered vastly overstated though recently discovered letters from the future Queen Mother to Logue and Logue’s diaries tell a different story. Also, as early as 1927, he was seen as a decent orator thanks to Logue’s help that he managed to give a speech opening the Australian Parliament almost free from error. By 1934, he had rarely visited Logue since his speech had improved but he turned to his therapist again after his brother’s abdication.)

To help his stuttering, George VI used to have his mouth stuffed with marbles. (That’s straight out of My Fair Lady {but a rather common treatment since the time of Demosthenes} though Charles I used to correct his speech by stuffing his mouth full of pebbles and talking to himself. I guess neither did the trick saving his head. Also, George VI’s stammering manifested itself when he was 8 not 4 and it was relatively mild compared to what’s portrayed in The King’s Speech. Still, this doesn’t mean it was less of a problem to him because it certainly was.)

George VI was against Neville Chamberlain’s appeasement policy. (It may be heavily implied in The King’s Speech but Bertie actually supported Neville Chamberlain’s policy and endorsed it by breaching protocol before the sitting of the House of Commons. Still, though it may not have been a good move, most people in Britain supported it at the time, which would make sense since the country was still recovering from the devastation of World War I. Edward VIII supported appeasement as well but for very different reasons.)

King George VI was crowned in Westminster Abbey during Lent. (Lent is usually around February to April depending on the year. George VI was crowned in May, which would mean that the Altar frontal at Westminster Abbey would’ve been white not purple as it is in The King’s Speech. Still, that coronation scene was probably filmed at the time and it’s not easy to change the vestments.)

King George VI retained a presence of dignity during his ascension to the throne. (He actually spent an hour sobbing in his mother’s presence because he really didn’t want to be king. Still, Bertie never got used to the gig.)

King George VI and Queen consort Elizabeth were greeted by the Roosevelts during their arrival at Hyde Park in June of 1939. (Actually the royal couple had accompanied FDR and Eleanor to Hyde Park several after days in Washington D. C. They arrived to the place with the Roosevelts.)

King George VI and his wife didn’t know how an elevator door worked. (Actually, Bertie served in the navy during World War I and had mastered far more complex machinery than an elevator door. Also, Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon wasn’t born royal.)

Bertie chose his regal name George VI because his given name Albert seemed too German. (He actually chose George as his regal name out of respect for his father.)

Queen Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon (a. k. a. the future Queen Mother):

Elizabeth Bowes-Lyon believed that Edward VIII was destined for greatness. (She actually believed the opposite based on what she was writing and saying at the time. Also, it was her popularity that won her husband’s favor to the throne.)

Queen consort Elizabeth wore her Balmoral hats in the 1930s. (She didn’t start wearing them until World War II.)

Lionel Logue:

Lionel Logue always referred George VI as “Bertie.” (Yes, they were friends but Logue never called George VI by his nickname or swore in his presence, as an exercise in proper decorum.)

Myrtle Logue had no idea that her husband was treating George VI until she saw Queen consort Elizabeth help herself some tea in her parlor. (She knew all about her husband’s most famous patient by George VI’s ascension. She and her husband were even presented at court to Bertie’s parents in a show of gratitude for Lionel’s work. Myrtle even wrote about the experience in an Australian newspaper. Still, you need a scene like that in The King’s Speech.)

Stanley Baldwin:

Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin resigned over misjudging Hitler. (Actually this wasn’t the case. He resigned because he just wanted to retire after 15 years as Conservative Party leader. Also, in 1937, Hitler hadn’t even begun his invasion and treaty breaking yet.)

Stanley Baldwin invited Edward VIII and Wallis Simpson to a dinner party at his house before the abdication crisis. (Actually Baldwin only met Wallis Simpson once in May of 1936 at a dinner party hosted by Edward VIII but didn’t realize her significance until months afterward.)

Neville Chamberlain:

Neville Chamberlain was an idiot and a stupid coward for appeasing Hitler and hijacking his own country at the Munich Accord prior to World War II. (As much as movies would rip on Chamberlain for letting Hitler take Austria and Czechoslovakia, more recent historians have said that he knew full well what he was getting into before the negotiations took place. For one, he was already quietly preparing his nation for war so he didn’t expect the peace to hold but didn’t think his country was ready to take on Hitler yet. Many say that Chamberlain made peace with Hitler just to stall for time. He also promised to defend Poland’s independence if it were attacked, which made Britain one of the first nations to enter the war. Second, Britain lost about a million lives in the last war with Germany so any option short of war would have looked good if the alternative was going through that again. Third, there were many British conservatives who were at least passively pro-Nazi who at least viewed Hitler as preferable to the USSR if not outright admirable, even in Chamberlain’s own party and among the royal family like King Edward VIII. Not to mention, despite the later historical notoriety, Chamberlain’s actions were popular among the British at the time and somehow made better sense if you know the context since appeasement just seemed as the only politically acceptable option back in the 1930s. Fourth, Chamberlain knew that the British and the French wouldn’t support war if he had been seen to reject diplomacy. Chamberlain’s action may have looked like a stupid decision but he had thought the whole thing through.)

Archbishop of Canterbury Cosmo Lang:

Bishop Cosmo Lang breathlessly revealed to King George VI that Lionel Logue wasn’t a doctor. (Everyone already knew that by the time George VI became king. Also, Bertie always referred to his speech therapist either as “Logue” or “Mr. Logue.”)

Wallis Simpson:

Wallis Simpson’s second marriage was filled with domestic abuse. (Sorry, Madonna, but I could find no evidence that Wallis Simpson’s second marriage was an abusive relationship since they remained friends after they divorced. Still, Ernest Simpson did cheat on her childhood friend whom he later married.)

R. J. Mitchell:

R. J. Mitchell worked himself to death on the creation of the Spitfire. (He did work despite the pain of his illness tweaking and perfecting his design up until his death. However, designer Joseph Smith had already taken over the primary design work by the time of the first flight of the Spitfire prototype.)

R. J. Mitchell suffered from tuberculosis during the 1930s while working on the Spitfire. (It’s implied in his Leslie Howard portrayal in the 1942 First of the Few, but his real illness was rectal cancer. He had a colostomy in 1933.)

R. J. Mitchell’s meeting with Willy Messerschmitt during his visit in Germany during the late 1930s convinced him to design the Spitfire. (Mitchell had never visited Germany or met Willy Messerschmitt. Also, he had been already working on the Spitfire since 1931.)

R. J. Mitchell died as the first Spitfire prototype took to the skies. (He actually lived over 15 months after the first flight which was in 1936. Oh, and he actually saw his creation take to the skies. Mitchell would die in 1937.)

Douglas Bader:

In 1930, Douglas Bader attempted doing low-level aerobatics when he was goaded into a disparaging remark to do just that. (He actually attempted to do this on a dare. But like in Reach for the Sky, he ended up crashing which resulted in having both of his legs amputated.)


People at rich estates were especially prone to getting murdered at social gatherings during this time. (A lot of murder mysteries tend to take place in 1930s Great Britain, don’t ask. Not to mention, 1930s Great Britain is a typical setting for most movies based on Agatha Christie novels.)

