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 54 – World War I


Perhaps no movie defines our perception of World War I than Lewis Milestone’s 1930 adaptation of Erich Maria Remarque’s novel All Quiet on the Western Front starring Lew Ayres (who I believed was robbed of an Academy Award that year). This is one of the first masterpieces in sound which is still a timeless anti-war classic after 84 years. Paul Bäumer is perhaps one of the most tragic characters in movie history, just a mere teenage boy who eventually loses all his friends and is reduced to an empty shell by the end unable to connect with anyone outside the war. His coming of age story is truly heartbreaking to watch. Nevertheless, Paul’s story is a story of every soldier in this war and perhaps in any war who manages to retain his humanity among the endless carnage and recognizes his enemies as human beings like himself. Despite this being a tragedy, this is truly a great film for the ages.

Two world wars took place in the 20th century but are celebrated by Hollywood in very different ways. One is used to emphasize the glory of courage, self-sacrifice, patriotism, doing what’s right, and male bonding. The other is presented as a horrible nightmare with broken innocence, incompetent and self-absorbed generals, and unimaginable horror. This post is about the former. Of course, World War I was caused by a lot of things such as entangling alliances as well as countries stockpiling on the latest in weapons technology but things wouldn’t reach fever pitch until 1914 when a 19-year old Black Hand terrorist named Gavrilo Princip who was unknowingly working for a head of Serbian official shot Archduke Ferdinand and his wife Sophia at Sarajevo (though he regretted killing the latter). Since Ferdinand was the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, this meant war between Serbia and the Austro-Hungarian Empire. However, Russia had been an age old ally of Serbia longer than it had been with Austria or Germany so it entered on the Serbian side. And Russia’s allies Britain and France (along with domains and allies like Belgium and Italy) entered on the Allied side while Germany and the Ottoman Empire sided with Austria forming the Central Powers since Germany and Austria spoke the same language and the Ottoman Empire really didn’t like Russia. The US would enter later but the whole thing is pretty complicated. Still, it is a war known for introducing things like aerial fighting and tanks as well as chemical weapons and trench warfare. Nevertheless, World War I was perhaps the deadliest conflict in history up to this point killing more than 9 million men. Though this was called “the War to End All Wars” it didn’t necessarily do that as we know. Nevertheless, there are plenty of inaccuracies in movies made at this time which I shall list accordingly.

The Western Front:

European World War I generals were blundering incompetents willing to sacrifice their men for little appreciable gain. (They actually had a more difficult time to adapt to the war’s unprecedented scale of new technologies.)

The Battle of the Somme took place in 1917. (It took place in 1916.)

Three French soldiers representing their division in their regiment were shot by firing squad after their contingent refused to advance at Souain. (Actually 30 French soldiers were tried and 4 were convicted and shot. Yet, the French general Géraud Réveilhac also ordered artillerymen to fire on the men who refused to advance. As in Paths of Glory, the artillerymen refused.)

General Géraud Réveilhac received his comeuppance after sentencing four French soldiers to be shot by firing squad after they refused to advance in the Souain. (Actually unlike his expy in Paths of Glory, Réveilhac remained in his post until he was given leave in February in 1916. According to one officer, he seemed to have “reached the limit of his physical and mental abilities.” He would later be made a Grand Officer of the Legion d’Honneur and died peacefully at the age of 86 in 1937. Meanwhile, the French authorities repeatedly refused to investigate the case with the innocent soldiers executed by firing squad for no reason. Yet, thanks to the efforts of the wife and sister of two of the men, a court cleared them in 1934.)

All trench battles took place in a very open desert like environment on the Western Front. (Most of the fighting was in France and Belgium and there were areas that consisted of deeply wooded hills. Yet, perhaps this is an artistic choice to make the landscape look desolate.)

British soldiers participated at the front during the Battle of Verdun. (The Battle of Verdun was primarily between the German and French armies.)

The Battle of the Marne was fought before 1916. (It was fought in 1918.)

The Allies marched into Berlin in 1918. (Sorry, Captain Renault, but you probably weren’t with the Americans when they marched into Berlin in 1918 because it didn’t happen.)

Western Front generals were blundering incompetents wantonly sacrificing men for little appreciable gain. (Recent historians argue that the war’s unprecedented scale and new technologies {gas, planes, tanks} made it extraordinarily difficult for generals on either side to adapt. So it might’ve been less on blundering incompetence and more on generals simply being incapable for conducting this sort of war.)

The Christmas Truces:

The Christmas Truce started with a singer moving out of No Man’s Land carrying a lit-up Christmas tree. (It actually began as a mutual agreement by both sides to bury their dead. Still, it didn’t prevent many of the Germans from being shot by snipers if they ventured in No Man’s Land.)

The musical exchanges during the Christmas Truces were prompted by Scottish troops. (It actually began with the Germans singing their carols from their trenches {but not exposing themselves to the enemy} followed by opposing troops countering with carols of their own. Still, Joyeux Noel is actually based on various documented events during the Christmas Truces with the director including Scottish soldiers instead of English because he wanted to include bagpipes.)

Sergeant Alvin C. York:

Sergeant Alvin York shot a German in revenge when the latter threw a grenade for killing his friend. (York did shoot a German for throwing a grenade and refusing to surrender, yet the grenade killed no Americans.)

The German contingent that faced Alvin York was headed by a major. (It was headed by Lieutenant Paul Vollmer.)

Sergeant Alvin York used a Luger he took from a captured German soldier after losing his US Army Colt M1911. (He kept his Army Colt in the entire battle and never took a gun from any German prisoner to use. Yet, Gary Cooper does this in Sergeant York because the Luger was the only blank adapted handgun available on the set.)

Sergeant Alvin York was clean shaven even after the war. (He had grown a mustache during his service and kept it for the rest of his life. Still, I’m not sure Gary Cooper would’ve looked good in one anyway since I’ve never seen him with facial hair.)

Sergeant Alvin York was unfamiliar with electricity until after the war. (This guy spent weeks training in the army as well as considerable time in Europe. At this point, electric lights shouldn’t have been an oddity to him.)

Sergeant Alvin York received the Medaille Militaire for his heroism. (He didn’t receive this but he was awarded the Legion d’Honneur and the Croix de Guerre.)

Sergeant Alvin York shot Germans coming at him from front to back. (He actually shot at them from back to front, “just like a flock of turkeys,” he said. Yes, turkey hunting was a great training exercise for him.)

Sergeant Alvin York received his own farm by the state of Tennessee right after the war just before he married his sweetheart Gracie. (The farm was provided to him by the Rotary Club of Nashville who purchased the land in 1919, after the war ended. Alvin and Gracie were married by this point and didn’t move in until 1922.)

The Italian Front:

“Beer Barrel Polka” was played by Italian Army marching bands during the war. (It wasn’t written until the late 1920s and is a Czech song.)

The Middle East and North Africa:

T. E. Lawrence:

T.E. Lawrence was tall, blond, handsome, and asexual. (Sure he was blond, but that’s as true as it gets with his appearance. In real life, Lawrence of Arabia was about 5’5” tall and wasn’t as handsome as Peter O’Toole {Noel Coward is quoted as saying that the movie should’ve been called “Florence of Arabia”}. As for his sexuality, there’s some debate whether he was asexual or a gay sado-masochist.)

Farraj was mortally wounded by a detonator that went off in his clothes. (According to T. E. Lawrence, he was shot by a Turk while riding his camel.)

T. E. Lawrence was an egotistical eccentric who hungered for publicity and notoriety. (The real Lawrence shunned publicity and was greatly distressed by his enormous fame following the war and the publication of his autobiography The Seven Pillars of Wisdom. He actually signed up for the Royal Air Force under an assumed name for ten years to avoid the spotlight and was killed in a motorcycle accident shortly after his enlistment ended. He even shunned a knighthood as well as simultaneously aided and disliked reporter Lowell Thomas. He was also a man born in the Victorian era who maintained strict rules about public behavior and typically exercised restraint keeping with the well-known British stiff-upper lip tradition. Still, he was an eccentric all right, but he was a complicated man who just wanted to share his story but at the same time also desired to be left alone.)

T. E. Lawrence favored Arab independence from European powers. (Some say he did. Others say he was actually a fierce imperialist who wanted the British to rule in the Middle East and didn’t wish to the French to have any influence in the region. Either way, he didn’t want the Turks to rule the area. Still, it’s fair to say he was a servant of two masters and was never really at home with Great Britain or the Middle East.)

The battle of Aqaba was glorious cavalry charge into the town by the Arabs themselves. (It was really a prolonged fight and the British fleet interfered, too.)

T. E. Lawrence had no idea about the Sykes-Picot Agreement until near the end of the war. (The Sykes-Picol was an agreement to divide the Ottoman territories between Britain and France, which was a catalyst for Lawrence’s conflict of interest. Still, Lawrence was probably well aware of it.)

T.E. Lawrence was on mostly good terms with his superior officers. (He was actually rather contemptuous of their military-rank-and-file and their strategies and how they drew the borders in the Middle East.)

T.E. Lawrence shot a servant to put him out of his misery. (He didn’t have to make such sacrifice since a Turkish gunman did the deed for him.)

Auda was an unreformed savage who cared only for violence, treasure, and his own pompous self-image. (He was a serious and intelligent leader who deserved more credit for taking Aqaba than T.E. Lawrence. His family was deeply offended by the Antony Quinn portrayal in Lawrence of Arabia and spent years trying but unsuccessfully suing the producers.)

T.E. Lawrence rescued Gasim Johar from the desert but was forced to execute him. (He didn’t have to shoot him. He shot a guy named Hamed in a dispute between the Syrians and Moroccans.)

The US entered WWI after Aqaba. (They entered before.)

Hajim Bey imprisoned, tortured, sexually assaulted, and perhaps raped T. E. Lawrence at Deraa. (Some historians consider the whole Deraa thing a fantasy since Lawrence described it so sensually. Also, he was seen unhurt afterwards but he did become more withdrawn and peculiar after Deraa. Still, it’s very likely he was raped to avoid further torture.)

T. E. Lawrence was left handed. (He was right handed.)

T. E. Lawrence ate with his left hand in the company of Bedouin tribes and was clumsy on a camel at the start of his Middle Eastern time in World War I. (Lawrence had traveled the region before and was much more experienced dealing with the people there than Lawrence of Arabia implies. Still, he would’ve known that you didn’t eat with your left hand around Bedouin tribes since it’s their customary hand for wiping their asses after going to the bathroom. Also, Lawrence would’ve never been clumsy on a camel and certainly knew how to ride one unlike how Peter O’Toole was {of course, such scenes are kind of played for laughs but you have to leave them in}.)

T. E. Lawrence’s Arab army entirely deserted him as he moved further north. (According to records, only one or two Arabs did.)


The British contingent at Gallipoli was lazy and incompetent. (The reverse is actually true, but you can’t have them as the heroes in an Australian war movie like Gallipoli. By the way, Gallipoli also carries the distinction has the most accurate historical movie Mel Gibson has ever made and he looks damn hot in it. Nevertheless, the Gallipoli Campaign is sort of like Australia’s version of the Battle of Gettysburg.)

The attack of the Nek was a diversion for the British contingent landing at Sulva. (It was actually a diversion for the Kiwi {New Zealand contingent} landing at Sair Bair.)

The British command at the Nek was responsible for the heavy Australian losses caused there. (Actually there was little British command and control at the Nek and the incompetent officers primarily responsible for the heavy losses were Brigadier Hughes and Colonel Anthill who were Australian. So it was actually Australian incompetence and miscommunication between these two officers that was responsible for the disaster at the Nek. Still, Gallipoli’s depiction of the British was very disrespectful.)

The British soldiers at Gallipoli drank tea as the Australians died for them. (Actually, the British sent two companies of Royal Welsh Fusiliers {whom they could ill afford to lose} to help when they heard the attack had stalled. These Welshmen suffered heavy losses trying to support the Aussie attack. Also, during the whole campaign, the British 29th Division {the “Incomparables”} suffered 34,000 losses, the highest of any siege unit at Gallipoli and earned 12 Victorian Crosses. Still, the idea of tea drinking British at Gallipoli was still a popular belief in Australia at the time despite that the British were actually fighting alongside them.)

The US entered the war before Gallipoli. (The Gallipoli campaign was fought in 1915. The US entered the war in 1917.)

The Australians lost more men at Gallipoli than they did at any time of the war. (They actually lost more men in the European trenches.)

The Eastern Front:

The Russians spent the beginning of World War I dealing with the Russian winter. (Barbara Tuchman has said that the Russians started fighting during the summer and St. Petersburg would’ve been extremely hot at the time.)

Russia was still fighting World War I in 1917. (Sort of, but Russia would be in a state of chaos that year with the Russian Revolution in hand that it would have to back out.)

War in the Air:

World War I pilots had exceptional flight instruction before they went off to war. (Only towards the end of the war, in the early part most of the pilots received minimal training because there weren’t many competent flight instructors. After that, they were on their own to fend for themselves. The average lifespan of a WWI pilot in flight was 20 minutes and the average WWI pilots lasted three to six weeks. Still beats the trenches though.)

Most pilots managed to survive their first dogfight. (Well, some is a more accurate statement.)

Fighter pilots fired machine guns by reaching up and pulling large levers. (No fighting aircraft functioned this way. From Imdb: “The guns were triggered by levers mounted on the control stick which pulled wire cables up to the guns.”)

The Luftstreitskraefte (German Imperial Air Force):

The Fokker DR-1 triplane was the standard German plane. (It wasn’t in widespread use until later in the war.)

The Fokker DR-1 carried overall lozenge pattern camouflage. (It didn’t.)

German single-seat fighter aircraft carried bombs. (No German aircraft did.)

The Blue Max was awarded to German pilots who shot down 20 enemy aircraft. (In the beginning of the war, German pilots had to shoot down 8 enemy aircraft to receive a Blue Max. That number was later raised to 16. So George Peppard definitely received his Blue Max fair and square.)

The Fokker DR-1 was powered by an Allied engine. (It was powered by a German engine.)

German Lieutenant Kurt Wolff was shot down in a nighttime mission. (According to his wing man, Lt. Carl-August von Schoenebeck, he was shot down in a dogfight during the day time.)

German pilot Stefan Kirmaier was shot down by a French pilot during the summer. (He was actually shot down by an English pilot in November.)

The L32 Zeppelin was shot down in France during the day time. (It was shot down in Great Britain during the night.)

German fighter pilots had a set uniform. (They actually wore the uniform of where they were from in they were from in the German Army whether it be the infantry, cavalry, navy, or artillery. The Red Baron wore a cavalry uniform. The German Luftstreitskraefte had no “standard” uniforms during World War I. Same went for ground crew.)

French Air Force:

Pilots in the Lafyette Escadrilles, lived in a grand castle like building. (They lived in a mansion.)

French World War I planes were heavy and hard to move around. (They were made out of wood and were easily maneuverable. Yet, they caught fire easily as well.)

The Red Baron:

Manfred Von Richthofen was in an older man during World War I. (He was only 25 when he was shot down.)

Jasta 11 and Richthofen’s Flying Circus were separate squadrons. (Jasta 11 was Richthofen’s Flying Circus.)

Rittmeister Manfred Freiherr von Richthofen (a. k. a. The Red Baron) was a proto-pacifist who instructed his men not to kill any enemy pilots. (The Red Baron showed no such tendency and actually encouraged his men to aim at the pilots of enemy planes because it was the easiest way of shooting them down. Still, this is in his 2008 biopic from Germany. By the way, he had a cousin who married a British author named D. H. Lawrence and an uncle living in Colorado.)

Manfred von Richthofen saw Lieutenant Werner Voss get shot down. (Richthofen was on leave in a famous dogfight against a squadron of 8 British SE5’s led by James McCudden.)

Lothar von Richthofen was flying with his older brother Manfred, the day the latter got shot down. (Lothar had been shot down March 13, 1918 and was hospitalized by April 21 of that year due to injuries. He learned about his brother’s death during his stay there.)

The German pilots trained with the Curtiss JN4 (Jenny). (This plane was made in the US and only exported to Great Britain. The Germans wouldn’t have one of these.)

Baron Manfred von Richthofen had a girlfriend who was a nurse named Kate Otersdorf during World War I. (For God’s sake, the Red Baron didn’t have a known girlfriend since having one went against everything he believed. He believed that it was unwise and dishonorable for a pilot to have a relationship given that the average life expectancy was so short. However, he did have a “secret” love he intended on marrying after the war but it wasn’t the woman who nursed him back to health from his head wound. Still, Otersdorf probably would’ve wished to be the Red Baron’s girlfriend.)

Baron Manfred von Richthofen had always been interested in flying planes since his youth as well as to escape an unheroic death at Verdun. (It was more or less because he started out as a reconnaissance cavalry officer before his regiment was shortly dismounted and they later found themselves serving as dispatch runners and telegraph operators. Richthofen was already thinking of transferring to the army supply branch before he became fascinated with planes after seeing a German aircraft behind the lines so he applied to the Imperial German Army Air Service and was transferred in May of 1915. Still, he didn’t want to die an unheroic death though, which his 2008 biopic does get right. Not to mention, the Wright brothers made their first flight when Richthofen was 11 and it’s rather unlikely that he may have seen a plane as a child. And at 11, he was already training to be a cavalry officer who would’ve been more interested in horses than planes.)

Captain Roy Brown:

Captain Roy Brown was shot down by the Red Baron and escaped from a German POW  before sharing a drink with him in No Man’s Land. (Neither of these happened and Brown never met the Red Baron except in combat. Also, Brown was credited as the guy who shot down the Red Baron, though we’re not sure whether it was him or someone else.)

Captain Roy Brown was a member of the Royal Canadian Flying Corps. (Despite being Canadian, he was a member of the Royal Naval Air Service and later the Royal Air Force. The Royal Canadian Flying Corps never existed.)

Major Lanoe Hawker:

Major Lanoe Hawker flew a SE5 with a grim reaper painted on it when he fought the Red Baron. (He flew an Airco DH.2 when the Red Baron shot him down which didn’t have a grim reaper on it. The pilot who did have a grim reaper painted on his plane had a French Escadrille N.94, which Hawker wouldn’t have flown anyway due to being British.)

Lanoe Hawker had a beard. (He had a mustache but the as a British Army officer, he wouldn’t be allowed to have a beard.)

War in the Sea:

In 1916, the German armored cruiser SMS Frederich Carl sank in seconds after hitting a Russian mine causing a big loss of lives. (The Frederich Carl was sunk by Russian mines in 1914 but it stayed afloat for several hours, which was enough for the light cruiser SMS Augsburg to arrive to save most of the crew and resulted in only the loss of 8 crew members.)


Mata Hari was still holding performances in 1917. (Her last performance was in 1915.)

Mata Hari was a rather important spy for the Germans. (Yes, she had a lot of well-connected lovers, but she did try to assist the French secret service through Georges Ladoux, head of counterespionage. However, there’s scant evidence she was really an important spy or working for the Germans. Her execution by firing squad might’ve been rather unjustified.)

Mata Hari’s lover was a Russian aviator named Alexis Rosanoff. (It was actually a man named Captain Vladimir de Masloff whom she protected just as she did in the movie about her.)

The Home Front:

When asked by a military representative, “Would you care to tell us what you would do if you saw a German soldier raping your sister?” Lytton Strachey replied, “I believe I should attempt to come between them.” (He actually said, “I should try and interpose my own body.” Still, the sentiment is accurate as in Carrington. Strachey was eventually disqualified for military service on medical grounds.)

You could join the Australian Light Horse Brigade without bringing any horses. (In the Australian cavalry during World War I, you had to bring your own. Also, you couldn’t travel from Adelaide to Perth by train at this time either since the railroad wouldn’t be built until the 1920s.)

Australians had to be 21 to enlist in the military in 1915. (They could be between 18-45 years old.)

The Aquatania was used as a passenger liner during World War I. (It had actually been used as a military transport and had a camo makeover to boot.)

Ernest Hemingway was a famous author in 1917. (He was a soldier fighting in the war at this point and wouldn’t achieve fame until the 1920s with his books about the war like A Farewell to Arms.)

Germany had radio broadcasting during World War I. (There was no radio broadcasting in Germany until 1923 so everyone there would’ve known about the 1918 Armistice agreement through newspapers.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 42 – The American West: Indian Wars


Kevin Costner’s 1990 Dances with Wolves is a film showing Native Americans in a more sympathetic light than in years previously as well as shows some of the landscapes of the Plains in breathtaking view. Still, let’s just say the Lakota speaking Sioux treat this as an unintentional comedy since Kevin Costner had no idea that there are separate male and female pronunciations and styles. Still, he probably would’ve done better if he hired a male and female Lakotah translator instead of just a female one. TTI states: “The overall effect for Lakotah-speaking audiences was a bunch of Klingon warriors talking like a ladies’ Saturday afternoon tea social.” Also, Plains Indian buffalo hunts go a lot differently than shown in the film and Pawnee should really sue for slander despite being the Sioux’s enemies.

The history of the American West has been one of the most filmed eras in American history. There have been countless films pertaining to the era of the untamed wilderness, savage Indian tribes, legendary outlaws, and all types of murder and mayhem starring the likes of John Wayne and Clint Eastwood. The American frontier in the 19th century has been the inspiration of many legends and myths that have lasted into the ages. Westerns have shaped our imagination what this period was like which usually contains beautiful scenery of canyons, mountains, desert, and other national park sites as well as lots and lots of violence. In some ways, it serves as part travelogue and part gorefest if its directed by Sergio Leone or Sam Peckinpah. Still, sometimes you may have cowboys as the good guys fighting against the influences of business and banditry. Sometimes you can’t tell the difference between the good or the bad. Still, westerns have played a very influential role in American culture which we can all identify. However, westerns tend to show the mythological image of the American West than the reality.

Of course, the relations between the white settlers and the Native Americans wouldn’t be a happy one. From the 1840s on, settlers have packed up and moved out West whether it was to California, Oregon, Utah, Kansas, or New Mexico. However, one problem was that there were already people living on the frontier over generations. Actually they had been living there for thousands of years but the white people didn’t give a shit and just settled down before driving the Indians from their ancestral homes onto the reservation. Well, at least the US government did as well as committed a series of human rights abuses that most Americans would like to forget. Nevertheless, the Indian Wars would give us legends like George Armstrong Custer, Sitting Bull, Geronimo, Cochise, Kit Carson, and Crazy Horse. In movies, Indians could be portrayed as the villains, victims, forces of nature, or others. The military could be seen as heroes or villains. Still, these movies do present their array of historical inaccuracies which I shall list accordingly.


Indian attacks were a common site on wagon trains and stagecoaches. (Indians knew better than to attack stagecoaches and wagon trains. If they were present on wagon trains, their conduct was peaceful and they served as guides and traders. Attacking whites wasn’t good business.)

Indians surrounded covered wagons and rode around and around to allow the settlers to shoot them off their pretty dappled ponies. (This wouldn’t happen a lot because most Indians would never attack settlers on covered wagons. Nevertheless, Comanches were studied in European military schools because they were known to have the finest light cavalry in the world.)

Intermarrying was very frequent between Indians and white settlers but they strangely they simply didn’t seem to get along. (I’m just to alluding to the fact Native Americans in old western movies were played by white actors.)

All western Indians wear plains style costumes and love to don on the feather bonnet headdresses. (Actually, only high ranking Plains Indians wore the outfits.)

Whenever Indians weren’t attacking white settlers, they were either smoking a peace pipe or hunting buffalo. They may have also communicated using smoke signals and sign language yet always used a bow and arrow as weapons.

Indians usually scalped white settlers or tied them to a totem pole if captured. (Yes, Indians scalped people and we can’t dispute that. However, only the Pacific Northwest tribes had totem poles and they usually used them for very different purposes like clan identification and lineages, stories, or notable events. Sometimes they can be used as welcome signs, vessels to store remains of dead ancestors, or as a way to ridicule somebody. They were not used to tie prisoners.)

The Sioux referred to themselves as the Lakota. (No, they pretty much refer to themselves as the Sioux or Dakota, well sort of. Also, not all Sioux are Lakota.)


Pawnee Indians would attack American settlements. (They were allies for the US government.)

In white man-Indian woman relationships, the Indian woman is usually an Indian princess who marries into the white man’s culture. (Not every Indian woman who married a white man was an Indian princess, which is a strictly European concept. Nor would most Indian princesses or other Indian women assimilate into the white man’s culture but in many cases the opposite would happen, especially in French Canada {Sacajawea’s marriage is a prime example of this}. Nor would marrying an Indian woman bring civilization to her people {though there were Indians who did convert to western ways like the Cherokee}. Rather it would end up leading to mass slaughter and destruction of a culture.)

The Cheyenne were an Indian tribe in the Rocky Mountains. (They were a Plains tribe.)

Crazy Horse and George Armstrong Custer met face to face. (They never met in person. Also, given Crazy Horse’s relative anonymity, it’s unlikely he would’ve been recognized had he been captured at Little Big Horn. Heck, this guy went to great lengths never to be photographed for God’s sake. Sitting Bull may have been more appropriate.)

Crazy Horse was willing to give all Indian lands to the whites except the Black Hills. (Crazy Horse would’ve made no such deal. Still, perhaps the least offensive thing about Crazy Horse’s character in They Died with Their Boots On is that he’s played by Anthony Quinn {a lot of Hispanics have indigenous ancestry and a lot of Native Americans are part white so his portrayal isn’t as offensive as it seems. I mean the guy’s Mexican and most likely had Native ancestry}.)

Sioux Indians could bring down a stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work that way. In real life, the hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled to death. This could take hours or days. Let’s just say that if Dances with Wolves depicted an actual Indian bison hunt, it would be pretty boring.)

Indians mostly used bows and arrows as a weapon of choice. (They used guns, too, and there 25 types of firearms found at Little Bighorn.)

The Sioux brought down stampeding buffalo with single arrow shots. (Sorry, Kevin Costner, but bow hunting doesn’t work this way. In reality, hunters would have to track the wounded animals, sometimes for miles, until they bled out.)

The Sioux weren’t familiar with the white man prior to the American Civil War. (Yes, they were. In fact, in 1862, the Dakota Sioux had fought whites in Western Minnesota with 800 whites dead and 38 Sioux hanged. Kicking Bird would’ve known about this.)

Indians would always constantly attack settlements as well as kidnap or kill white settlers. (Sometimes this would happen but not a whole lot. However, children who were kidnapped by Indians would usually be assimilated in the tribe within a year contrary to the Natalie Wood character in The Searchers {God, I hate that movie}. Perhaps that bastard John Wayne should’ve just left her with the Indians because she would’ve been able to shake off her Indian language and habits she had acquired over the last five years. Seriously, Natalie Wood probably wouldn’t have lived happily ever after.)

Indians terrorized whites for personal gratification and blood lust. (Usually it was more due to something like building a farm on their traditional hunting ground if it pertained to settlers in the case of Cynthia Ann Parker. Still, unlike Dances with Wolves, they wouldn’t usually adopt a white man into their tribe. Nevertheless, while Indians did raid settlements they were usually small farms where they didn’t stick around very long and Indian massacres on whites were the exception rather than the rule. Besides, Indians knew that raiding heavy populated areas was just asking for trouble.)

Indians were victims of ruthless whites. (Yes, this is true but to a point but they weren’t simply victims and were just as much authors of their own destiny who dealt in American expansion the way they thought would be best for their societies. According to History Banter: “After the Civil War, the United States actually adopted a peaceful policy in dealing with Plains Indians. There were only a 100 thousand or so of them remaining in 1865, little threat to a nation that had just fielded an army of over a million soldiers. So in an attempt to foster peace, the U.S. assigned Quakers to deal with Plains’ tribes…..Quaker agents went onto Indian lands where they tried to convince local Indians not to raid American settlements. At the same time, it was the Quakers responsibility to prevent whites from attacking Indians. Many Indians realized that the Quakers were effective in this latter duty, but were not so adept at preventing their raids on American settlements. So, the Indians raided and hid behind the Quakers’ authority when angry whites came for revenge. Eventually, cries from the frontier about the Quakers reached Washington and this peaceful system was thrown out the door in favor of a more aggressive means of dealing with Plains Indians.” Still, they didn’t really need Kevin Costner to help them.)


The 7th Cavalry contained only American soldiers. (There were plenty of European immigrants in that regiment.)

The 7th Cavalry charged into Little Bighorn with their swords drawn. (They didn’t have their sabers with them.)

Black and white US Army soldiers fought side by side. (As long as the black soldiers were enlisted men and white soldiers were officers.)

The story of Fort Apache unfolded like the Battle of Little Bighorn transplanted in Arizona. (Not really. Also, the fort wasn’t named Fort Apache five years until after Chief Cochise’s death contrary to the John Ford movie. Until then it was named Camp Ord or Camp Apache. Still, John Ford, you could’ve had the resident Indian chief be Geronimo or Cochise’s son Naiche who not many people know about. Oh, and the military clash happened in 1881 and not the 1870s.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was a flamboyant, arrogant, idiotic, and bigoted coward who got what he deserved at Little Bighorn. (Custer was flamboyant and probably wasn’t the best soldier or a hero at Little Bighorn but he definitely wasn’t a coward nor a bigot either {at least by 19th century standards}. He was a hero at Gettysburg for thwarting a Confederate cavalry attack from the rear led by J. E. B. Stuart which was key to Lee’s battle plan, led to Philip Sheridan giving him and his wife the Appomattox surrender table as a gift. Still he was a glory seeker willing to sacrifice his men for his own personal glory and was very cruel to them, which is why his men didn’t like him. His units suffered high casualty rates in the Civil War {his division had the highest number of casualties in the Union Army}, sometimes to horrendous levels and he was once suspended for a year for being AWOL, misappropriation of funds meant for provisions for reservation Indians, and during his Reconstruction duty in Texas nearly escaped being fragged by his own troops {the 2nd Wisconsin Cavalry who had resented his attempts on discipline}. He also liked to promote his image, was very reckless in battle, and had greatly wished to regain his rank after having being general in the Civil War. Yet, he was a fearless and an aggressive soldier, wasn’t afraid of using unconventional means to accomplish his goals, a loving husband {though he wasn’t entirely faithful}, and he once refuse to massacre starving, exhausted, and defenseless soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia despite Sheridan ordering him to. He was probably more of an anti-hero than anything. Still, as an officer of the US Army killing Indians was part of his job more or less. The general historical consensus has him as a colorful and capable cavalry commander who just let his ego override his judgment in attacking a force that vastly outnumbered his.)