Dora Carrington successfully committed suicide shortly after Lytton Strachey died in 1932. (She did shoot herself but she did it 2 months after Strachey’s death. She died half a day later after being found by a gardener.)

Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were always called by their respective names when they were home with their parents. (They were always called by “Lilibet” and “Margo” respectively when they were at home with their parents. Still, Princesses Elizabeth and Margaret were undeniably 13 and 9 respectively in 1939, they don’t seem to age a day over the course of The King’s Speech. Guess Hooper didn’t want to hire more child actresses in order to save money.)

Winston Churchill, Bishop Cosmo Lang, and Neville Chamberlain turned up to Buckingham Palace to witness King George VI’s war broadcast in September of 1939. (They had better things to do. Also, a large crowd didn’t gather outside Buckingham Palace that day to congratulate George VI on overcoming his stammer.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 61 – Depression Era Outlaws


I couldn’t have a post dedicated to Depression Era outlaws in the movies without using a picture from the 1967 Bonnie and Clyde. Sure this is a very entertaining movie with all the violence and sex any box office smash could ask for starring the sexy Warren Beatty and the sultry Faye Dunaway who have great chemistry. However, remember that this movie doesn’t tell the real story of Bonnie and Clyde who were no more than a couple of ruthless thugs that didn’t rob from the rich to give to the poor. Nor were they that stylish and good looking either.

You’d think that the repeal to Prohibition would lead to less crime now that alcohol was legal again. However, since this was the time of the Great Depression, you’d be dead wrong. Thanks to the Great Depression and the fact that people back then didn’t have the modern conveniences we have now, 1930s America had a new generation of outlaw legends whose exploits were read in the papers or heard on the radio. Sure they weren’t nice people but many of these outlaws seemed to emanate a sense of romanticism during difficult times. People didn’t mind that they robbed banks, killed people, or held people hostage because their adventures provided some sort of escape from the normal hard life of the general population since these guys didn’t let the law stop them. Didn’t hurt that they dressed well, too. Still, many of these Depression outlaws had celebrity status such as John Dillinger, Pretty Boy Floyd, Machine Gun Kelly, Bonnie and Clyde, and the Barker gang. And, yes, the 1930s is a rather popular setting for gangster films as well as movies dealing with crime. Nevertheless, there are some liberties Hollywood tends to take with the facts on many of them which I shall list accordingly.

Outlaws and Gangsters:

Henry Young:

Henry Young was convicted of stealing $5 to save his sister from destitution. (This is from a film called Murder in the First Degree that stars Kevin Bacon which seems so sweet but it’s bullshit. The real Henry Young was a hardened bank robber who had taken a hostage at least on one occasion and committed a murder in 1933. In the 1930s, he had been incarcerated in at least 2 state prisons before landing in Alcatraz. Also, he killed Rufus McCain a year after his return in the general prison population, was only in solitary confinement for a few months {not 3 years and certainly not kept in a dungeon}, and didn’t die at Alcatraz in the early 1940s. In fact, he left Alcatraz in 1948 for the US Medical Center for Federal Prisoners and was transferred to the Washington State Penitentiary in 1954. In 1972, he’d be released, jump parole, and disappear. His whereabouts and fate remain unknown to this day.)

Machine Gun Kelly:

Machine Gun Kelly’s girlfriend was Flo Becker. (Her name as Kathryn Thorne and she was his wife.)

Bonnie and Clyde:

Bonnie Parker pressured Clyde Barrow into robbing banks along with pulling big time heists and the two had sympathy for the dispossessed. (Clyde was already a confirmed criminal who had spent time in jail and killed a man by the time he met Bonnie, who also had a husband in prison {who was an abusive drunk no less}. Clyde more or less wore the pants in the relationship and they may not have been as much in love with each other as the movie implies. Also, neither displayed any sympathies or motives for the unfortunate. Not to mention, Clyde was a careless and remorseless killer in pursuit of small stakes, hardly a sympathetic figure at all. He also had a series of love affairs before he met Bonnie and his strongest commitments to women were to his mother and older sister. Bonnie was more of a criminal groupie more than anything and was depicted as a cigar smoking moll. Besides, they didn’t look anything like Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway and certainly wouldn’t be dressing in those kind of clothes {which resemble designer outfits than anything either of them would actually wear}. Actually their real life counterparts more or less resemble a couple of hicks though Clyde’s brother and sister-in-law were much better looking than Gene Hackman and Estelle Parsons who play them in the film {with the real Blanche Barrow saying about Bonnie and Clyde, “That movie made me look like a screaming horse’s ass.”}. The story of Kathryn Thorne and George Kelly Barnes might have been a better tale to film as a kind of relationship where a woman led a man astray and inflated his criminal ambitions. And as a Robin Hood figure who conducted big time heists and tried to avoid killing, John Dillinger.)

Bonnie Parker smoked cigars. (She didn’t despite the photo. She and Clyde smoked cigarettes. She did drink whiskey though.)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow broke the bonds of convention and became a threat to the status quo who didn’t fear cops and lived a life of glamorous luxury outrunning them. (Bonnie and Clyde were sometimes incompetent and often careless crooks who lived a hard life punctuated by narrow escapes, bungled robberies, injury, and murder. Oh, and they became one of the first outlaw media stars when police found photos of them fooling around with guns.)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow robbed rich people and banks to give to the poor. (Most of their victims were small town store owners and farmers’ savings banks. During the Depression, they basically robbed from ordinary hard working Americans to give to themselves. What a couple of heroes, yeah right.)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow often robbed banks together. (Actually they robbed less than 15 banks during their life of crime, some more than once. Also, they usually got away with very little like $80 in one incident, but. In the more successful robberies, Clyde mostly committed them with a criminal associate named Raymond Hamilton. Bonnie would sometimes drive the getaway car but she’d usually stay a hideout while the rest of the gang robbed the bank. Not to mention, unlike in the 1967 film, Bonnie and Clyde would rarely attempt bank jobs on their own and more commonly robbed grocery stores and gas stations that usually had a low take that they had to commit more robberies just to get by. The frequency of these crimes made the couple easier to track.)

Bonnie Parker fired a gun many times during her crime spree with Clyde Barrow. (There’s been controversy over the shooting of Bonnie who may never have fired a gun and seemed not to have been charged with any capital offense.)

The exploits of Bonnie and Clyde were part of one daring crime spree. (Actually Clyde and Bonnie were imprisoned for stints during their career together. Also, the movie about them leaves out a near-fatal car accident that left Bonnie so badly burned down one leg that she was left permanently disabled as well as the fact they made frequent visits to their families.)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were two criminals in love. (Like I said, Bonnie was kind of a criminal groupie who may have had a mental disorder that made her attracted to seriously violent men. This is a sexual fetish called hybristophilia, or “Bonnie and Clyde Syndrome,” which you see with a lot of women who are attracted to convicted murderers or death row inmates with the most famous example being Carol Anne Boone marrying serial killer, Ted Bundy. So the entire romance between Bonnie and Clyde may have had less to do with love and more to do with her disturbing paraphilia. Not only that, while Bonnie was killed at 23, she had been married to another man for seven years and she was wearing her wedding ring when she died.)