All of George Armstrong Custer’s men died at Little Bighorn. (His battalion consisting of C, E, F, I, L companies were wiped out. However, the remaining seven companies under the charge of his subordinates Major Reno and Captain Benteen were not. Thus, out of his 586 men only 262 were killed including himself while 55 were wounded. Still, the Battle of Little Bighorn lasted an hour and “the Last Stand” wasn’t a blaze of glory either. Nevertheless, splitting his force may not have been the best thing to do but it saved many of his men’s lives.)

George Armstrong Custer was a passionate defender for Indian rights. (He was just as much willing to kick the Indians off their land as any other white man. He had also staged a massacre of Cheyenne families at the Washita as well as been fighting Indians in Kansas and in the Yellowstone Valley. However, he didn’t believe Indian genocide was a viable solution. Nevertheless, he wasn’t the only one to wage war against the Indians or commit crimes against indigenous people, attack Indian villages, or chase military glory.)

George Armstrong Custer took a break from the army after the American Civil War until he was sent to Fort Abraham Lincoln. (He never left the army and had served in Texas, Kansas, and in the Yellowstone Valley.)

George Armstrong Custer was offered $10,000 to serve as president of a railroad company. (He was actually offered $10,000 in gold {as well as requested a leave of absence} to serve as an Adjutant General in Benito Juarez’s army in Mexico.)

George Armstrong Custer drank after the American Civil War. (He had been sober since his 1862 where he made a humiliating spectacle of himself.)

Custer’s promotion to general was an administration mistake. (It wasn’t and it was 3 days before Gettysburg in the command of volunteers.)

George Armstrong Custer entered West Point as a privileged rich boy. (He grew up in an ordinary working class household and was at West Point on scholarship. Contrary to They Died with Their Boots On, it was Custer’s socioeconomic background which was the main reason why Judge Bacon didn’t want Custer to marry his daughter, not because Custer insulted him in a bar.)

George Armstrong Custer promised he would defend the Black Hills for the Sioux. (He never made this promise and actually started a gold rush to the Black Hills.)

George Armstrong Custer was killed by arrows. (Sorry, but Custer didn’t go down like Boromir. He was actually killed by Indian gunfire. Not to mention, it’s said that the Indians may have had better repeating rifles than Custer’s men did. I know most depictions have Indians only using bows and arrows. But yes, Indians did have guns which they obtained through trade with white settlers. Also, he had cut his long flowing locks before he began his last campaign so him having long hair at Little Bighorn is pure Hollywood. Oh, and he was wearing buckskins at the battle like Errol Flynn in They Died with Their Boots On instead of a blue military uniform like Richard Mulligan in Little Big Man.)

George Armstrong Custer was sent back to Washington to a congressional hearing over one of his own infractions and had to persuade Ulysses S. Grant to send him back to the 7th Cavalry. (This never happened. However, Custer did go on a trip to Washington and did sit in a congressional hearing but it was over a kickback scandal involving US Secretary of War William Belknap, Grant’s brother Orville {one of the most embarrassing presidential siblings to date}, and traders at Army posts in Indian Country who were charging troops double on what they would’ve paid for the same goods in Bismarck. His testimony led to Belknap getting impeached, which caused a media sensation. Oh, and Custer and Grant didn’t get along since not only Custer testified against his own brother and War secretary over corruption charges, he also arrested his son Frederick for drunkenness earlier, and had written magazine articles criticizing his peace policy toward the Indians. Still, Grant wouldn’t order for Custer’s arrest or removal of command until Custer left Washington without his permission {though Grant had turned him down three times for a personal meeting, following Sherman’s advice}. Oh, and he didn’t get his command back until he, General Terry, and Philip Sheridan persuaded Grant to do so. Most of the intrigue is absent from They Died with Their Boots On, which is kind of a shame.)

George Armstrong Custer received a Civil War Campaign medal. (The first of these medals were issued in 1909. Custer died in 1876. Still, he probably should’ve had one though.)

George Armstrong Custer had dark hair and was clean shaven. (He had flowing light brown hair or perhaps blond as well as sported a mustache. Yet, in The Santa Fe Trail, he’s played by Ronald Reagan of all people. Say what you want about They Died with Their Boots On but at least Australian actor Errol Flynn made a fairly decent Custer in comparison. Also, he didn’t graduate at the same time as J. E. B. Stuart who was six years older than him.)

George Armstrong Custer met his wife while a student at West Point. (He met Libby the year after he graduated in 1862 and they married two years later.)

George Armstrong Custer was a general during the Battle of Little Big Horn. (He was a lieutenant colonel and was only a brevet general during the American Civil War, which disappeared when the war was over. Still, after the war he was demoted to captain but he did rise to lieutenant colonel by his own efforts.)

Libby Custer was General Philip Sheridan’s niece. (They weren’t even related to each other and there’s no evidence that she even knew the guy independently of her husband’s association with him. Still, unlike in the movie They Died with Their Boots On, George Armstrong Custer was actually one of Sheridan’s favorite officers though.)


Brit Johnson was a white scout. (He was black. Still, his story was the inspiration for The Searchers, in which his character was played by John Wayne. Also, unlike the John Wayne character, Johnson wasn’t a Civil War veteran, didn’t fight for the Confederacy, or ever held racist views. Not to mention, only one child from his family was killed in the Indian attack and never rekidnapped any hostage who the Indians had adopted and married off. He was a black slave for his journey started in 1864 and ended after the Civil War was over. Also, his relations with the Indians were peaceful and managed to get his family back and others through negotiations. Still, Johnson’s story doesn’t have a good end for even though he did return home and tried to set himself up as a freed man, he and his ex-slave business partners were killed by Indians and it’s impossible to say who.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 41 – The American Civil War: Reconstruction and Other Things


Perhaps no movie has managed to shape perceptions of Reconstruction in many people than D. W. Griffith’s 1915 Birth of a Nation, even if it was a grossly inaccurate as well as blatantly white supremacist propaganda, which made Woodrow Wilson think it was too racist (who actually was more racist even by 1915’s standards). However, despite its controversy even in its day, this is a movie that can’t be ignored when it comes to movie history. In the words of Andrew Sarris, “Classic or not, Birth of a Nation has long been one of the embarrassments of film scholarship. It can’t be ignored … and yet it was regarded as outrageously racist even at a time when racism was hardly a household word.” Still, I wouldn’t recommend anyone to watch this movie, except film students.

The American Civil War would draw to a close in April of 1865 when Robert E. Lee surrendered to Ulysses S. Grant at Appomattox Courthouse. However, barely a week later Abraham Lincoln would be assassinated by John Wilkes Booth  which would send shock waves to the nation. Still, the process of Reconstruction had begun which was said to be a time of healing factions between North and South as well as grant African Americans US citizenship and help them to carve lives of their own. Still, while the 13th, 14th, and 15th Amendments would pass, unfortunately, many Southern whites weren’t happy with blacks trying to live their lives as American citizens and tried to do all they can to ruin it through intimidation as well as violence. Eventually Reconstruction would end but though there was so much progress made in the South, many of the Southern whites would eventually reverse many of these changes or at least try to that by the rest of the 19th century, there would be a new system of discrimination called segregation, black codes, and Jim Crow in an era seen as the nadir of American race relations which would continue until at least the 1920s, if not the 1940s. Yet, despite setbacks, African Americans would continue to fight for their rights and would keep the spirit of Reconstruction on even if no one else did. Hollywood doesn’t treat this subject well, since it’s a controversial time in American history, yet nevertheless, there are plenty of movie inaccuracies I shall list accordingly.

The Lincoln Assassination:

Abraham Lincoln delivered the famous words to the Gettysburg Address and his Second Inaugural the day he was assassinated at Ford’s Theater. (No, he gave these speeches much earlier. Still, what the hell D. W. Griffith?)

John Wilkes Booth entered through the door behind Mary Todd to Abraham Lincoln’s right. (He entered through the door on Lincoln’s left and fired just below his left ear. The D. W. Griffith biopic also shows him jumping from Lincoln’s box through the far left opening {facing the right}. In reality, he actually jumped through the right opening directly in front of the president, nicking the corner of Washington’s picture with the spur of his ankle. This caused him to stumble when he fell resulting in a broken leg.)

Dr. Samuel Mudd was involved in the plot to assassinate Abraham Lincoln, hence the phrase “His name is mud.” (The saying had been around for two decades before the Lincoln Assassination. Also, it’s more likely Mudd was just a man doing his job who probably knew nothing about the conspiracy against Lincoln. His only involvement in the assassination was just patching Booth’s leg.)

Abraham Lincoln was laid on a bed to the side over the covers and clothed at the time of death. (He was laid diagonally on a bed under the covers to be kept warm {since he lingered for 10 hours} which was too small for him and he wasn’t clothed so the doctors could check for other wounds.)

Frederick Aiken was a 27-year-old Union veteran and lawyer in 1865. (He was a 33 year old Democratic activist with strong Southern sympathies {yet fought for the North anyway and achieved the rank of Colonel} who had a co-counsel named John W. Clampitt who helped him at the trial when Reverdy Johnson stepped aside.)

Edwin Stanton tried to strong arm the commission into returning a death sentence against Mary Surratt. (There’s little evidence he did this.)

The Lincoln conspirators were held in a prison situated in a barren area miles from Washington DC. (They were held at the Old Capitol Prison in the middle of the city which is now the site of the Supreme Court building.)

John Wilkes Booth still had his trademark mustache when he was trapped and killed. (He had shaved it off shortly after Lincoln’s assassination so he’d be more difficult to identify. Still, he probably shouldn’t have broken his leg.)

John Wilkes Booth caught his spur on the American flag on the Presidential box at Ford’s Theater. (He caught it on a US Treasury flag.)

Abraham Lincoln was carried out of Ford’s Theater fully dressed with suit and tie neatly in place. (According to historical accounts, Dr.Charles Leale and other doctors assisting him at Ford’s Theater cut away much of Lincoln’s coat and shirt in a frantic attempt to resuscitate him moments after the president had been shot. This was done prior to his being moved.)

Secretary of State William Seward was stabbed in his bed when his room was brightly lit. (Historical accounts state that Seward’s room was quite dark accounting for Lewis Payne’s failure to kill the Secretary of State {later known to oversee the purchase of Alaska} resulting in him missing any vital areas with his knife because he couldn’t see his target very well in a dark room. Also, the elderly Seward was very thin causing Payne’s thrusts to miss the mark.)

The room Abraham Lincoln was brought to in the Peterson Boarding House was brightly lit. (All historical accounts say that the room was very dark and dim as well as being illuminated by a small gas jet fixed to a wall.)

Abraham Lincoln was placed in the bead with his head toward the wall and his feet toward the doctors. (He was placed with his feet toward the wall and his head closest to the open side of the bed so the doctors could get to him {I mean he’d been shot in the head}. A historical photograph of Lincoln’s death bed confirms this.)

Frederick Aiken’s middle name was Sebastian. (It was Augustus.)


It was the job of the Klu Klux Klan to restore honor to the South that was lost by the Northern victory during the Civil War. (In the minds of the white racist Southerners, yes, but some people have a twisted sense of honor. Had to include this because of Birth of a Nation, mostly because it depicts the KKK as white knights, which is obviously offensively false. In reality they were terrorists who wanted the freed slaves stripped of their rights as citizens and helped usher in an era of segregation, disenfranchisement, and Jim Crow.)

African Americans were unfit to exercise their political rights. (Made up by Southern whites because they didn’t want blacks to have any political power. And as politicians, blacks were no worse or than their white counterparts. Another racist lie from Birth of a Nation.)

Northerners who came to the South during Reconstruction were carpetbaggers invading happy Southern land and conspiring with blacks. (Many helped slaves get a new start in life as well as expand opportunities {like public education} and voting rights to poor whites as well as those who also didn’t have the right to vote before the Civil War began {except women}. Still, according to David Blight: “The South dearly wanted Northern investment. It’s one of the ironies of this. Early on, they wanted Northern investment. They wanted federal investment to help them rebuild their harbors and build some railroads and rebuild towns and cities, re-establish agricultural production. Most Northerners that went South and became carpetbaggers were already there in 1865 or ’66, before the radical regimes are even created. So that idea that they all went there to exploit and establish radical Republican political organization is not exactly the case.”)

Congressman Thaddeus Stevens was fanatical, vengeful villain obsessed with further punishing, the poor, defeated South. (Actually, what Stevens was obsessed with granting newly freed blacks civil rights and suffrage, mostly because he saw them as human beings not as a way to punish the South. But Southern whites didn’t want that. This is another error from Birth of a Nation but Lincoln corrects this. Actually, almost everything in Birth of a Nation is while a significant film itself, one that is better described as a long KKK recruitment commercial than anything. It is one of the worst examples of historical films to date eschewing the facts to promote white supremacy as well as contained perhaps the most negative depiction of African Americans to date. Oh, and all the black characters in the film were played by whites wearing blackface. It has no historical credibility whatsoever.)

Andrew Johnson addressed his enemies in the Senate during his impeachment. (This didn’t happen.)

An ailing senator cast the vote against removing Andrew Johnson from office brought into the chamber at the last minute. (It was actually by a Republican senator from Kansas named Edmund Ross who thought that the impeachment articles against Johnson were trumped up political charges without merit {which they were}.)

Senator Jim Waters was the man who would’ve succeed Andrew Johnson had he been removed from office. (A senator named Ben Wade was.)

Most blacks were lynched over sexual indiscretions involving a white woman. (Well, these kinds of stories made sensational national headlines as well as used as a way to justify such hate crimes in movies like Birth of a Nation. However, according to muckraking journalist and an African American woman, the legendary Ida B. Wells, 70% of lynchings occurred when victims tried to vote, demanded their rights, purchased land, and owned successful businesses. So I guess Southerners were more worried about blacks exercising their God given rights than anything. Thus, most lynchings were simply hate crimes against blacks.)

Most black legislators were ignorant buffoons who looked ridiculous “playing government.” (Well, you can say the same thing about many legislators of any ethnicity. Still, while some black legislators were fresh from the farm, many were well-educated anti-slavery activists. Sorry, Birth of a Nation.)

Southern convicts during Reconstruction were primarily white. (They were mostly black who may have been incarcerated under dubious circumstances {but they were treated horribly nevertheless}. Yet, the convict whiteness serves a purpose in Gone with the Wind just to make Frank Kennedy and Ashley Wilkes squirm.)

Ulysses S. Grant helped robber barons with crooked land deals for the first transcontinental railroad in exchange for their influence in securing him in the 1868 presidential election. (Grant was widely recognized for his integrity and would never have done this. Also, by 1868, Grant would have no trouble getting the presidency because he was incredibly popular and would remain so for the rest of his life.)

The South was under oppressive military rule during Reconstruction. (According to Eric Foner: “The idea that the South was under military rule and military occupation is really a myth. The Union army was demobilized very, very fast at the end of the Civil War. Some people thought, too fast, because there was so much chaos and violence in the South. By 1866, there are 10,000, 12,000, maybe 15,000 soldiers left in the South. But most of them are in Texas, fighting the Indians. You could go for months and months in the South without ever seeing a federal soldier. There were small encampments of federal soldiers around. And if there were outbreaks of violence, they would sometimes be brought in to try to suppress it. Sometimes the Freedmen’s Bureau would call in a few soldiers to arrest a planter who refused to pay his workers or something like that. But no. Law and order was in the hands of governments, not of the army. And military rule was very, very brief. And the occupation was quite short-lived, really, in any practical sense.”)

The Klu Klux Klan wore white robes and conical hats during this period. (They did wear masks and hoods at this time but the white robes and conical hats started in the Klan’s second iteration, perhaps thanks to Birth of a Nation. So the first Klan more or less looked like the posse you see in Django Unchained than in the 1915 D. W. Griffith film. It’s said to have started as a social brotherhood in funny hats club for Confederate veterans but I’m not sure if I buy it.)


J. E. B. Stuart, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Philip Sheridan, John Bell Hood, and George Armstrong Custer all graduated at West Point in 1854. (Stuart, yes, but Longstreet graduated in 1842 about a year before Grant, Pickett in 1846, Sheridan and Hood in 1853, and Custer in 1861. Yet, these guys all seem to be in the same West Point Class according to The Santa Fe Trail.)

Colonel Arthur James Lyon Freemantle was a total English fop. (He was a British observer on a self-funded trip to the Confederacy to shadow the army and see the war for himself. He was a pretty down to earth kind of guy whose book contained frequent references to his lack of dress clothes, his gray pants, and his dusty attire so he wasn’t wearing a shiny red outfit at Gettysburg. Not to mention, he wouldn’t be sipping a tea from a china cup on the freaking battlefield. Still, traveling all the way to see a war that will have lasting implications on how wars are fought in the future? Why weren’t other foreign officers doing this?)

Bananas were available in the US during the Civil War. (They were available after it, not during it.)

Both sides called the Battle of Bull Run by its well-known name. (Only Northerners referred to it as the Battle of Bull Run because of the Bull Run River. Southerners refer to it as the Battle of Manassas because it was the closest town. Many battles would be named after the closest river by the North while they’d be named after the closest town in the South.)

Americans during the Civil War sided with the side representative of the geographical location. (Yes, to a point for there were the Northern Copperheads like Clement Vallandingham who sympathized with the South and there plenty of people in the South who sided with the Union including a few generals. In fact, about 25% of Union Forces consisted of those from Confederate states {one of them being my 3rd great grandfather from Tennessee}. Richmond was rife with anti-Confederate sentiment that it spent much of the war under martial law and Confederate officials were suspect to attacks by pro-Union guerrilla bands. Arkansas had two governments that represented both sides. In Texas, Unionist support was endemic among the German and Mexican communities and various Unionist areas were harassed and/or massacred by local officials for it. When the draft was instated, many resistors in these communities were said to go into hiding or flee to Mexico with many hunted down or shot. Also, there was another demographic that was all too happy to don the blue uniform and that group was known as ex-slaves. Then there’s the existence of West Virginia which split from Virginia to rejoin the Union. Not to mention, the James brothers and their gang fought for the Confederacy, even though they were from Missouri.)

Robert E. Lee was a brilliant general and a saint while Ulysses S. Grant was a drunk who got lucky. (Actually Robert E. Lee wasn’t a nice guy and despite the fact he graduated from West Point with no demerits which still stands, he wasn’t the great general Lost Causers make him out to be. He was also a man of his time who could only think inside the box. I mean Lee was the one who decided to invade the North going through Maryland and Pennsylvania which resulted in the Union kicking his ass in Gettysburg. As for Grant, he probably wasn’t a drunk; he more likely had a low tolerance for alcohol for drinking was very commonplace in the military at the time, even to excess. It was said he usually drank when there was nothing going on or when he was separated from his wife. Still, as far as I’ve read on Grant’s drinking, his drinking habits don’t seem to fit those of an alcoholic. And despite the fact he graduated in the middle of his class at West Point, he didn’t help the North win the Civil War just because he had more disposable resources than Lee did and historians have called him one of America’s first twentieth century generals who won victories through his creative strategy that would be one of the reasons why the American Civil War was known as the first modern war.)

Civil War Enfield rifles had serial numbers. (Authentic ones don’t but reproductions do.)

The Civil War began with the Union Army firing on Fort Sumter. (It was the Confederate Army that fired the first shot.)

In the Civil War cannon shells that exploded on impact were not used. The cannon shells at Gettysburg had timed fuses so that the shells would explode in the air casting shrapnel downward to cause casualties. If a shell landed before exploding, it would just bury itself in the ground and scatter dirt harmlessly when exploding. In the movie, the cannon shots all explode when hitting the ground, not in the air, and are obviously preset charges. By the way, this is why the Confederates overshot the Union forces at Gettysburg. Their main supplier had burned down just prior to the battle and they were forced to use fuses from another source. The Confederates did not yet realize that these fuses burned slower than their previous ones so the shell would travel further before exploding. [This is untrue. ‘Percussion’ shells were used during the Civil War which would mean that shells would explode on impact.] (I got this from a site, but I don’t know which one.)

The barrage tactic was used in the Wilmington attack of 1865. (It was invented by the British in the 1880s and was first used in 1915.)

The Civil War was referred to this during the 1860s. (It would be referred to this a decade later and only by the North while it wouldn’t be referred to this in the South until the 1960s. At this time it was either “the war,” “the War of Secession,” or “the War between the States” since the South tried to form its own country. However, there were plenty of people living in the Confederacy who fought for the North such as the future state of West Virginia {Southern Unionists made a quarter of the Union forces}.)

Ulysses S. Grant and James Longstreet were buddies before the Civil War. (This is true but Longstreet also was at Grant’s wedding. Also, Julia Dent Grant was Longstreet’s cousin and Grant’s wife.)

Civil War doctors boiled their surgical instruments to prevent them from infecting patients. (Doctors wouldn’t do this until 1879. Also, I’m sure that Civil War doctors didn’t practice modern sanitation since clean hands and clean water for cleaning surgical instruments were optional. In fact, wasn’t the lack of sanitation the reason why so many soldiers died? I mean germs killed more Civil War soldiers than bullets. In the Civil War, it was safer to fight an entire battle than it was to be sent into a field hospital. Yet, in The Horse Soldiers, the doctors seem oddly concerned with cleanliness.)

Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant were famous names at the start of 1862. (Both were relative unknowns at the time. Lee wouldn’t assume command of the Army of Northern Virginia until June of that year. Grant would win his first victory at Fort Donelson that February in which he’d get the nickname “Unconditional Surrender Grant” for his generous surrender terms.)

All soldiers who participated in the Civil War lived in the modern United States. (Some 33,000-55,000 Canadians also fought in the war, but mostly on the Union side since they were more anti-slavery than many US Northerners. About 29 of them would receive the Medal of Honor. There were notable examples from other countries as well.)

The Battles of First Bull Run, Fredericksburg, and Chancellorsville were the three major battles before Gettysburg. (There’s Antietam, the Peninsular campaigns, Battle of Seven Days, and Second Bull Run. And that’s just the battles involving the Army of Northern Virginia against the Army of the Potomac. You also have Fort Donelson, Shiloh, the Vicksburg Campaign, Farragut’s capture of New Orleans, and others.)

Soldiers on both sides always stayed loyal to the entity they started in. (A lot of POWs from both sides had the tendency to switch.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 40 – The American Civil War: The North


As far as American Civil War movies go, Spielberg’s Lincoln from 2012 is one of the best as well as brings the beloved 16th president to life in a way nobody else has ever seen before which gave Daniel Day Lewis a well deserved Oscar for his performance. Sally Field and Tommy Lee Jones performed superbly as Mary Todd Lincoln and Thaddeus Stevens as well. Sure there may be some minor inaccuracies in this but the overall spirit rings true in almost every way. Still, perhaps the biggest historic atrocity about this film is that it lost to Argo at the Academy Awards. I totally love this film which is like historical C-SPAN but fun.

The American Civil War wasn’t much better in the North at first since they had a series of terrible generals who Abraham Lincoln had to select because he couldn’t find anyone else. However, once there were generals like Grant, Sherman, Sheridan, Chamberlain, and Thomas who won battles, then he focused his attention to them. In 1861, the primary reason for the North fighting this war was to save the union through any means necessary even if it meant not freeing a single slave. But once slaves began to flock to Union troops seeing them as liberators, Lincoln would later issue his Emancipation Proclamation the next year which called for slaves in areas controlled by the Confederacy to be forever free as of 1863. Then you have the battle of Gettysburg and the Gettysburg address. In 1865, the 13th Amendment was passed which abolished slavery once and for all. Still, national unity and freeing slaves weren’t the only things that the North one on. They also had factories, a strong centralized government, large populations, a good navy, good diplomatic ties, and a strong skilled leader in President Abraham Lincoln. Of course, despite a lot of these things, sometimes the North tends to be seen as the villain in Civil War movies which kind of give many inaccurate impressions of them. Still, there are plenty of historical errors relating to the Civil War North which I shall list accordingly.

Francis Preston Blair Sr. was a nice looking old man in 1865 with a full head of hair. (Unlike the Hal Holbrook portrayal in Lincoln, the real Blair kind of resembled some undead monster you’d see in a zombie film rising from his grave. Also, he had been bald since he was a young man. I’ll forgive Spielberg on this one. Elizabeth Keckley doesn’t look like the Gloria Reuben’s portrayal in Lincoln either according to her photograph, but we’re not sure when her picture was taken.)

Union soldiers took aim by standing forward with their left foot. (They would usually step back with their right foot bringing it behind their left. Stepping forward would desecrate the line according to 19th century warfare.)

Joshua Chamberlain died at 83. (He was 85.)

Thomas Chamberlain was an everyman who fitted throughout the Confederate camps and made friends with whomever he met at Gettysburg. (There’s no historical basis of this.)

There were no black Union soldiers involved in the Battle of the Crater. (They were heavily involved in this battle.)

Union officers drank Don Perignon champagne. (This brand wasn’t around until 1921 or sold until 1936.)

Union officers used “at ease.” (This command didn’t exist in the Civil War. It would’ve been “at rest” or “in place rest.”)

Union General Charles Garrison Harker was in South Carolina at the same time as the 54th Massachusetts. (He was part of the Army of the Cumberland and was fighting in the Tullahoma Campaign in Tennessee. Also, unlike his portrayal in Glory which has him as a man in his forties, he was only 25 at the time.)

Union Army sergeant insignias were sewn onto a blue cloth backing all at once. (This is common among Civil War reenactors. Yet, during the Civil War, the stripes of the era were individual stripes which had to be sewn on one by one.)

Union volunteer cavalry at Shiloh also served at Gettysburg. (The cavalry that served in Shiloh were in the Battle of Vicksburg which was being fought around the same time as Gettysburg. Those at Gettysburg were in Virginia during the Battle of Shiloh. No volunteer cavalry could be present in both battles.)

Secretary of State William Seward was patronizing and dismissive toward Lincoln. (By 1864, he was practically in love with the man, but not in a gay way. Also, Lincoln would sometimes go to Seward’s house for dinner and an evening of laughs, songs, and wine.)

There were black Union soldiers at Fort Monroe at the arrival of the Confederate Peace Commission. (Black soldiers greeting Confederate envoys, what could possibly go wrong with that?)

The Capitol Dome was gray in 1865. (It had always been white since its completion in 1863.)

Andrew Johnson last served in the US Senate in 1861. (He last served in 1862 before being appointed as military governor of Tennessee.)

Only one Connecticut representative voted for the 13th Amendment. (All four representatives did.)

Every seat in Congress was occupied during the vote on the 13th Amendment. (At least 18 were left empty which would’ve belonged to the states that seceded.)

Copperheads were peaceful people who just didn’t like war. (Actually they were the antiwar Northern faction of the Democratic Party who wanted immediate peace with the Confederacy. While the War Democrats didn’t care for Lincoln, they supported the Union war effort anyway. The Copperhead Peace Democrats, on the other hand, were more radical in their virulent racist, hatred, and demonization of Lincoln, as well as sympathy for the Confederacy. And some of their rhetoric is just so vile with so many n-words that it’s too offensive to quote {well, you can watch the scene in Lincoln with the introduction of Fernando Wood, but it’s pretty tame. Still, he was a notorious Copperhead who called for New York City’s secession in the war’s beginning}. Sure they opposed the draft, emancipation, and suspension of habeas corpus, but they weren’t pacifists or Quakers {who were deeply anti-slavery and supported the Underground Railroad}. They were an organized political movement with political aims to chiefly undermine the Union war effort and fed off defeatism. Nobody knows how large it was. But it wasn’t uncommon for Copperheads to coordinate their operations with the Confederate government to create havoc on the Union home front. There was also Copperhead agitation behind the New York City Draft Riots in July of 1863 which was the war’s largest mob action with 120 killed, including 11 lynched black men. They also had support and funds by the Confederate government pertaining to actions and schemes like: overthrowing Lincoln, tried to stage a secession of the Midwest, organized killings of Union soldiers in southern Illinois, etc. In short, Copperheads were traitors who make modern day Tea Party Republicans look benign in comparison.)

Abolitionists staged violent insurrections against those who attacked their opinions during the war. (While mobbing was quite common before and during the Civil War, not a single instance involved abolitionists attacking individuals of opposing opinions. That was not how abolitionists behaved. Yes, there was John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry but he was trying to arm blacks to rise against slave owners, which is another matter entirely. Also, no Copperhead was attacked in upstate New York during that time either. Still, abolitionists often were targets of mobs with pre-Civil War numbers as 73 in North and 19 in the South, many at abolitionist presses. Abolitionists have also been subject to numerous beatings as well as tar and featherings, and even murder, which were well known in Lincoln’s time. In fact, Lincoln’s first major political speech centered on the mob attack and murder of abolitionist editor Elijah Lovejoy in 1837.)

The dome of the US Capitol was completed by 1861. (It was finished in 1863.)

Union soldiers were flogged as punishment. (Since Colonel Shaw was a by-the-book man, no one in the 54th Massachusetts would’ve never gotten whipped {nor would Shaw order it} since flogging was banned in 1861. However, since slaves were often flogged, it kind of serves a purpose in Glory to have Private Tripp punished this way even if it was out of Shaw’s character to give such an order. Still, there were harsh punishments like being “spread eagled” on the spare wheel of an artillery limber which would’ve broken a man’s back.)

Colonel James Montgomery was a marauding racist and former slaveholder who made use of free slaves to pillage and burn towns. (Yes, he did pillage and burn but he was a staunch abolitionist in the vein of John Brown whose methods actually came from his days as an anti-slavery partisan during Bleeding Kansas. Also, he most likely didn’t own slaves at all.)

During his raid, Benjamin Grierson decided a deliberate retreat than to risk slaughtering Mississippi schoolboys. (This may not have happened. Yet, there’s a similar incident in the Battle of New Market with the Virginia Military Institute student body.)