Bonnie and Clyde were hunted down by Frank Hamer who was a bounty hunter. (Hamer was actually hired by the Texas prison system administrator to hunt down Bonnie and Clyde but not as a bounty hunter. He was actually an ex-Texas Ranger called out of retirement. Also, unlike in Bonnie and Clyde, he wasn’t an idiot and had never personally interacted with them before the 1934 shoot-out. Thus, he wouldn’t be kidnapped and embarrassed by the Barrow gang. Still, Hamer’s surviving family were so outraged at the man’s depiction that they filed a defamation lawsuit against Warner Brothers which the movie studio settled out of court.)

Bonnie and Clyde were the crime media darlings of their day. (They were around the same time as John Dillinger who the public actually had more sympathy for. Still, when Bonnie and Clyde came out, newspaper columnist Mike Royko printed a number of angry letters from many of the Barrow Gang’s real-life victims. One said: “They got my father. They did him with machine guns. He lived for three days.” Besides, while Dillinger dominated headlines in the United States, Bonnie and Clyde rarely received any newspaper attention outside the Dallas area.)

The Barrow gang sent photos and poetry to the press. (The photos and poetry were found by police who sent them for publication. They took the photos for their own amusement.)

Clyde Barrow died outside the car while Bonnie Parker died in. (Clyde died in the car with Bonnie.)

Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow met when Clyde was at Bonnie’s trying to steal her mother’s car. (According to Bonnie’s mother the two met over a mug of hot chocolate at a friend’s house not during a stick-up. Also, they didn’t go on their crime spree until two years into their relationship. Oh, and Bonnie was unemployed at the time.)

Clyde Barrow was impotent. (He wasn’t. His impotence was invented for the film. Still, he did kill a guy in prison for sexually abusing him though.)

Dillinger and Associates:

Dillinger’s gang was responsible for killing a lot of people. (They were responsible for the deaths of a dozen people. Public Enemies just takes it to the nth power.)

Little Bohemia served as a hideout for the Dillinger gang after a disastrous robbery at Sioux Falls. (Actually this wasn’t the case as depicted in Public Enemies since a lot happened between Sioux Falls and Little Bohemia. The film skips over events like the bank robbery in Mason City, Iowa on March 13, 1934, Dillinger, Billie, and Van Meter’s narrow escape from police in St. Paul on April 1st, and a visit to Red Hamilton’s sister Anna Steve a few days before Little Bohemia.)

The Dillinger Gang expected more than what they got during the Sioux Falls robbery. (Though the gang managed to get $46,000 in the Sioux Falls robbery, unlike in Public Enemies, they expected to net at least six figures at the First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa not Sioux Falls. They knew that there was about $250,000 in the bank’s vault but only netted 1/5th of the money because Red Hamilton got stalled by an intelligent bank manager.)

John Dillinger:

John Dillinger died after Pretty Boy Floyd, Homer Van Meter, and Baby Face Nelson. (He actually got killed before all of them. Dillinger was killed in Chicago on July 22, 1934 while Van Meter was shot to death that August by police in St. Paul. Floyd was gunned down in East Liverpool, Ohio on October 22, 1934 and Baby Face Nelson died in a shootout on November 27, 1934 in Barrington, Illinois. And, no, Melvin Purvis didn’t gun down all of them unlike in Public Enemies save maybe Pretty Boy Floyd.)

John Dillinger said, “Why? I have absolutely nothing I want to do in Indiana.” (He would never say this because he would never have dismissed his home state.)

John Dillinger took 3 people prisoner with a wooden gun during a prison escape. (He took 17 possibly 20. Still, while legend says that he used a gun made out of soap and shoe polish, Dillinger always claimed to have used a wooden gun and there are photos to prove it.)

John Dillinger was present at the Indiana State Prison break that took place on September 26, 1933. (He was imprisoned in Lima, Ohio at the time though he did smuggle guns in the place for his associates while robbing banks during that June but we’re not sure how. Nevertheless, the breakout didn’t happen like in Public Enemies as TTI quotes: “According to Bryan Borrough’s book, the escapees took the guards hostage with the guns, then paraded them into the administration building, while fooling the tower guards into thinking that the prisoners were just being escorted by the day captain. Four of them escaped by taking a visiting sheriff hostage in his car, while Pete Pierpont and his group stole a car from a gas station across the street. Only a clerk was injured, shot in the leg. There was none of the mass bloodshed shown in the movie.” As to John “Red” Hamilton, he was there but he was one of the inmates who escaped {as well as the only one to get recaptured before his death in April of 1934} not just outside the prison helping Dillinger with the breakout. Still, except to Indiana Police Officer Matt Leach, Dillinger was relatively unknown before the mass breakout and was first presumably known to many after he broke out of jail in Lima.)

John Dillinger shot down three people consisting of two detectives during the Racine robbery and a police officer during the Sioux Falls robbery. (Dillinger killed nobody during these robberies. In fact, the only person he’s believed to have actually shot and killed was police officer William O’Malley when Dillinger and Red Hamilton held up the First National Bank in East Chicago, Illinois {allegedly when Dillinger lost his temper}. It was this officer’s murder that Dillinger was standing trial for in Indiana.)

John Dillinger was Public Enemy #1 in 1933. (He didn’t become Public Enemy #1 until his 31st birthday on June 22, 1934.)

John Dillinger was shot in the shoulder during the Sioux Falls robbery. (He was shot a week after that during the robbery of the First National Bank in Mason City, Iowa.)

John Dillinger had a brief conversation with Melvin Purvis during the former’s incarceration. (They may have come close to seeing each other shortly before Dillinger died but they didn’t exchange words. However, Dillinger had multiple in-prison encounters with his original pursuer Indiana State Police detective Matt Leach, who was actually more competent than the FBI in pursuing him.)

John Dillinger died within seconds after being shot by Winstead. (He lived a few minutes before taking his last breath. However, he didn’t say “Bye, bye, blackbird” though.)

John Dillinger was a ruthless gangster that regularly killed innocent people. (He’s only said to have killed one police officer during his entire life and it’s questionable whether he actually did it. Still, he was a blue collar crook who planned his bank robberies around not killing people. He robbed for the money, the thrill, and as revenge against a corrupt system he felt betrayed the common man like himself. He despised cold-blooded killers and Baby Face Nelson because he knew he was a criminal and that the people after him were just doing their jobs. He hated being forced to work with Baby Face Nelson and never even bothered trying to hide it. He even threatened to kill Nelson if he shot anyone needlessly despite that Nelson helped Dillinger escape from Crown Point Prison. The resentment was mutual since Nelson hated how Dillinger got all the attention and how the press was drooling over him with all his sightings making the front page. Those who were killed during his robberies were usually shot either by Baby Face Nelson or Homer Van Meter. Nevertheless, many movies portray Dillinger as a remorseless killer with Public Enemies being no exception.)

John Dillinger’s pocket watch had Billie Frechette’s photo inside. (The photo inside was Polly Hamilton’s not Billie’s.)

John Dillinger drove away from the Crown Point jail in Sheriff Holley’s Ford V8. (Deputy Sheriff Ernest Blunk was the actual driver in the escape and Dillinger didn’t get behind the wheel until after Blunk and Saager were set free outside of Peotone, Illinois.)

John Dillinger was recommended Louis Piquett by Alvin Carpis during his incarceration at Crown Point Prison. (It was prison trusty Sam Cahoon who recommended Piquett, which was arranged by the East Chicago mob.)

John Dillinger was shot from behind outside Chicago’s Biograph Theater while strolling with two women. (He actually pulled a gun and tried to get away after he noticed Melvin Purvis standing aside. The agents opened fire and Dillinger was shot three times with bystanders being injured by bullets and debris. Yet, Public Enemies shows him dying without putting a fight though he was accompanied by Polly Hamilton and Anna Sage {who tipped off the authorities}.)

John Dillinger and Anna Sage were friends before she informed on him. (They were not nor did they know each other long before she tipped the authorities on him, and she mainly did it because she was threatened with deportation. She was just Polly Hamilton’s madam and Dillinger knew her after Little Bohemia.)

John Dillinger walked into police headquarters during his own investigation. (No, but he actually walked into another police station and this was after he received plastic surgery which he thought would make him unrecognizable in public. He just didn’t count on his plastic surgeon reaching out to the FBI.)

John Dillinger didn’t alter his appearance in the final months before his death. (He actually had plastic surgery a month and a half before his death including a fingerprint removal/alteration that his family didn’t recognize him when they saw his corpse. Yet, they managed to identify him because he had a scar on his thigh which he received from a barbed wire fence during a watermelon raid years prior. And no, he didn’t look like Johnny Depp. Still, all movies about him don’t have Dillinger alter his appearance for practical reasons. Yet, playwright Joseph Kesselring would take Dillinger’s plastic surgery bit and run with it in Arsenic and Old Lace. Oh, and like Jonathan Brewster, Dillinger had an alcoholic doctor, too {who was an inspiration for Dr. Einstein in the play}.)

John Dillinger was betrayed since he was making too many waves. (Dillinger had a $15,000 reward on him which would’ve been an irresistible sum to anyone during the Depression. Also, Anna Sage was being threatened with deportation while his plastic surgeon was reaching out to the FBI. Also, Dillinger was getting careless since his plastic surgery that he started appearing in public venues thinking that his altered looks would keep him safe. It was only a matter of time.)

John Dillinger was in rigorous health when he died. (Actually he had a heart condition according to a 1938 book by a physician from the Indiana State Prison.)

John Dillinger saw himself in the PSAs when he was at the movies. (There’s no proof he did but it’s possible.)

Billie Frechette:

Billie Frechette was arrested after the shootout at the Little Bohemia Lodge. (She was arrested before that. Her arrest was partly why Dillinger and his gang went to Little Bohemia so Dillinger could take his mind off his girlfriend. Also, Dillinger was in the same car during Billie’s arrest yet Purvis didn’t take notice until after it drove away.)

Billie Frechette was John Dillinger’s true love. (Yes, he loved her but he had many girlfriends. Still, when Billie got arrested, Dillinger was so distraught that the rest of the gang {even Nelson} had to discourage him from attempting to rescue her. Nevertheless, he moved on to Polly Hamilton two months later.)

Billie Frechette was a sweet and fragile innocent. (Actually she had worked in nudie nightclubs for awhile and had developed an affinity for the wrong kind of men. Oh, and she and Dillinger were only together for six months.)

Billie Frechette was slapped around during her interrogation. (The FBI treated her badly like handcuffing to a chair under bright lights as well as interrogating her relentlessly for 24 hours straight, when she begged to be allowed to sleep. Yet, there seemed to be no slapping but it was enough for Purvis’ secretary to say something about it.)

Anna Sage:

Anna Sage wore red on the day John Dillinger was killed. (She wore orange, not red. Yet, she’s known as “the Woman in Red.” Oh, and she contacted the Chicago police on Dillinger’s whereabouts not the FBI.)

Homer van Meter:

Homer van Meter was shot dead 20 or more times at Little Bohemia by FBI agents. (Contrary to Public Enemies, was killed after Dillinger and managed to escape from Little Bohemia. He was killed by the St. Paul Police Department who shot him 52 times with some of his fingers shot off as well. His death was a lot uglier than portrayed in the film.)

Homer van Meter escaped from Michigan City Prison during the September 26, 1933 breakout. (He had been paroled by that time.)

John “Red” Hamilton:

John “Red” Hamilton had all his digits. (One of his nicknames was “Three Finger Jack” by the authorities because he was missing two fingers from his right hand and would later lose a third during the East Chicago bank job. Still, Public Enemies probably didn’t have the budget to do CGI on the guys hand.)

Red Hamilton was killed at Little Bohemia. (He died from a wound he received during a shootout at a roadblock during the escape from Little Bohemia.)

Pretty Boy Floyd:

Pretty Boy Floyd was shot near an apple orchard. (He was shot in an open field outside a farm house and by a sniper at great distance. Still, he’s alleged to have died unarmed though I highly doubt it. Nevertheless, his funeral was attended by about 20,000 to 40,000 people, the largest in Oklahoma history.)

Pretty Boy Floyd started out as a boxer who fought under his nickname. (This is in a biopic about him but it’s not true. Floyd never had a career as a professional boxer and actually received his nickname from a robbery. It was a nickname he despised.)

Pretty Boy Floyd’s last words were “You have killed me, you can rot in hell.” (Actually it’s said his last words were, “Fuck you. I’m through. You have got me twice.”)

Baby Face Nelson:

Baby Face Nelson was executed by the electric chair 1937. (Contrary to O Brother, Where Art Thou?, he died in a 1934 shootout so his death in the electric chair didn’t happen and he never stepped foot in Mississippi. His death in Barrington, Illinois happened like something you’d see in a Quentin Tarantino movie according to TTI: “In his real shootout on November 27, 1934 in Barrington, Illinois against Agents Samuel P. Cowley and Herman Hollis (both of whom were mortally wounded), Nelson refused to fall despite having been struck a total of seventeen times (Hollis shot him ten times in his legs with a shotgun, and Cowley shot him seven times with a submachine gun). This is attributed to adrenaline surging through his body – which kept Nelson alive for approximately three hours before he succumbed to his wounds. And the bullets that felled Cowley and Hollis were fired after Nelson had been really shot up.” Man, why isn’t this scene in Public Enemies?)

Baby Face Nelson and Tommy Carroll escaped from the Sherone Apartments building when police tried to arrest them. (A bungled up attempt to arrest a criminal did happen at this building but the guy was Verne Miller, who was wanted for the Kansas City Massacre in June 1933. Yet, the Dillinger gang did have a shooting in an apartment building but it was at the Lincoln Court Apartments in St. Paul, Minnesota, which involved Dillinger, Billie Frechette, and Homer van Meter. Basically it consisted of Dillinger and Billie getting away while van Meter fired at the agents.)