White Union soldiers were thuggish and venal who tend to wonder why they’re in the army or why there was even a war going on. (I’m sure that many Confederate soldiers were like this, too, especially towards the end of the war when they started deserting the Army while Sherman’s Army marched to the sea. According to TTI: “Desertion was a serious problem in the South; by 1863 men were deserting faster than new recruits could be conscripted to replace them, and by war’s end over three-quarters of the Confederate army was AWOL. Entire Confederate divisions existed solely on paper, their men and command structure having walked out en masse, stealing as much equipment as they could carry. The most notable incidence of desertion was probably Confederate general Pemberton’s army, paroled after the surrender at Vicksburg. Mustered with 30,000 men, a month later fewer than 1,500 of them were left to report for duty, the rest having simply changed back into civilian clothes and gone home.”)

The Union Army had integrated regiments. (Blacks served in all black regiments but they were under the command of white officers but that’s as integrated as you’re going to get. Yet, white regiments did have black civilians working for them for a time though.)

White Union spies sometimes used blackface and pretended to be slaves in the South. (Many of them just used actual slaves mostly. Also, those posing as slaves were usually black to begin with.)

A 304th regiment existed in the Union Army. (No state assigned regimental numbers above the 100s.)

Benjamin Grierson’s raid consisted of the 1st Illinois, 1st Michigan, and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry regiments. (It was composed of the 6th and 7th Illinois and the 2nd Iowa Cavalry. Also the 1st Michigan served in the Army of the Potomac in 1863 so its presence would’ve been more appropriate for Gettysburg not Vicksburg.)

After laying mines in the Confederate trenches, Union soldiers lay in formation waiting to charge after they went off. (Union troops would’ve waited in their trenches because there would’ve been no open ground where they could lay in formation, they would’ve been hit by debris in the explosion, and the Confederates would’ve seen them getting out and lying in wait.)

The US Secret Service was around during the Civil War. (It was formed in July of 1865.)

The 116th Pennsylvania led the Irish Brigades charge at Maryes Heights. (It was the 28th Massachusetts.)

The 116th Pennsylvania had a green flag. (It was the only Irish Brigade regiment that didn’t. Theirs had the State of Pennsylvania. Also, before the Battle of Fredericksburg only the 28th Massachusetts had the famous green Irish Brigade flags. Most regiments received the green flags by General T.F. Maegher days after the battle. )

The 20th Maine charged independently at Fredericksburg. (No Union regiment charged at the Confederate position without supporting regiments around it during the battle.)

Union forces used the Gatling gun during the Civil War. (It wasn’t patented until 1865 and the US military didn’t adopt it formally until 1866.)

St. Clair Augustine Mulholland was a Lieutenant Colonel during the Battle of Fredericksburg. (He was a major and a commander of the 116th Pennsylvania which was part of Maegher’s brigade, not the brigade in total. Also, Maegher made his charge on horseback not on foot, and did not “protect the rear.”)

Brigadier General Thomas R. R. Cobb commanded an Irish regiment. (He commanded the Irish Brigade.)

Irish Union soldiers didn’t know what they were fighting for. (There are historical documents in their own eloquent words of why they as immigrants believed they ought to fight for the Union. Of course, many were drafted like Gangs of New York implies but there were plenty of Irish immigrants who did fight voluntarily as well.)

Ulysses S. Grant and William Tecumseh Sherman were warmongers who pressured Abraham Lincoln to punish Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis. (Actually Grant and Sherman would’ve wished nothing of the sort. Sure they got a lot of men killed and destroyed a lot of property but they considered such destruction as part of their duty as generals. Yet, once their enemies surrendered, they turned out to be very okay guys more interested in healing national ties than settling scores.)

Private Buster Kilrain was a grumpy Irishman from the 20th Maine demoted for drunkenness as well as delivered a very poignant speech at the Battle of Gettysburg. (This character from the movie Gettysburg is totally made up which is why his name isn’t on the 20th Maine monument at Little Round Top. The photo used to represent him in the opening credits was nothing more than an unknown ordinary Union soldier. However, there’s a cacophony of gullible individuals demand to know why that is on their trips to Gettysburg, which annoys the piss out of the tour guides in the process. )

Alexander H. Coffrot nervously voted for the 13th Amendment. (He was a pallbearer at Lincoln’s funeral so he was more than a simple political pawn to the White House.)

General Philip Sheridan commanded the Army of the Potomac. (He was the Commanding General of the Army of the Shenandoah. George Meade was commanded the Army of the Potomac during the last two years of the Civil War.)

Union cavalrymen always knew how to take care of their horses. (The Union Army actually lost more horses rendered unstable or even dead to sickness, exhaustion, etc. than to actual combat. While many volunteers in the first two years of the Civil War were from the farm, it wasn’t unusual for urban volunteers and  later conscripts to be assigned to cavalry units. So it’s possible that many Northern cavalrymen had no idea hot to take care of a horse because city horses were owned by commercial firms {like cabbies or wagoners} so many urbanites never learned how since horse care was left up to the professionals.)

Ulysses S. Grant:

Ulysses S. Grant was a four-star general in 1865. (He was a Lieutenant General which is a three star rank. However, many people believe that Lieutenant General is a four star rank anyway, which it’s not. Grant wouldn’t become a four-star general until 1866. Then again he was the first four star general this nation has had.)

Ulysses S. Grant swore and used firearms on a habitual basis. (He never used profanity and had an aversion to firearms {only using them when he needed to}.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a butcher who was willing to shed more lives because he could. (Though Grant’s strategy may be cold hearted, it worked and he wasn’t afraid to take advantage of having a superior numbers. Not to mention, he did feel the carnage deeply and was said to have wept after the first day of Wilderness. Then again, haven’t all generals done this even during the Civil War? At least Grant won battles and wasn’t a chickenshit unlike some of his counterparts. And by that time Lincoln was fed up with chickenshit generals.)

Ulysses S. Grant graduated at the bottom of his class. (He graduated 21st out of 39 in his class in 1843.)

Ulysses S. Grant was a short, coarse, rough man usually scowling as well as a drinker and smoker. (He was of average height in his era and “a man whose values and character often avoided the pitfalls that often face those who are given military and political blood and was painfully alive to every form of human suffering,” according to the site on his tomb. He was also a very creative strategist, a tough calm and collected leader, as well as was very nice to his adversaries who were willing to surrender. Also, he was an avid horse lover and once had a soldier beaten for mistreating one. Not to mention, he was a man of great humility as well as deeply respected by those who knew him {even by those who surrendered to him}, which was why he was so popular at the time of his death. Still, yes, he did smoke and was his tobacco habit that would kill him. As for his drinking, he probably wasn’t a drunk and more of a man who couldn’t hold his liquor.)

Ulysses S. Grant arrogantly and casually walked around the room smoking a big cigar during the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse. (Grant may not have been one of the most formal men but he treated Appomattox with the utmost dignity and sensitivity for his defeated foe. Not so in Birth of a Nation.)

William Tecumseh Sherman:

William Tecumseh Sherman was a monster who burned down Southern towns for no reason. (The reason why Sherman was burning down areas of the South had to do with the strategy of total war which meant destroying resources and bringing the war to civilians so the South would be scrambling and have low morale and arguably his strategy worked. Not to mention, Sherman didn’t take delight doing any of that. He also had a reputation for leniency and mercy, regularly permitting defeated enemies to retrieve their belongings and go home without further incident.)

William Tecumseh Sherman burned Atlanta in September in 1864 and at night. (He burned down Atlanta two months later. Yet at that time, retreating Confederate troops were torching ammunition dumps to keep the Union army from capturing them. However, the fire wouldn’t have been as spectacular as it was on Gone with the Wind.)

General Winfield Scott:

General Winfield Scott was in command at the Battle of Gettysburg. (The commander of Union forces was General George Meade. By Gettysburg, Scott had been retired from the army for over a year.)

General Winfield Scott was a buffoon over confident of a quick victory in the North. (He was one of the few people who knew the Civil War would be long, costly, and bloody. He also might’ve been taller than Lincoln at 6’ 5.” Not usually portrayed as such in movies.)

General Winfield Scott was in charge of the Union Army until after the end of the American Civil War. (He resigned in November in 1861 and was succeeded by a series of generals over the course of the war until Lincoln settled on  Ulysses S. Grant. If this were true, it might’ve saved Lincoln a lot of headache and he’d probably not appoint men like George B. McClellan, Joseph Hooker, Ambrose Burnside, Henry W. Halleck, Irvin McDowell, John Pope, and George Meade {though he was actually quite decent and won Gettysburg}. Yet, you don’t see this in They Died with Their Boots on.)

Thaddeus Stevens:

Thaddeus Stevens had a black live-in girlfriend. (He had a black housekeeper he was close to, but we’re not sure whether they were lovers or not. Still, he never married.)

Thaddeus Stevens disavowed his conviction that blacks were equal in all things in front of the House floor. (He didn’t, nor was his speech a decisive moment. Still, as far as historical inaccuracies go, Spielberg rates pretty low and actually tries to be historically correct. Also, in regards to historical accuracy in Civil War movies, Lincoln ranks pretty high on the list.)

Abraham Lincoln:

Abraham Lincoln was an unambitious man who didn’t want to get into politics, and was called Abe. (Lincoln hated to be called Abe. As a politician, Lincoln combined his policy substance and electioneering skills and knew how to play the game. Lincoln also had plenty of ambitions of his own such as to leave the log cabin and never look back, to marry a woman who could speak French and had attended finishing school, to send his son to Exeter prep school and Harvard. His law partner William Herndon called him, “a little engine that knew no rest.”)

Abraham Lincoln was wrong to suspend habeas corpus and use his war powers. (Contrary to Copperhead, Lincoln only briefly suspended habeas corpus in Maryland to prevent insurrection and secession simply because having the state go would have Washington D.C. surrounded by the Confederacy. Most arrests in the North during the war mostly consisted of  insurrectionary acts like blockade running, gun running and desertion. And mostly to protect enlistment and conscription. Newspapers were suppressed but only for a short time but reopened acting through the War Department and the Copperhead press remained more or less intact and left alone throughout the war even as they advocated for Lincoln’s assassination. Oh, and Lincoln believed that the Emancipation Proclamation was totally constitutional.)

Abraham Lincoln had a deep and sonorous baritone voice. (His voice was a high pitched nasal tenor.)

Abraham Lincoln wasn’t offended by profanity and wouldn’t be upset for people swearing in front of his kids. (Though he was all right with the occasional swear word now and then as well as cursing in extreme frustration {which he probably did a lot himself during the war}, he was known to be very offended by profanity going so far as to rebuke generals in the field for cursing in his presence. Nevertheless, it’s highly unlikely he would’ve tolerated Preston Blair’s swearing in front of Tad.)

Abraham Lincoln managed to get the 13th Amendment passed in Congress mostly by his own efforts. (It was actually due to the work of black and women activists who managed to send a 400,000 signature petition organized by the Women’s Loyal League {headed by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton}. Also, Frederick Douglass should deserve considerable credit as well. Yet, as Lincoln notes, had Lincoln pressed Congress to pass the 13th Amendment, most of their efforts would’ve come to naught.)

William Henry Harrison’s portrait hung in Abraham Lincoln’s oval office. (It never did.)

Union soldiers could memorize the Gettysburg Address in Abraham Lincoln’s time. (The Gettysburg Address didn’t enter into the national vocabulary until the early 20th century. The chances of any Union soldier memorizing this speech, black or white, would’ve been far remote. Still, in Spielberg’s Lincoln, this is forgivable.)

Abraham Lincoln’s face was on coins during his lifetime. (It was on a $10 bill not coins. He didn’t appear on a coin until after his death with his first appearance being on a fourth series 50 cent piece.)

Abraham Lincoln was a homespun folk hero not fond of getting into fights or engaging in low brow humor. (TTI says he’s known for inventing the chokeslam as well as wrestled in his youth and nearly fought in a duel. As for low brown humor, Lincoln was notorious for these kind of jokes as seen in Lincoln. Folksy family friendly folk hero my ass.)

Mrs. Bixby’s five sons who served in the Union Army were all killed in the Civil War, which Abraham Lincoln wrote a letter for. (The Bixby legend is a myth plain and simple. Besides, Lincoln may not have written the Bixby letter himself {his secretary John Hay seems like a likely candidate}. Still, Mrs. Bixby only lost two sons in battle while her other boys survived the war with two being captured {one possibly deserting to the enemy} and one going AWOL. Bixby herself was said to be a Confederate sympathizer and had been described by her contemporaries as a madam and “untrustworthy and as bad as she could be.” It’s possible that she may have even been a con artist who exaggerated her claims for financial compensation. Still, this letter seems to have some prominence as setting up the plot in Saving Private Ryan.)

Abraham Lincoln sent an emissary to the Dakota Territory in order to negotiate a treaty with the Sioux which included a $130,000 payment for the tribe in gold. (Lincoln had bigger things to worry about than hostile Indian tribes.)

Abraham Lincoln arrived riding among piles and piles in a war torn battlefield after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond. (He was actually greeted by hundreds of ecstatic freed slaves.)

Mary Todd Lincoln:

Mary Todd Lincoln was a crazy bitch and there wasn’t much love between her and her husband. (Yes, she was feisty and had her moments as well as had a tendency to be misunderstood, but she was hardly as unpleasant as most film adaptations depict her with the exception of Spielberg’s Lincoln. The reason why she’s depicted like that is because Hollywood mostly likes to depict Abraham Lincoln as an unambitious man who had no interest in politics which is also inaccurate, thus, it’s up to Mary to push him into it so Abe could become president. As with the Lincolns’ marriage, Lincoln often said happily of her, “My wife is as handsome as when she was a girl, and I…fell in love with her; and what is more, I have never fallen out.” Sure Abe and Mary didn’t have an easy life together but their marriage was anything but loveless. And as with the craziness, her mental state began to deteriorate after Lincoln’s assassination and the death of their son Tad. Mary Lincoln may not have been the crazy bitch depicted in earlier film adaptations, but she was much misunderstood.)

Mary Todd Lincoln attended debates in the House of Representatives. (She didn’t nor would she make a scene in public. As a woman, she’d also be scorned at the time for sitting in the House Gallery.)

Mary Todd Lincoln berated Thaddeus Stevens for his investigation into her lavish expenses. (She would’ve never made a scene like that.)

Tad Lincoln:

Alexander Gardiner sent fragile one-of-a-kind plates to Tad Lincoln. (He would never do such thing since Tad had once ruined several images by locking the developer in a closet.)

Tad Lincoln was a normal 11-year-old boy in 1865. (He had a very serious speech impediment to the point that only his closest teachers and family could understand him {he also had speech therapy to overcome this as a teenager}. Based on photographs, he may have had a cleft lip or cleft palate. It’s also said he had such uneven teeth that he had such difficulty chewing food, his meals had to be specially prepared. He also didn’t attend school until after his father’s death. Still, Lincoln portrays him as a normal kid because most children with Tad’s condition have usually gone through surgery and therapy by 11 years old anyway these days. So to find a white 11 year old American child with a cleft palate and speech impediment like Tad’s would’ve been extremely difficult, if not impossible. Yet, other than that, Tad was mostly a normal kid albeit rather impulsive and unrestrained that many of his numerous tutors quit in frustration. But that had more to do with his parents not being disciplinarians.)