Baby Face Nelson and several others were killed when FBI agents raided Dillinger’s hideout. (Though this is Nelson’s death scene in Public Enemies, in reality, it was his most famous escape with every single criminal getting away unharmed. The only casualties were a civilian killed by FBI agents and an Fed killed by Baby Face Nelson himself. Nelson also shot another agent and a police officer there, too. Only three of the gang’s women were taken into custody that consisted of Nelson and Tommy Carroll’s wives and Homer van Meter’s girlfriend. So like Public Enemies the raid at Little Bohemia was a disaster, but for the FBI.)

During the Sioux Falls Robbery, a boy jumped on Baby Face Nelson’s back and struggled with him a few moments before Nelson threw him off shattering a window. (This incident did happen to Nelson but this was during a robbery Merchants National Bank in South Bend, Indiana on June 30, 1934.)

Baby Face Nelson’s real name was George Nelson. (Actually George Nelson was a pseudonym and he hated his nickname “Baby Face Nelson.” His real name was Lester Joseph Gillis. Still, he was a homicidal maniac known for killing more FBI agents in the line of duty than any other person.)

Law Enforcement:

The FBI used enhanced interrogation techniques on Dillinger gang members called the “third degree.” (Though it’s shown in Public Enemies, it’s very unlikely enhanced interrogation techniques were used on Dillinger gang members, though it’s alleged to have happened to other prisoners. Still, agents who tried using physical torture got very little information for the pain they inflicted on prisoners. The senior men got agents who attempted this back in line. Nevertheless, they more likely had these people in the room for hours to wear them down like most law enforcement do but no one wants to see that. Also, when Dillinger heard rumors about an interrogator had done something like this to Billie Frechette, it’s said Dillinger considered assassinating the guy.)

The failure at Little Bohemia was due to poor FBI judgment. (It was also due to J. Edgar Hoover wanting all the credit and glory for his own organization and made it a policy to cooperate as little as possible with other law enforcement agencies. One of the reasons why Purvis didn’t rely on local authorities when he should’ve was because he was worried about what his boss may think. Still, in Little Bohemia, Purvis was basically screwed either way.)

Melvin Purvis:

Melvin Purvis and the FBI were after John Dillinger from the very beginning. (Contrary to Public Enemies, the early hunt for John Dillinger was actually primarily led by the Indiana State Police. In that period, the most the FBI did to get involved in the Dillinger manhunt was attending a number of conferences and offering to help in fingerprinting. After the death of Sheriff Sarber, J. Edgar Hoover actually ignored pleas from then Indiana Governor Paul McNutt for the FBI’s help until Dillinger drove a stolen car over state lines during his escape at Crown Point Prison {because before then, Dillinger hadn’t committed a federal crime}. As for Purvis, he had been SAC of the Chicago field office for several months when Dillinger first began robbing banks.)

Melvin Purvis was assigned to lead the hunt for John Dillinger. (He was the head of the FBI’s Chicago office but the person leading the Dillinger investigation in the final months before Dillinger’s death was fellow agent Samuel P. Cowley. Hoover actually thought Purvis to be quite inept {though he might’ve just said that out of jealousy of Purvis getting all the media attention}.)

Melvin Purvis shot himself with the gun he killed John Dillinger with. (The gun he shot himself with in 1961 was given to him by his colleagues as a retirement gift when he left the FBI in 1935. Dillinger was gunned down in 1934, and not by Purvis. Also, guns make terrible retirement gifts, really.)

The death of Pretty Boy Floyd helped Melvin Purvis land the Dillinger case. (Actually Floyd’s death happened after Dillinger was killed though Purvis was there, but he and his agents had help. It had more to do with Dillinger’s escape from Crown Point prison in which Dillinger drove a stolen sheriff’s car between the Indiana and Illinois state border.)

Melvin Purvis was an experienced FBI agent who was dragged down by well-meaning but raw agents. (He was just as inexperienced as his co-workers. According to Brian Burroughs, “He once “forgot” to arrest George “Machine Gun” Kelly, despite iron-clad intelligence from other FBI agents of a meeting Kelly had planned at a Chicago tavern. And under his leadership, the Dillinger manhunt became a comedy of errors. For months, Purvis inexplicably neglected to order a watch kept on the homes of Dillinger’s family and associates, allowing the outlaw to hide out in ease. Purvis ordered raids on the wrong houses, and arrests of the wrong people. And he and his men lost Dillinger’s trail countless times.  They were finally able to corner him only because an informant, Anna Sage (the fabled ‘woman in red;’ though she actually wore orange, as the film shows’) contacted the Chicago police with information on Dillinger’s whereabouts.” Also, he never threatened to resign unless J. Edgar Hoover obtained experienced law enforcement officials skilled with guns and he wasn’t a fearless man of action.)

J. Edgar Hoover:

J. Edgar Hoover and Agent Melvin Purvis killed John Dillinger. (Dillinger was gunned down by agents Charles Hurt, Charles Winstead, and Herman Hollis. Most historical accounts usually name Winstead as the guy who delivered the fatal shot to the back of Dillinger’s head. J. Edgar Hoover even sent Winstead a letter of commendation for it.)

J. Edgar Hoover was a cross-dressing homosexual momma’s boy. (Well, he and Clyde Tolson were very good friends who spent a lot of time together and were buried side by side. Tolson also inherited the bulk of Hoover’s estate when he died. Still, whether to say Hoover and Tolson were lovers is anyone’s guess {though there were rumors}. However, as to whether he was a cross dresser, we’re pretty sure that this is a myth, though many wish it was true. As for his mother, he actually spied on her. Still, the fact he lived with his mother until her death wasn’t unusual for Hoover’s generation. He was, however, a Freemason and a highly commended one at that.)

The Lindbergh Kidnapping:

The notion of the crime laboratory in the FBI originated with the kidnapping of the Lindbergh baby. (The crime lab had been around much earlier according to the FBI’s website. Also, it was actually the New Jersey police headed by Superintendent Norman Schwartzkopf Sr. {father and namesake of the future commander of Desert Storm} that did the work on the Lindbergh kidnapping, including the forensics that led to the mill where the kidnapper was employed. The Treasury Department was also involved with cracking the case with Frank J. Wilson able to incriminate Bruno Hauptmann through the serial numbers on the money that was found at his place.)

The Lindbergh baby kidnapping was a watershed moment in J. Edgar Hoover’s career. (The Lindbergh case actually merits a little more than a couple of pages in any Hoover biography. He wasn’t at the center of the investigation or the subsequent trial.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 60 – The Great Depression


Though more of a contemporary movie than a historical one, nevertheless, John Ford’s 1940 adaptation of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath has become the definitive film about the Great Depression. It’s also famous for making Henry Fonda a star in his iconic role as ex-convict Tom Joad. It’s a saga about the Joad family who are forced off their farm in Oklahoma and become migrant workers in California. The Joads’ bleak economic condition and displacement leads to the disintegration of their family as well as puts them in worse shape than ever before. Yet, this movie demonstrates the strength of the idea of community in the face of hard times held by women like Ma Joad who endure just about any obstacle that might hit them.

Unfortunately the bad economic practices of the 1920s soon caught up with everyone that by the 1930s much of the world was engulfed in the greatest economic crisis in history. It began with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 with its effects lasting for over a decade. Banks failed, businesses closed, jobs were lost, homes were foreclosed, fortunes were lost overnight, and so on. Millions of people had lost everything and struggled to make enough to survive. In Europe, while the Depression wasn’t as bad as it may seem in the United States, but some countries were dominated by totalitarianism like Nazi Germany and many of these ruthless dictators had a following of fans outside their borders. And later in the decade, Europe would become engulfed in power struggles that would eventually lead to all out violence in conflicts like the Spanish Civil War as well as World War II. This isn’t seen as a happy time in movies and no wonder yet sometimes films seem rather optimistic of what was going to happen compared to what was yet to come.

In the United States, the Great Depression is a period known for its widespread poverty, mass unemployment, folk singing hobos, and the Dust Bowl. During this time, a third of the nation went to bed hungry. Radical politics was common place with an intensity and popularity perhaps unprecedented in American history. Yet, this is also the decade of the New Deal which was instituted by Franklin Delano Roosevelt with programs like Social Security, public works projects, banking reforms, labor relations, labor standards, and others. While it’s still debated whether the New Deal programs had any effect in the positive sense, what can’t be denied is that many of these programs are still around which have been credited for preventing another horrible economic catastrophe from happening since and for overseeing a relatively stable economy most of the time. But in the 1930s, you also have the beginnings of the Golden Age of Hollywood with musicals, screwball comedies, gangster films, and other masterpieces. Still, while movies set in this time get some things about the Great Depression right, there are plenty they get wrong, which I shall list.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt:

FDR had no qualms for appearing in a wheelchair as president. (Though the image of FDR in a wheelchair is well-known today, FDR went through great lengths to hide his polio-induced disability since he thought that being seen like this would ruin his credibility. Many people had no idea he spent a lot of time in a wheelchair until close to his death. Still, there are a few photographs that exist of him in one.)

FDR said, “So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” in 1932. (He said this in his first inaugural address which was in 1933. Of course, Scout was only six at the time and probably got things mixed up.)


Trainer James “Sunny” Fitzsimmons had an Irish brogue. (He had Irish ancestry but he was born in Brooklyn.)

Bobby Jones and Walter Hagen were fictional characters. (Unlike what The Legend of Bagger Vance tells you, these two guys were legendary golfers as well as real people.)

Babe Ruth left the Yankees in 1935. (He left the Yankees for the Boston Braves in 1934.)

Red Pollard:

Red Pollard’s mother’s name was Agnes. (Her name was Edith. His wife’s name was Agnes.)

Red Pollard was single during his final days with Seabiscuit. (Actually, he had a wife named Agnes who was his nurse when he injured his leg and they were married at Charles Howard’s ranch and had a daughter in 1940 as well as a son several years later. Also, she was the one who gave him the Saint Christopher medal. Still, she’s absent from Seabiscuit.)

Red Pollard was born in the United States and his family fell on hard times during the Great Depression. (Contrary to Seabiscuit, he was born in Edmonton, which is in Canada. Also, his family lost their brick factory business because of a flood and the insurance didn’t cover enough of the damages in 1915. Thus, Pollard went to the United States with a friend of a family who abandoned him at a race track in Montana in 1922.)


Seabiscuit started dead last in the race during his 1940 Santa Anita Handicap win. (Charts show that Seabiscuit was running no worse than fourth at any point during the race.)

Seabiscuit was shorter than War Admiral. (They were both about the same height, with some sources saying that Seabiscuit was the heavier of the two. Also, they were of similar breeding and descended from Man O’War. In fact, War Admiral was technically Seabiscuit’s uncle.)

Jim Braddock:

Jim Braddock’s wife begged him not to fight Max Baer. (Contrary to Cinderella Man, she was thrilled to see him fight Baer since he’d get substantial money out of the fight regardless of outcome, yet she did worry about him and didn’t watch his fights in person since 1930s boxing was a brutal sport.)

Max Baer:

Boxer Max Baer was a brutal thug who boasted about killing two of his opponents in the ring. (He only killed one of his opponents in the ring and the incident haunted him for the rest of his life. He also regularly gave money to the man’s widow and paid for his children’s education. As for the other guy who died weeks after facing Baer, well, he already had meningitis and the flu and even his family said that Baer had nothing to do with his death. Still, Baer was remembered for his lighthearted personality and was celebrated as an American hero for his defeat of Nazi Germany’s champion Max Schmeling while wearing a Star of David on his trunks. Not to mention, he had a son who’d play Jethro in The Beverly Hillbillies. His family was not happy with his depiction in Cinderella Man.)

Lou Gehrig:

Lou Gehrig’s 1939 retirement speech at Yankee Stadium went like this:

“I have been walking onto ball fields for sixteen years, and I’ve never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans. I have had the great honor to have played with these great veteran ballplayers on my left – Murderers’ Row, our championship team of 1927. I have had the further honor of living with and playing with these men on my right – the Bronx Bombers, the Yankees of today.

“I have been given fame and undeserved praise by the boys up there behind the wire in the press box, my friends, the sportswriters. I have worked under the two greatest managers of all time, Miller Huggins and Joe McCarthy.

“I have a mother and father who fought to give me health and a solid background in my youth. I have a wife, a companion for life, who has shown me more courage than I ever knew.

“People all say that I’ve had a bad break. But today … today, I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth.” (This is his speech delivered by Gary Cooper in Pride of the Yankees. The actual speech went like this:

“Fans, for the past two weeks you have been reading about a bad break. Yet today I consider myself the luckiest man on the face of the Earth. I have been in ballparks for seventeen years and have never received anything but kindness and encouragement from you fans.

“Look at these grand men. Which of you wouldn’t consider it the highlight of his career just to associate with them for even one day? Sure, I’m lucky. Who wouldn’t consider it an honor to have known Jacob Ruppert? Also, the builder of baseball’s greatest empire, Ed Barrow? To have spent six years with that wonderful little fellow, Miller Huggins? Then to have spent the next nine years with that outstanding leader, that smart student of psychology, the best manager in baseball today, Joe McCarthy? Sure, I’m lucky.

“When the New York Giants, a team you would give your right arm to beat, and vice versa, sends you a gift – that’s something. When everybody down to the groundskeepers and those boys in white coats remember you with trophies — that’s something. When you have a wonderful mother-in-law who takes sides with you in squabbles with her own daughter — that’s something. When you have a father and a mother who work all their lives so you can have an education and build your body — it’s a blessing. When you have a wife who has been a tower of strength and shown more courage than you dreamed existed – that’s the finest I know.

“So I close in saying that I might have been given a bad break, but I’ve got an awful lot to live for.”)

Lou Gehrig was given a very tragic diagnosis of ALS, dismal prognosis, and brief life expectancy from his doctors at the Scripps Institute. (He was diagnosed with ALS at the Mayo Clinic. Lou knew that his days were numbered and wrote to his wife about it but the Mayo Clinic doctors painted an unrealistically optimistic of Gehrig’s condition and prospects than what’s seen in Pride of the Yankees. Among other things Lou said he was given “a 50–50 chance of keeping me as I am” for the foreseeable future, and was told that he “…may need a cane in 10 or 15 years.” However, this would’ve been a realistic diagnosis if you were talking about Stephen Hawking who has had ALS since his college days and is still alive in his seventies {as of 2014}. Gehrig lived for about two years. Deliberate concealment of bad news to patients, especially when it concerned cancer or an incurable degenerative disease was common practice at the time. Still, because of Lou Gehrig’s unfortunately contracting ALS, this incurable degenerative illness is now known as Lou Gehrig’s Disease.)