Tad Lincoln’s uniformed was of a Union Lieutenant Colonel. (In 1863, Edwin Stanton “commissioned” Tad as an artillery 2nd lieutenant.)

54th Massachusetts Regiment:

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw asked who would carry the colors if they should fall during the assault on Fort Wagner. (It was General Strong who asked the question and it was Shaw who volunteered to carry them.)

Most of the Massachusetts 54th consisted of ex-slaves. (Actually most of that regiment was made up of free blacks at least initially. Most of the original soldiers in the 54th Massachusetts could read and write and one of their privates was a doctor {today, he would’ve been commissioned a captain though}. Glory just used the Massachusetts 54th as a way to tell the story of black soldiers and sailors during the Civil War who were mostly ex-slaves, some even a few months or days before they joined up.)

Sergeant William H. Carney took up the flag and never let it touch the ground during the battle of Fort Wagner, a battle in which he later died in. (He survived the battle despite being wounded a few times. Not to mention, he would later become the first black recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his heroic actions 37 years later in 1900. His expy Tripp in Glory doesn’t survive Fort Wagner though. But like the Denzel Washington character in the film, he was indeed a former slave.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was thrown in a mass grave with everything on him minus his shoes. (According to Confederate General James Hagood, Shaw’s body was stripped and robbed before being thrown in the grave. Of course, you can’t have this in Glory.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw was eager to be the CO of the 54th Massachusetts. (He was actually very reluctant but he soon came to respect them as fine soldiers. Still, unlike Glory says, the pay boycott depicted was actually his idea.)

Robert Gould Shaw received the request to be Colonel of the 54th Massachusetts at a Boston party and accepted it immediately. (He didn’t receive it at a party nor did he accept it right away. He actually refused it twice since he felt himself unworthy. He eventually accepted it after his friend and future brother-in-law Charles Russell Lowell {who commanded the 2nd Massachusetts cavalry which had 5 companies of Californians} talked him into it.)

Colonel Robert Gould Shaw died falling into a parapet. (He actually made it to the top of the hill and his body fell into the fort. Other than where his body fell, his death scene in Glory is mostly accurate.)

Over half of the 54th Massachusetts regiment was lost during the assault at Fort Wagner. (Official records state that 54th sustained 272 casualties which closer to 40% of its force and of these only 116 were fatalities which is under one fifth of the men who stormed the fort. If the 156 soldiers that were captured are included {which is rather likely they didn’t survive capture since most black Union troops didn’t}, it would bring the total to over half. In any event, these heavy casualties and the regiment was widely viewed as having performed bravely indeed.)

The 54th Massachusetts was raised and trained in the fall of 1862. (It formed in March of 1863 just four months before Fort Wagner. However, they also saw action on James Island two days before the Fort Wagner attack.)

The 54th Massachusetts didn’t survive without Colonel Robert Shaw. (It actually continued to see action in Olustee, Florida in February 1864, Honey Hill, South Carolina in November 1864, and Boykin’s Mill, South Carolina in April 1865.)

Robert Gould Shaw was Governor Andrew’s first choice to lead the 54th Massachusetts. (Shaw wasn’t but he was probably the best choice.)

New York Draft Riots:

Bill the Butcher was a dangerous man who was around during the New York Draft Riots. (Actually he died eight years before the riots happened and his name was William Poole not Bill Cutting. And contrary to Gangs of New York, it’s not known killed anyone though he was murdered and owned a butcher shop. Sorry, Martin Scorsese.)

Irish immigrants were drafted into the Union Army after they just left the boat. (I’m not sure that newly arrived immigrants were draft targets at the time but it’s in Gangs of New York.)

The Chinese had their own communities and venues in 1860s New York City. (Yes, there were Chinese living in New York as early as the 1840s but significant Chinese emigration to New York didn’t begin until 1869.)

John F. Schermerhorn was alive during the New York Draft Riots. (He died in 1851.)

US Navy vessels were fired at New York City during the draft riots. (Sorry, Martin Scorsese, but this never happened.)

Working class Irish immigrants in New York City rioted in response to the draft of 1863 because they didn’t want blacks taking their jobs and social space as well as wanted no part in the war to free slaves. They also were a rather rowdy bunch who turned on each other and mostly destroyed property. (It was also because Democratic propaganda in New York City stirred their racial hatreds with antiwar and antiblack sentiments. And contrary to what Gangs of New York said, the toll was not that high. Also, there were plenty of Irish immigrants who fought for the North during the Civil War and some of the guys who tried to clamp down on the riots were Irish themselves. And there were no riots in the Five Points area of New York.)

Hell-Cat Maggie was around during the New York Draft Riots. (She was around during the 1840s. However, her character on Gangs of New York is more of a composite of other female fighters.)

George Armstrong Custer:

George Armstrong Custer was given a medal for his actions during the Civil War. (He wasn’t given any decoration though he did receive honorary brevet promotions for gallantry. Only the newly developed, “Medal of Honor” was awarded in the US at the time, which Custer never won. However, his brother Thomas was one of the only three Civil War soldiers along with 16 others since them to receive it twice. Still, despite media portrayals, Custer was no idiot. Also, the Confederacy didn’t use decoration either but only added a few names to a “roll of honor.” Not to mention, they didn’t use the Southern Cross which was a memorial recognition created by the United Daughters of the Confederacy in the 1890s.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 39 – The American Civil War: The South


No movie perhaps shows the American Civil War in the view of the South like Gone of the Wind, or at least one that is relatively fair enough to be seen as one of the greatest films of all time. Of course, this movie does tend to be rather racist in regards to the portrayal of black people but so did many films around 1939. However, though Scarlett O’Hara and Rhett Butler are fictional characters, there were many people just like them during the Civil War with these two being featured as the flawed and relateable human beings they are as played by Vivien Leigh and Clark Gable. Not to mention, this film shows how much the South changed in the course of these critical four years. Though this is a flawed and romanticized historical interpretation of the Civil War and Reconstruction in the South, this is a classic that still flourishes and entertains.

For the next few posts in my movie history series, I’m going to cover films pertaining to the American Civil War. Two of these would feature photos of movies that I adore like Gone with the Wind and Lincoln. One will feature a movie which is historically significant in the history of film but one I sincerely despise because of its blatantly racist connotations and its message of racial hatred like Birth of a Nation. Nevertheless, the American Civil War may be a four year conflict but it’s one of the nastiest wars in American history that tore the US apart as well as families, towns, and even governments with implications that will not only have an impact on the United States as a nation (which you will get plenty of opinions on no matter where you are) but will also have ramifications worldwide, especially in how people fight wars in general (it’s not called the first modern war for nothing). The American Civil War is perhaps one of the bloodiest wars in American history in that it killed more Americans than any other war before or since as well as wiped out 2-5% of the US population at the time, and left many more impoverished, displaced, maimed, and traumatized. It was the first time waged in the battlefields and won in the factories as well as the introduction of the first military medical corps, war trenches, veterans organizations, and government involvement with the military dead. It was a war in which weapons like submarines, metal warships, repeating rifles, and others. It was also a war where many aspects like cavalry, Napoleonic battle tactics, wooden warships, cannon balls, and other things would become obsolete. However, many Civil War movies do tend to get things wrong like having soldiers using the wrong guns of the period or wearing the wrong kind of uniforms. Sometimes they tend to downplay the main cause of this conflict in the first place which was slavery.

Of course, as I said in the my post about the antebellum years, slavery was a major cause to why the American Civil War broke out or at least the expansion of it and the fact that Southern states wanted the whole country to recognize it but the North didn’t want that. Abraham Lincoln’s election of 1860 caused South Carolina to secede from the Union along with others from that time to early 1861. By 1861, these states eleven states formed the Confederacy and elected Mississippi politician Jefferson Davis as its first president. That April, the Confederates would fire upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina which kicked off the American Civil War as we know it. Of course, the South did luck out at first with good generals like Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, James Longstreet, and others. But things started taking a turn in the South such as Jefferson Davis’ propensity to pick generals he liked (instead of good ones), heavy losses that couldn’t be replaced, economic problems, limited industry, Northern blockades, and other things like Sherman’s march to the sea, Lee’s mistake at Gettysburg, and Grant’s victory at Vicksburg, the Confederacy would soon be doomed to defeat by 1865. Towards the end, the Confederacy had endured a great deal of destruction and suffered greatly in morale. Union capture of Richmond as well as Lee’s surrender would bring an end to the Confederacy as we know it. Still, there’s a lot of things movies get wrong about the Civil War in the South which I shall list accordingly.

The Southern whites during the Civil War just wanted to live in peace. (So they can continue owning slaves and expand into Latin America and the Caribbean.)

It wasn’t unusual late in the Civil war to see well-dressed Southern ladies having tea and slaves picking cotton. (This would’ve been highly unusual at this point in the war especially in 1864-1865.)

The Confederate Home Guard was a brutal organization which went around killing indiscriminately and torturing women. (Their main job was to return escaped slaves to their masters and sending deserters back to Confederate lines but they could certainly be this, especially towards the end of the war when Confederate morale was low. Still, it’s complicated.)

Confederate deserters were nice law abiding people worried about their starving families. (Many of them became mountain outlaws and some banded with Union guerrillas to plunder farms and towns.)

The Confederate flag was always used by the Confederacy during the Civil War. (Actually it was the “stars and bars” flag which looked very different. The Confederate flag came later.)

The Cherokee sided with the Confederates during the Civil War due to their mistreatment on the Trail of Tears. (Actually they fought on both sides for even though they were slave owners, many remembered they were forced out of a Southern state by a Southern president. Some volunteered to go to Oklahoma and supported the removal while others opposed it and were forced off. Even Indians weren’t that stupid to attribute the atrocities to just the North.)

Confederate soldiers wore gray uniforms. (Well, though the Union Army uniforms tend to be accurately depicted for the most part in movies, Confederate uniforms not so much. Also, early in the war there were Confederate units in blue and Union units in gray. Still, most Confederate soldiers usually wore what they had on at the time since many Confederates couldn’t produce or afford gray. And even soldiers who wore grey uniforms, each one varied considerably in hue.)

W. P Inman ditched the Confederate Army because of a serious injury in a calamitous battle. (It was actually for “cowardly desertion at his post.” Oh, and he signed an oath of allegiance to the US in December of 1864 in East Tennessee. Still, unlike what Cold Mountain says, Inman might’ve deserted multiple times.)

W. P. Inman’s wife was Ada Monroe and his daughter was named Grace. (Her name was Margaret Henson and his daughter’s name was Willie Ida. Still, Grace is a better name for your daughter.)

The South seceded from the Union over states’ rights. (Yes, if that includes the right to own slaves and treat black people as property. Yet, the South also wanted slavery to be recognized in the Northern states which opposed it. Also, until the Civil War Southern presidents and lawmakers dominated the federal government.)

Confederate soldiers were heroic and respectable men. Confederate officers were gentlemen while enlisted men were tough, had thicker accents, and were very loyal to their officers. (Yes, there were some noble Confederates, most of them would be all right as long as they weren’t against a black regiment.)

Confederate soldiers were superior to their Union counterparts in every way such as braver, more clever, more noble, and more tragic. (Ulysses S. Grant didn’t win the Battle of Vicksburg on significant numbers alone but on creative and innovative strategy. He also did a lot of things in battles that haven’t been done before as well as is sometimes referred to as a 20th century general. However, Hollywood and a lot of people tend to forget this and other battles. Still, the Confederate soldiers were no more superior than their Union counterparts, especially when it came to the treatment of blacks.)

The Confederate soldiers were nobly fighting for freedom. (Actually they were fighting for the freedom to subjugate black people under involuntary servitude under one of the most inhumane institutions known to history. I’m talking about slavery folks.)

Slavery had nothing to do with the Confederate cause. (It had everything to do with the Confederate cause and why the Southern states seceded from the Union. To quote from Confederate vice-president Alexander Stephens, “Our new government [the C.S.A.] is founded upon exactly the opposite idea; its foundations are laid, its corner- stone rests, upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery — subordination to the superior race — is his natural and normal condition. This, our new government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth.” Pretty sums the whole thing up.)

Virginia regiments fought at Little Round Top. (No Virginia regiment fought there.)

Many Irish in the South sided with the Confederacy. (The Confederacy had some company sized Irish units while the Union Army of the Potomac had an Irish brigade. Gods and Generals exaggerates the Irish Confederate presence a bit. Oh, and there was at least one ethnically European {mostly Irish} regiment from every Confederate state fighting for the Union.)

People from the Southern Appalachian Mountains were Confederate diehards. (People from this area have often been portrayed this way. However, Appalachia was strongly pro-Union during the American Civil War {so much that West Virginia formed their own state} and many of these areas suffered in retaliation from the Confederacy. The reason why Appalachia was such a pro-Union hotbed was because the mountainous topography separated them from the government seats which prevented them from using plantations as a means of income. Most of the trade and transport in Appalachia came from Northern states like Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Ohio. Thus, many areas in this region didn’t have as strong a loyalty to the state’s government as when they seceded. Because of economic and social differences, West Virginia pushed to have its own state as early 1820, yet secession just gave them an opportunity to do so. Other factors contributing to Appalachian Unionism included religious differences, class differences, and ethnic differences, which have not all been forgotten either.)

12lb Brooke guns were used as Confederate field pieces. (There’s no such thing as a 12lb Brooke gun nor were these guns ever used for field artillery. Brooke guns were used in the Confederate Navy and in some forts.)

Generals Stonewall Jackson and Robert E. Lee were bearded at the start of the Civil War. (Both grew beards later on in the war. Also, Lee didn’t get his signature look until he served as Jefferson Davis’ military adviser. Before that, he had dark hair going gray with a 1850s military style mustache. As for Jackson, he had a well-known disinterest for personal grooming and appearance but he was clean shaven at the start of the war.)

Confederate General Sibley’s units consisted entirely of infantry. (They consisted entirely of cavalry units and a single battalion of artillery. No Confederate infantry was used in the New Mexico campaign.)

Andersonville accepted prisoners in 1862. (It didn’t accept prisoners until 1864 and only took enlisted men. Yet, Libby Prison in Richmond would, which took officers.)

The Confederate 3rd Army regiment served in the 1862 invasion of New Mexico. (The Confederates deployed the 2nd, 4th, 5th, and 7th regiments of the Texas Mounted Rifles and some unnumbered territorial groups. There was no 3rd Confederate regiment of any sort there. Though there was a 3rd U. S. Cavalry on the Union side.)

The Confederate government sent agitators to the American West to incite Indian tribes against the Federal Government to draw troops away from battle in the East. (The Confederacy didn’t need to do this since the Western Indian tribes were agitated enough to fight the white guys already. Also, it probably wouldn’t have done much good since the Union Army was several times bigger than the Confederate Army throughout the Civil War. Besides, Sherman was more successful drawing Confederate troops away from battle through his March to the Sea.)

The Confederates were more Christian than those in the North. (Both sides were about equal in religious fervency.)

Virginia was one of the most pro-secessionist states in the Confederacy. (Remember that there was a group of Virginians who wanted to get out of there that they formed their own state. Also, there were so many Anti-Confederates in Richmond that the whole city was placed on martial law for a time. Not to mention, perhaps one of the only reasons why the Confederates picked Richmond as its capital was to keep halfheartedly-Confederate Virginia in the Confederacy.)

The Swangers were named Esco and Sally. (These people were real but their names were John and Margaret Steven Swanger.)

Pickett’s charge at Gettysburg was made during the morning. (It was made at 2 o’clock in the afternoon.)

Only the Confederates supported slavery. (There were many in the Union who did and there were four Union states that allowed it.)

Robert E. Lee:

Robert E. Lee’s surrender meant that the Civil War was over in Georgia as well as everywhere else. (The surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia had no effect on Georgia. In fact, Georgia State troops didn’t surrender until almost a month after Lee {due to slow communication}. The surrender of General Kirby Smith at Galveston, Texas on May 26, 1865, is considered the end of the Civil War.)

Southern Slaves:

It wasn’t unusual for a Southern slave to turn down his chance of freedom or turn against his or her master. (Actually few slaves would turn down such offers because many slaves given the chance to do either usually did {Some of Jefferson Davis’ slaves helped spy for the Union}.)

Many Southern slaves tended to remain loyal to their masters during the Civil War. (Really? So why were so many slaves willing to join the Union Army when they arrived in their neck of the woods?)

Though they did desire freedom at some future date, many slaves were genuinely happy with their lot in life as well as faithful and supportive to their beloved masters and the cause of the Confederacy. (What kind of racist bullshit is this, Hollywood? Sure there may have been some slaves who remained faithful to their masters, but this didn’t consist of the majority. Rather most slaves were so committed to gaining their own freedom that many were willing to offer their services to the Union without making a fuss. Also, many ex-slaves ended up taking arms against their own masters. Oh, and during the war, slaves were defecting from their masters in droves. At least Gone with the Wind gets the defection part right, sort of but not too much.)

A. P Hill:

A.P. Hill was a Brigadier General during the Battle of Chancellorsville. (He had been a Major General for over a year at this point.)

J. E. B. Stuart:

J. E. B. Stuart’s wife was Kit Carson Holliday. (Her name was Flora Cooke. Seriously, Hollywood, why would anyone want to name their daughter after a noted frontiersman like Kit Carson {who was real, by the way but a man}? Still, it’s in The Santa Fe Trail.)

J. E. B. Stuart’s cavalry adventure was a major impediment for Robert E. Lee at Gettysburg depriving him of information and cavalry support. (The Confederate cavalry was mainly used for raiding, not scouting. Though Lee rebuked Stuart, it wasn’t over leaving him blind in enemy country. The Confederate Army mainly relied on individual horsemen and overly-informative Union newspapers as intelligence sources. Thus, Stuart’s absence wasn’t of great importance to the battle of Gettysburg as Lee’s poor decision making was {and General James Longstreet knew it}. Still, many historians and Lost Cause advocates made Stuart’s supposed culpability a part of popular history which is why it’s in Gettysburg.)

The 5th Georgia Cavalry served with General J.E.B. Stuart. (They served exclusively in the Western Theater during the Civil War while Stuart was at Gettysburg.)

John Bell Hood:

When John Bell Hood was a Lieutenant General, he had both legs. (By the time he had this rank, he had already lost his leg at the Battle of Chickamauga and an arm at Gettysburg in 1863. Also, he never served in Louisiana during the war but lived and died in New Orleans after the war was over.)

Alexander Stephens:

Alexander Stephens was respectful to black Union soldiers. (He may have been nice the black Union soldiers as he was in Lincoln but he may not have had much choice. He’s also said to be nice to his slaves that many stayed with him as paid servants after the war {one served as his pallbearer} as well as campaigned for better treatment of slaves in general. However, he was a noted white supremacist and avid supporter of slavery {though he didn’t see it as a reason to mistreat or denigrate black people}. Even more interesting is that he was friends with Abraham Lincoln before the Civil War which Lincoln hints at when the 16th president calls him “Alex.”)

Thomas Jonathan “Stonewall” Jackson:

Stonewall Jackson favored an eventual abolition of slavery in the South. (There’s no historical evidence he believed this. Still, the first Confederate general to even consider freeing his slaves in order to have them fight against the North was Patrick Cleburne known as “the Stonewall of the West” in early 1864 when Jackson was long dead.)

Stonewall Jackson’s cook was a freed man. (He was a slave.)

General Stonewall Jackson’s men carried him on a stretcher which they dropped because of gun fire. (They dropped him because they slipped in the mud, not due to gunfire.)

Stonewall Jackson called his black cook, “Mr. Lewis.” (A lot of people in the South wouldn’t address black people this way at the time.)

Stonewall Jackson was a saint. (He was a religious man, but he had his flaws and eccentricities. However, he owned slaves, had a Christian Fundamentalist streak that contributed to his military prowess, as well as had a zealotry and causal disregard for human life, which made him so disturbing. Can’t have that in Gods and Generals.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 36 – The American Revolution


Of course, I couldn’t do a post on the American Revolution without posting a picture from the 2000 film The Patriot in which Mel Gibson plays a simple family man who kicks Great Britain’s ass and all the British soldiers are stand-ins for the Nazis. This movie covers the Revolutionary War in the South which is much more complicated and brutal than the movie portrays. Also, there’s no way Mel Gibson’s character would have black workers toiling at his plantation. That’s just not possible. Not to mention, Banastre Tarleton and Lord Cornwallis weren’t that bad guys either.

Anyone who lives in the United States knows that the American Revolution is a pivotal point in American history, even though it’s not as important anywhere else. Of course, if you want to know why we entered into this war with Great Britain, look no further than the French and Indian War which the colonists fought on the British side so some of them could move out west to places like Pittsburgh or some where. I mean if the French won, I would’ve written this article in French and be a Canadian citizen. Still, after the war ended in 1763, Indian Wars against Pontiac led to the Prohibition line of 1763 across the Appalachian Mountains. Then you have Britain in debt which led to the Stamp Act, Townsend Acts, Boston Massacre, Boston Tea Party, the Intolerable Acts, and before you know it, the shot heard around the world at Lexington and Concord. Thus, the American Revolution has begun which leads to other events like The Battle of Bunker Hill (should be the Battle of Breed’s Hill), the Declaration of Independence, Washington Crossing the Delaware, Saratoga, Valley Forge, and finally Cornwallis’ Surrender at Yorktown. There are quite a few movies made in this time, which have quite a few historical errors in them of which I shall list.

Road to Revolution:

The American Revolution was fought over taxes. (It was fought over being taxed but without being able to send representative to Parliament. However, little did they know about how many people were unrepresented in Britain. Also, they didn’t like being treated as a colony.)

The Liberty Tree was full of leaves during the Boston Tea Party. (The Boston Tea Party took place in December.)

Paul Revere shouted “The redcoats are coming!” during his ride. (He said “The regulars are coming!” which doesn’t seem to have the same gist to it. Also, he wasn’t the only rider and didn’t make it to Concord.)

The American Revolution:

George Washington:

George Washington was pessimistic about his army’s progress by the spring of 1776. (Actually he was a little more hopeful. Despondence didn’t set in until seven weeks after the Declaration of Independence came out.)

Benjamin Tallmadge:

Major Benjamin Tallmadge and Major John Andre had a long and deep friendship. (Yes, they had some kind of friendship but it wasn’t for the longer term. Also, Andre knew he was a goner anyway. Still, Tallmadge did nothing to save Andre’s life nor did Andre save Tallmadge’s. Not to mention, Tallmadge was never a spy out of uniform and was much more ruthless nor was above employing brutal methods to accomplish his own ends unlike his expy in The Scarlet Coat.)

Francis Marion:

Francis Marion was a forward-thinking family man during the Revolution who defeats countless Brits single-handedly. (In reality, Francis Marion was a slave-owning serial rapist who didn’t get married until after the war {to his cousin} and he also killed Cherokees for fun. In Hollywood terms, this would make the real Francis Marion truly undesirable for any Hollywood film adaptation because who wants to see a movie where the hero rapes his slaves and takes great sport in killing Indians? As for defeating countless Brits singlehandedly, how can you manage that with a musket? Also, why would any Southern man hire black workers for wages? That’s as impossible as them working voluntarily. How could a black person voluntarily work on a South Carolina plantation during the American Revolution, really?)

Henry Lee:

Henry Lee was known as “Lighthorse Harry” Lee throughout the American Revolution. (He didn’t get the nickname until 1778.)

The Mohawk Valley:

Fighting in the Mohawk Valley was mostly Indians vs. settlers. (The British soldiers played a much bigger role. Also, the Continental Army and local militias raided and destroyed Iroquois settlements in the region. So maybe the Iroquois had some reason to get pissed off and attack settlers.)

The Battle of Oriskany was an American victory. (Nearly half of the American forces were killed, wounded, or forced to retreat and it led to lifting the siege at Fort Stanwix two days later because the militia could no longer do so. However, this happened in 1777 not 1781.)

Fort Stanwix and the Mohawk Valley were of no strategic importance whatsoever. (The events in the Mohawk Valley and Fort Stanwix would later lead to Saratoga, which would be a turning point in the American Revolution.)

William Caldwell was killed on the Mohawk Valley assault. (He lived to fight on the British side during the War of 1812.)

Banastre Tarleton:

Lieutenant Colonel Banastre Tarleton wore a red uniform. (He was a Dragoon and his legion wore green. Still, love the Jason Isaacs portrayal though I prefer him as Lucius Malfoy with his pimp cane wand and blond hair.)

Banastre Tarleton burned down a colonial church full of villagers during the Revolutionary War. (There’s no evidence he did such a thing or that any other commander during the American Revolution did either {though Oliver Cromwell did burn a church full of people in Ireland and the Nazis staged a similar massacre in France}. And unlike what The Patriot tells you, he did survive the war and went on to have a political career. Still, was an asshole though for he supported slavery. Nevertheless, he had a bad reputation for his men slaughtering colonial prisoners at Waxhaw, though we’re not sure if he was directly responsible but the massacre wasn’t a premeditated thing. He also burned colonial homes and execute suspected guerillas but that’s about it. If he had burned a church full of people, we would’ve known about it. Also, the Loyalists were much worse in their brutality toward the Patriots {who were happy to return the favor}.)

Charles Cornwallis:

Lord General Charles Cornwallis was present at the Battle of Cowpens. (He wasn’t.)

Lord General Charles Cornwallis held the colonists in open contempt and disdain. (He was a Whig who was sympathetic to the colonials as well as an MP who voted on their behalf several times before the war. He was just fighting for his country.)

Lord General Charles Cornwallis was a rather older man during the American Revolution. (He was only in his forties and six years younger than George Washington.)

Benjamin Franklin:

Benjamin Franklin was an abolitionist during the American Revolution. (He wasn’t until after the war but he did become president of the Pennsylvania Abolition Society in 1785.)

Benjamin Franklin was a pervert. (Yes, he had a racy side which does show in his writings. However, in 1776, he was quite an angry man who was out to even the score with a British government that had hauled him before the Privy Council in 1774 and called him a liar and a thief.)

John Adams:

John Adams sent for Martha Jefferson to visit her husband in Philadelphia while Thomas struggled writing the Declaration of Independence. (Sure Jefferson was deeply worried about Martha during the times he struggled writing the Declaration of Independence, yet his wife was at Monticello too ill and depressed even to write him a letter {due to suffered a miscarriage and a bout of gestational diabetes}, let alone visit him in Philadelphia. Still, Jefferson could’ve used some other alternative to fuel his sexual frustrations like many slave owners did at the time {Jefferson included}. However, Mrs. Mary Norris Dickinson was present in Philadelphia at the time but she’s absent from 1776 mostly because the Dickinsons’ marriage was more egalitarian and not bound by gender stereotypes {which is kind of a shame that it wasn’t included}.)

John Adams was an obnoxious and disliked person in the Continental Congress. (This is based on Adams’ self-description from 1822 but David McCullough and Gary Wills say that no one viewed him this way and much of Congress actually had a lot of respect for him. John Dickinson was actually advocating an unpopular position in 1776, according to them. Still, he was kind of a brilliant and abrasive guy who hated to shut up but missed his wife during that time {yet they did flirt passionately in their letters}.)

John Adams hated Richard Henry Lee and liked Benjamin Franklin. (He actually admired and respected Lee but disliked Franklin.)

Thomas Jefferson:

Thomas Jefferson resolved to free his slaves in 1776. (He never did except for a few after his death 50 years later. Also, he would have children by one of them later on in his life.)

Thomas Jefferson was so anxious to get home during the independence debate was because he needed to get laid. (No, it was because his wife was extremely ill at the time from a miscarriage.)

Thomas Jefferson was a sex addict. (No, he may have been a guy on the Autism spectrum who may have slept with his slaves but he was no sex addict. But we understand he did have his needs.)

Thomas Jefferson cut out his antislavery paragraph from the Declaration of Independence over Edward Rutledge’s speech about how both north and south were equally responsible for it while John Adams defended him. (Actually, the paragraph was more on the slave trade, not slavery. Still, while Adams did defend him, Jefferson cut it because due to objections from Georgia and South Carolina while some northern states were uneasy on the subject.)

John Dickinson:

John Dickinson was a loyalist. (He wasn’t at all since he had been anti-British before the Revolution with his Letters of a Pennsylvanian Farmer as well as fight against the Brits in the militia as a private and brigadier general. He just didn’t think 1776 was a good time to declare it since the government structure was too uncertain and that the Americans had no European allies. Also, he wasn’t at the Continental Congress when independence was being debated and voted upon. Still, he was a pacifist Quaker who objected to revolution, not a loyalist Tory {or a Nixon clone as he is in 1776}.)

John Dickinson resigned from Congress without signing the Declaration of Independence. (He didn’t resign but he did leave without signing. However, he was on the committee to draft the Articles of Confederation.)

John Paul Jones:

John Paul Jones spoke in an American accent. (He born and grew up in Scotland. Seriously, his biopic casting would’ve been more accurate if he was played by Sean Connery, not Robert Stack. )

John Paul Jones only had two vessels in his squadron of privateers. (He actually had four. His Captain Landais of the Alliance just didn’t want to obey Jones’ orders and regularly ignored them mostly because he felt he should’ve been in command.)

John Paul Jones ordered Commodore Hopkins to the Bahamas. (He sent him to the Virginia coast but Hopkins went to the Bahamas anyway attacking the islands for military supplies. He was later court-martialed for this and other questions regarding his command. I guess being one of the first US officers to be court martialed doesn’t look good for one’s resume.)

Captain Pearson knew that John Paul Jones was in his vicinity. (He knew there was a raiding force in the area. However, he mistook Jones’ fleet was a Royal Navy squadron. This allowed Jones to get close to the Serapis before the sea battle began.)

John Paul Jones refused to accept Captain Pearson’s sword during the latter’s surrender. (Jones actually accepted Pearson’s sword after the battle but returned it a few days later.)

Richard Henry Lee:

Richard Henry Lee was a giggling buffoon who made endless puns with his own name and didn’t have any idea about American independence. (He was the second most powerful orator in the Continental Congress after John Adams who supported independence the moment he entered Congress. Also, he was an intense, high minded, and humorless Puritan who would’ve certainly hated his portrayal in 1776.)