Lou Gehrig won the American League Triple Crown on the same day as his wedding. (Lou married Eleanor in September of 1933 while he won the American League Triple Crown in the 1934 season.)

Lou Gehrig’s streak started when he first took first base. (Almost everyone believes this but according to records, his streak started the previous day as Gehrig pinch-hit for shortstop Pee Wee Wanninger. The GM put Gehrig to play first base the following day.)


Shirley Temple was famous in 1933. (She wouldn’t achieve fame until 1934.)

Camille came out in 1933. (It came out in 1936.)

Charlie Chaplin:

Charlie Chaplin was married to Paulette Goddard during the 1930s. (Well, they lived together but we’re not sure if they were technically married because there’s no record of them having done so.)

Jean Harlow:

Jean Harlow was married once. (She was married 3 times.)

Jean Harlow was a horrible sexy person. (Despite the 1965 Harlow movie and other adaptations, Harlow was said to be sweet and funny and was called “Baby” by her friends. Not to mention, she wasn’t as naïve as many movies said she was.)

Jean Harlow died of pneumonia in 1937. (She died of renal failure at 26 perhaps of uremic poisoning.)

Katharine Hepburn:

Katharine Hepburn dumped Howard Hughes for Spencer Tracy. (She and Hughes were done long before Hepburn ever met Tracy. Still, Katharine more or less dumped Howard Hughes because Hughes’ interest in Kate had more to do with her being a famous actress than her personality. Hughes liked the image of being a Hollywood playboy and was more obsessed with collecting women than loving them.)

Katharine Hepburn’s older brother committed suicide when she was a star. (Her brother killed himself when Katharine was a child.)

Cole Porter:

Cole Porter’s riding accident happened in his back yard on a stormy afternoon that sent the horse into a frenzy. Cole was thrown from his horse when lightning struck a tree branch and was soundly trampled. (Though the accident is depicted like this in Night and Day, it actually happened in 1938 on a clear day on a Long Island Estate of Countess Edith de Zoppola and the horse wasn’t his. In fact, attendants tried to discourage Cole from riding a skittish horse to begin with. It happened on the top of the hill when the horse shied at a clump of bushes and reared. Cole failed to kick the stirrups free and the horse crushed his legs. He’d later have several surgeries but would never regain the use of his legs.)

Monty Woolley heard about Cole Porter’s riding accident while making The Man Who Came to Dinner. Yet, he promised Cole not to tell Linda about it. (Monty would make The Man Who Came to Dinner in 1941 and Cole’s accident happened in 1938. Besides he probably knew about Cole’s accident in the papers like everyone else did and there was no way he could’ve kept the whole thing secret from Linda. As for Linda, she immediately rushed to Cole’s side from Europe demanding that no decision about the amputation be made until she got there. She would never leave Cole’s side again and did everything possible to aid his recovery like closing their house in Paris and shipping all her furniture to their California home though she hated the place.)

Billie Holiday:

Billie Holiday was arrested for using drugs in 1936. (Her drug arrest was in 1946 and she always claimed that she didn’t start using drugs until the 1940s. However, I’m pretty sure Billie said this because she wasn’t caught using drugs before then but it’s very likely she used drugs way before then. I mean she worked as a prostitute during her teens and drug usage wasn’t unusual at all among 1930s jazz performers. In fact, drugs like heroin, booze, and marijuana were part of that culture.)

Billie Holiday’s mother was a saint. (Sadie Harris wasn’t a saintly woman who basically left Billie in the care of others during the first 10 years of her life. Like Billie, Sadie was also a prostitute in Harlem and they were both arrested when Billie was 15.)

Billie Holiday recorded “Love Me or Leave Me” in 1934. (She recorded the song in 1941.)

Billie Holiday was inspired to sing “Strange Fruit” after she stumbled upon seeing a young black man get lynched by the KKK. (The song was based on a poem about lynching by a Jewish school teacher in the Bronx named Abel Meeropol {he’d later be the guy who adopted Julius and Ethel Rosenberg’s two sons} and had been previously played in teachers’ union meetings. Billie was introduced to the song by a Greenwich Village club owner but she almost didn’t perform it since she said it reminded her of her father’s death {who was a jazz musician named Clarence Holiday who was denied treatment for a fatal lung disorder because of racial prejudice}.)

Billie Holiday knew her husband Louis McKay during the beginnings of her singing career. (She probably didn’t know Mafia enforcer Louis McKay until later for she married him in 1952 and he was her third husband. Though Lady Sings the Blues was correct that McKay tried to get Billie off drugs, he was no less abusive than her other two husbands as well as an opportunist who eventually left her. Billie certainly would’ve divorced him had she not died in 1959 from liver cirrhosis. In the biopic with Diana Ross, he’s played by Lando Calrisian. However, McKay wasn’t the only man in Billie’s life as a jazz singer but her life was the opposite of a happy Hollywood story.)

Woody Guthrie:

Woody Guthrie’s singing partner at LA’s KFVD was Memphis Sue. (Unlike in the film Bound for Glory, her name was Maxine Crissman known as “Lefty Lou” because she shared Guthrie’s politics and was just as outspoken.)

Woody Guthrie was fired from KFVD in Los Angeles in 1939 because of his left wing politics. (Yes, and no. Unlike in Bound for Glory, Guthrie was never pressed to stop singing union-organizing songs because station owner Frank Burke was a populist New Dealer who agreed with him. The real reason that Guthrie was fired from KFVD was due to World War II when the Soviet Union signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany. Guthrie would start singing songs that mirrored the Communist Party line and denounced the war as capitalist fraud. He’d later change his mind once Germany invaded Stalingrad though.)

Glenn Miller:

Glenn Miller and his wife had adopted two children by 1938. (Their kids were adopted in 1943 and 1944 and it’s likely Glenn may have only saw his son once and never met his daughter. Also, unlike his Jimmy Stewart portrayal, he was only 40 when he died.)

“Tuxedo Junction” was recorded after the sequence was filmed. (Actually it was recorded before the dance sequence was filmed.)

Ray Charles:

Ray Charles did nothing to help his younger brother George from drowning in their mother’s washtub because he thought the boy was joking. (Actually contrary to Ray, according to his autobiography, Ray Charles said he tried to pull his brother out of the tub after realizing he was actually drowning but was unable to save him.)

Malcolm X:

Malcolm X’s father was a race leader willing to brave opposition to promote Marcus Garvey’s Universal Negro Improvement Association. (Yes, his dad was an activist as well as a Baptist lay preacher but the elder Little is somewhat idealized in the Spike Lee film Malcolm X. The real Malcolm X remembered him as an abusive husband and father though Spike Lee was right that he was most probably murdered {despite police saying Earl Little’s death was an accident and the life insurance company saying it was a suicide}. Still, after his father’s death, his family fell apart.)

Howard Hughes:

Howard Hughes reshot Hell’s Angels for sound. (He just reshot the dialogue sequences only, tweaked the plot, and replaced Greta Nissen with Jean Harlow.)

Howard Hughes was a self-made man. (While this is implied The Aviator, we have to accept that if Howard Hughes didn’t have wealthy parents who died when he was a teenager, he wouldn’t be the guy we know today.)

Howard Hughes referred to Katharine Hepburn as “country mouse” while Hepburn called him “city mouse.” (It’s actually the other way around according to telegrams since Hughes lived in suburban Los Angeles and Hepburn was a regular in New York.)

Howard Hughes was left handed. (According to photos he was right handed.)

Howard Hughes’ first film Hell’s Angels was the most expensive film ever made at that time. (Actually the 1925 Ben Hur: A Tale of Christ was but Hell’s Angels wasn’t far behind.)

Howard Hughes’ germ phobia originated with his mother. (Somewhat since his mother did get hysterical about germs and coddled her only child excessively. Yet, Howard Hughes’ aversion to shaking hands wasn’t since that probably began when he contracted syphilis {this isn’t shown in The Aviator}, which revealed itself in the form of tiny blisters forming on his hands. After receiving medical treatment, Hughes’ doctor recommended him not to shake hands for a while. Hughes would follow that for the rest of his life. Oh, and unlike what The Aviator implies, Hughes liked African Americans as much as he liked germs.)

Most of Howard Hughes business deals were spur of the moment decisions. (Actually, they were complex business deals that were arranged well in advance.)

Howard Hughes burned all his clothes as a response for Katharine Hepburn dumping him. (Go ahead, Martin Scorsese, blame the women in his life for making Howard Hughes do crazy things. However, the real Howard Hughes didn’t burn all his clothes just because Katharine Hepburn dumped him. The clothes burning had more to do with Hughes’ overreacting to his syphilis diagnosis by ordering every piece of clothing and bed linen in his home destroyed.)

Amelia Earhart:

Amelia Earhart was an annoying brat. (She was said to be charming and rather soft-spoken.)

The romance between Amelia Earhart and George Putnam didn’t attract scandal. (Actually it did because he was married with a kid when they hooked up.)

George Putnam was old enough to be Amelia Earhart’s father. (He was actually only 10 years older than her, but Richard Gere is 25 years older than Hillary Swank which makes it kind of look creepy in Amelia. Still, when it comes to sexual chemistry, let’s say you’re better off reading about the real thing.)

Amelia Earhart had an affair with Gene Vidal. (They knew each other but it’s highly unlikely they had an affair. By the way, Gene Vidal was Gore Vidal’s dad.)


Prohibition was repealed early in 1933. (It was repealed in December of that year.)

Hopping onto moving trains was perfectly safe. (No, it’s not.)

Members of the Klu Klux Klan were ardently racist. (Many of them, absolutely. However, there were people like Hugo Black who mainly joined the KKK just to get into politics because he was from Alabama and thought that he needed to do so to enhance his political career. However, he admitted that joining was a mistake. Still, between the world wars, the Klan was a powerful organization in this period. And the Second KKK was more of a nationwide organization with Indiana being the most dominated Klan state in the 1920s.)

The stock market crash was the direct cause of The Great Depression. (What caused the Great Depression wasn’t just the 1929 Stock Market Crash but also other shady business practices like an unregulated finance system, lack of economic transparency, too many people making bad stock investments like buying on margin, living beyond means, and others that had culminated in over a decade. Also, the Great Crash was part of a string of worsening economic conditions.)

Swing music was around in 1933. (Actually the earliest swing music wouldn’t be recorded until late in 1935.)

It wasn’t unusual in the South to have mixed black and white prisoners in the prison population and in the chain gang. (This wouldn’t have happened in the 1930s but we see integrated prisons and chain gangs in a lot of films, including those made in the 1930s like in I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang.)

In 1935, prisoners were executed in Louisiana by the electric chair in the state prison. (Sorry, Stephen King, but Louisiana executions in the 1930s were carried out in local courthouses. The state wouldn’t start electrocuting prisoners until 1940 and they wouldn’t be conducted in state prisons until 1957. Also, it’s unlikely that a 1930s Louisiana radio station give any airplay to a Billie Holiday record.)

“You Are My Sunshine” was a popular song in 1937. (It was written in 1939 and recorded and released in 1940.)

The Stock Market Crash happened in 1928. (It occurred in 1929.)

Lots of stock brokers jumped out of windows during the 1929 Crash. (Few did, if any. Yet, about 23,000 did kill themselves in its first year though.)

The Great Depression started with the Crash of 1929. (Actually as to when the Depression began depends on locations. Sure the Crash of 1929 might have set the Depression in motion and banking system collapsed in 1932-1933. And in the South, the Great Depression was well on its way due to cotton boom of the previous century and its traumatic ending.)

Starvation was rife during the Great Depression. (Though people starved, most were able to survive through resourcefulness and charity. Not to mention, virtually no one starved to death during the Great Depression.)

The people of Sallisaw, Oklahoma were driven from their land due to eviction and the Dust Bowl. (Actually Sallisaw is in the Eastern part of the state and is considered green country. The Dust Bowl never happened there but rather in the western part of Oklahoma. The Joads more likely fled their home due to eviction.)

The Lone Ranger was a popular character in 1931. (Michael Sullivan’s kids wouldn’t be reading books by him at this time because the Lone Ranger was created for radio in 1933 while the books came later.)

Hoboes were just harmless old drifters full of tall tales and song just wanting to see the world.

The Klu Klux Klan used the Confederate Battle flag in their rallies. (Only the US flag was used in KKK rallies during the 1920s and 1930s. The KKK wouldn’t use the “rebel” flag in their rallies until the Civil Rights conflict of the 1960s. This is why we associate the “rebel” flag with racism today and why it’s absolutely not OK to have it on public display even if you are a redneck or Lynard Skynard fan. It’s the same reason why wearing KKK robes and using blackface are never OK.)

You could easily buy alcohol in Mississippi in 1937. (Actually though Prohibition would be repealed in 1933, Mississippi still prohibited the sale of alcohol until 1966.)

W. Lee “Pappy” O’Daniel was a two term governor of Mississippi. (Yes, he did exist and wasn’t made up by the Coen Brothers. Yet, he had no political presence in Mississippi and until 1975, incumbent governors in Mississippi weren’t allowed to run for reelection. The real Pappy was a Texas flour salesman who became a radio personality {as host of broadcasts of Bob Wills and the Light Crust Doughboys}, then used that as a platform to launch himself into Texas politics, becoming governor, and later Senator.)

1930s radio programs had recording sessions. (Recording sessions didn’t exist in radio until the late 1940s. All radio broadcasting at this time was live, with national shows produced twice for the East and West coast.)

The FDIC was created in 1933. (It was created in 1934.)

John D. Rockefeller and Andrew Carnegie were alive and well in 1933. (Carnegie had been dead for 14 years by this point while Rockefeller was 94 years old.)

Hobos always carried their belongings in bindle sticks.