Richard Henry Lee was governor of Virginia. (He never served as governor. His cousin Henry Lee was {who ended up fathering a future Civil War general}.)

Caesar Rodney:

Caesar Rodney was short. (He’s famously depicted as tall.)

Caesar Rodney had a small patch covering his cheek. (During 1776, Caesar Rodney was suffering from skin cancer which would later kill him 9 years later {at 56 being 47 in 1776}. However, by that time, he was actually missing half his face due to 18th century surgery and cauterization treatments. He kept the afflicted area under wraps under a green kerchief wrapped around his head. Still, despite this and asthma, he managed to ride eighty miles during a thunderstorm. However, he was absent from Congress in 1776 because he trying to stiffen the spines of his fellows Delawareans.)

James Wilson:

James Wilson was a timid fool who only voted for independence because he didn’t want the notoriety of turning it down. (He was a shrewd and contentious lawyer from Pennsylvania perhaps the greatest intellect in America after James Madison. Also, he was staunchly committed to independence from the beginning but delayed his vote until he checked with his constituents to make sure they agreed with him. Contrary to 1776, he wasn’t a judge at the time and the swing vote for independence was a guy name John Morton who’s absent from the film. Still, Wilson’s portrayal in 1776 is as about accurate as it could be at the time.)

Robert Livingston:

Robert Livingston was an utter twit. (This man would go on to negotiate the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.)

Edward Rutledge:

Edward Rutledge was in his forties in 1776. (He was only 26 and the youngest delegate. In 1776, he’s played by a 40ish Jack Cullum.)

Lewis Morris:

Lewis Morris was an idiot who willingly abstained his vote until his sons enlisted. (He wasn’t in Philadelphia to vote on Independence because he was serving as Brigadier general in his local New York militia. Also, he was very pro-independence as well as later signed the Declaration of Independence months after the vote.)

Lewis Morris had 12 children in which 4 of the oldest boys fought in the Revolution. (He had 10 kids and his 3 oldest sons fought.)

War in the South:

The French only fought in the Battle of Yorktown as colonial allies. (They arrived in 1778.)

Slavery was practically nonexistent in Revolutionary South Carolina and not particularly bad anyway. (South Carolina was one of the biggest pro-slavery states in the Union for much of American history {it was the first state to secede from the Union after Lincoln’s election in 1860}. And, yes, it was one of the most inhumane institutions ever in existence in America. I mean the US became bitterly divided and fought a whole war over it. Also, read Frederick Douglass’ autobiography in which he talks about all kinds of childhood horrors and how his struggle to be free took up most of it.)

The Battle of Guilford Courthouse was colonial victory during the American Revolution. (It was actually ah heavy loss.)

Most of the South was pro-patriot during the Revolutionary War. (There were significant factions in the South that remained Loyalist.)

The Battle of Cowpens was a mostly infantry affair that resulted in heavy American losses. (It was a cavalry battle lasting less than an hour which resulted in only 12 Americans getting killed.)

Americans of all stripes took up arms out of patriotism during the American Revolution. (Well, maybe but it took some congressional measures to keep them in the Continental Army which wasn’t an easy task since it had few resources and more Americans served in militias. Some also served for money and or because they had nowhere else to. And not everyone in the colonies supported independence either.)

British soldiers were mostly responsible for the atrocities in the South during the Revolutionary War. (Loyalists and Patriot Americans were and many used the war as an excuse to settle old scores. However, in Hollywood, the Patriots are the good guys, and the Loyalists mostly don’t exist.)

Declaration of Independence:

30-35 delegates of the Continental Congress were present in 1776. (65 delegates were but 1776 was adapted from a musical so the reduction kind of made sense.)

The debate over American Independence boiled down to the argument of the phrasing of the Declaration and whether slaver ought to be legal. (As with the slavery question, the issue very well could’ve been debated but it wasn’t the point in which the issue of independence hinged at least for the Continental Congress. Yet, since many of the Revolutionary leaders were slave owners {I’m talking to you, Jefferson}, they kind of passed the buck to the next generation by silent agreement. As with independence, they already voted in favor of independence before making changes to the Declaration.)

The anti-independence faction in Congress were filled with “conservatives.” (There were no conservatives in Congress at this time since every delegate was liberal in the classical sense in English 18th century politics. To be a conservative at the time, you would have to be vehemently pro-monarchist and have found the idea of an unauthorized congress distasteful no matter what they were discussing. Also, the left-right spectrum wouldn’t exist until the French Revolution.)

The vote on independence came on July 4, 1776 when the Declaration of Independence was signed. (It was on July 2. Some historians believed the Declaration of Independence was actually signed on August 2, {though most of the delegates signed it at different times}. Also, John Hancock was the only person to sign it on July 4.)

There was a mandate for a unanimous vote for independence. (There wasn’t but rather an understanding that a less than unanimous vote risked the fatal split of the colonies, especially if the delegates were from Pennsylvania which is why it’s known as the Keystone State and why a keystone is used as a state highway logo.)


During the American Revolution, both sides spoke in British accents. (Yes, but not in the British accents we know today. British accents have changed considerably since the nineteenth century and American accents have changed very little. And since there was no recording equipment at the time, we can’t really know for sure how they talked.)

Colonial soldiers saluted by placing their hands on their hats. (It actually consisted of taking off one’s hat, lowering it to the side, and putting it on again.)

The Founding Fathers were all God-fearing Christians. (Christians, yes, but they were also secularists and some had rather unconventional ideas about religion. Still, most of them did go to church and certainly weren’t atheists.)

Revolutionary soldiers wore blue uniforms. (This is true only near the end of the war and mostly among the officers. Most Continental soldiers wore whatever they had on or their militia uniform if they were in one. This is played to a lesser extent than the Confederates wearing grey uniforms though.)

The statue of King George III in New York City was of dark lead. (It was painted in gold according to a Continental army lieutenant.)

The Bonhomme Richard sank immediately after the battle with the Serapis while it was being pumped out during the action. (It actually sank late the next day after the battle in a failed attempt at repairs begun after the surrender since the men couldn’t be spared during the fight and the extent of damage couldn’t be fully judged during the chaos.)

American marksmanship was not only key to American victory during the American Revolution, but also to the vote of American independence. (No, I don’t think so. This is a myth. Besides, muskets had terrible aim.)

Samuel Chase, John Adams, and Benjamin Franklin were sent to a training camp in New Brunswick, New Jersey which George Washington reported as full of disorder and prostitutes. (They probably didn’t make such a visit. Also, Continental army training camps in 1776? Still, at least Washington’s view on camp followers is accurate in 1776. Also, New Brunswick did have that reputation for debauchery back then despite being the home of today’s Rutgers University.)

The attack of Whitehaven was a smooth operation. (It was far from it. The second boat sent during the attack did very little and its crew might’ve spent the attack in the Whitehaven pub {which would’ve made for a very funny scene}. Whitehaven’s fortifications had no troops {but housed a couple of caretakers} since the town was too cheap to pay for them and there was no confrontation with the townspeople. Also, only one of the 200 vessels docked there were burned since the attackers didn’t have enough oil to set the rest alight.)

American militiamen reloaded their guns very speedily and efficiently in combat. (They were notoriously slow reloading in combat due to lack of training, practice, and experience. The British, however, were well trained in this procedure.)

Continental soldiers were always ragged and hungry. (Sometimes but not all the time.)

The Americans won the Revolutionary war with frontier savvy and guerilla tactics. (We forget the British had as much guerilla chops as the colonies as well as Indian allies, even the guy who wrote the book on being an army ranger fought for the British. Ordinary pitched battles and European allies helped the Americans win.)

The stars and stripes was adopted in 1781. (It was adopted in June 1777.)

The Founding Fathers kept a secret treasure trove. (Several Founding Fathers were Freemasons but no, they didn’t put a treasure map on the Declaration of Independence.)

Charles Carroll of Carrollton was a Freemason. (He wasn’t.)

Ethan Allen took Fort Ticonderoga in 1776. (He took it in 1775.)

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 28 – The Age of Sail and Other Things


I know that Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World takes place during the Napoleonic Wars, but if there’s any film that embodies the Age of Sail, it’s this one. Of course, this movie was based on the Aubrey-Maturin bromance series by Patrick O’ Brian with the characters played by Russell Crowe and Paul Bettany. Nevertheless, this is a fairly more accurate film than a lot of Age of Sail films Hollywood has made. Nevertheless, by the standards of his day, Jack Aubrey is a fairly good captain though the contentedness of his crew may not have been typical on a British war ship. I mean there has to be at least many British seamen on the HMS Surprise who didn’t want to be there since many were kidnapped by press gangs at the time, especially since the British Navy’s habit of abducting American sailors led to the War of 1812.

In a way, the age of Colonial Empire in movies could never complete without discussing the Age of Sail which spanned from the 1400s up to the mid-19th century. It was an era of great big wooden ships with high masts, billowing sails, and a crew of jolly old sailors. Of course, these ships were among the primary methods of long distance transportation for nearly 400 years and it’s usually with these ships that European nations were able to become rich, build navies, and create a colonial empire ushering an age of globalization. Nevertheless, naval strength in the Age of Sail also made countries powerful, explaining why Great Britain managed to become a world superpower with an empire that lasted so long. Since Hollywood has made pirate movies and adventure films in the era of colonization or Napoleonic Wars, you will certainly see ships like these time and time again. The Age of Sail is also a highly romanticized era because of how much it has been depicted in movies, books, and television despite that life aboard these sailing vessels wasn’t all that it’s cracked up to be since these were the days that people didn’t have refrigeration, modern medicine, proper sanitation, adequate pest control, or even swimming lessons. Oh, and there were so many things that could kill you.Not to mention, many of the ships in movies tend to look too much alike and are sometimes much bigger than what many of these seafarers would’ve actually used. Yet, this is mainly because smaller ships wouldn’t be good filming locations. Nevertheless, movies continue to romanticize this era and this is where inaccuracies come to play.

The Age of Sail:


Maps were always accurate and precise. (Many times they weren’t. Also, remember that until the mid-18th century, there was no such thing as longitude.)


Steel haul tall ships existed in the late 1700s. (They came into fashion 100 years later.)

Late 16th century Dutch ships had arched type sterns. (They had high castle-like sterns. Arched type sterns came a century or two later.)

Wooden sailing ships sailed in every direction in all kinds of weather with the main and topsails square to the masts at all times. (They only did this when navigating by the wind in their favorable direction, and only in good weather.)

Fully rigged wooden sailing ships could be turned simply by spinning the wheel. (There’s a whole array of multi-man complex procedures to turn a ship, even for a close change. They didn’t operate like cars do today. Steam engines and electric motors didn’t exist before the 19th century.)

Disabling the rudder chain cables on a large wooden ship only took a single man a few minutes. (Disabling a rudder chain took a single man days and only with the proper implement.)

A large wooden ship could be successfully operated by a small crew. (I’m not sure if one could be operated by less than ten guys. Then again, one of Magellan’s ships was successfully crewed by eighteen guys by the end {though he had died in the Philippines}. Still, no pre-19th century naval officer would worry about two men trying to steal a ship because it couldn’t be crewed by two guys.)

All British Men of War ships were painted in the “Nelson Checker” pattern around 1720. (This pattern wasn’t common until the Napoleonic Wars when used by Admiral Horatio Nelson.)

18th century wooden ships had a Plimsoll line. (This wasn’t used until the 19th century.)

Wooden ships were always impeccably clean. (These were notoriously filthy and infested with vermin.)

Wooden ships always consisted in wood that was in the best condition whether submerged or not. (Wooden ships weren’t in nearly as ship shape upon returning. They had barnacles on the hull and perhaps rotting wood. Plus, if it’s a warship, there would need to be some repairs and cannon blasts through it. Also, a ship’s carpenter was perhaps the second most valuable person on the ship next to the doctor.)

Damage caused by naval warfare could be fixed in a jiffy. (Somehow in movies, the ship’s carpenters never seem to get killed or they’re able to patch up a ship very quickly. I don’t think fast repair work is possible without power tools.)


Most wooden-ship era sailors volunteered to go out to sea and were lawful, clean-cut, and loyal members of the crew. (Being a sailor was one of the shittiest jobs in the era of wooden ships. Most sailors in the Royal Navy were kidnapped by thugs as a four-limbed drunk at a local tavern and were forced to serve on merchant ships. “Pressed men” were paid less than volunteers {if paid at all}, shackled onto ships while on port so they wouldn’t escape, and were whipped for any minor offense in the navy rulebook they didn’t get to read. They also had little or no chance of advancement and lived in appalling conditions. And of course, they had to deal with storms, crowded quarters, being away from their families, and tropical diseases. 75% of pressed sailors were dead within two years. Also, many Golden Age pirates started out as British sailors.)

Most sailors were content with serving on board a ship. (A lot ship crews weren’t really content because many sailors didn’t want to go to sea in the first place. The British Royal Navy recruited press gangs to kidnap four-limbed men on a regular basis. Also, the British Navy’s impressment of American sailors was one of the reasons for the War of 1812.)

Sailors mostly swabbed the deck on ships. (They did a lot of other stuff than just that.)

Most sailors knew how to swim. (Most of them didn’t and very few captains offered swimming lessons to their crews they didn’t really think it was worth it since swimming would just delay the inevitable or that it would encourage them to jump ship and desert when close to shore {remember this is a time when sailors were treated poorly and many were forced at sea against their will}. Many sailors usually expected a quick death if they were thrown overboard anyway. 16th century chroniclers of sea-life described that swimming and diving skills were valued because they were so rare.)

Drunken sailors were looked down upon. (Actually all sailors were looked down upon whether they were drunk or not. Also, officers thought a drunken sailor was less of security risk because drunk sailors were less likely to mutiny under horrific conditions. Yet, this doesn’t mean they were less likely to get flogged though.)

Most sailors were heterosexual and were willing to delay sexual gratification. (Maybe some sailors but it didn’t seem to prevent them screwing whores at ports, contracting STDs, and having a reputation of being sodomites. And sometimes in situations with a crew full of men, let’s just say there’s so many naval related gay stereotypes for a reason. Not to mention, there may be some gay homoerotic undertones in Moby Dick and Billy Budd. Make that what you will.)

Sailors were usually clean shaven by the time they returned home. (During the Age of Sail, most of them would’ve returned with a full beard since shaving requires fresh water and supplies were limited on a ship. Most pirate captains would certainly have had one.)

Most seamen were very healthy, well fed, and well cared for on a wooden ship. (Medicine before the 19th century wasn’t very reliable and naval seamen didn’t really have a long lifespan since there were so many ways to die on the ship like drowning, disease, starvation, or cannonball. Also, sailors on lawful vessels were usually treated rather shitty.)

Sailors almost never got seasick. (Many did including Lord Admiral Horatio Nelson {yet he was still a very capable officer who rose through the ranks and earned his noble title}.)

Seamen were punished by flogging most of the time. (They could also be tarred and feathered, keel-hauled, or other things and the whole crew was made to watch. Flogging was the most common punishment though and even that could be deadly. However, good captains would try not to punish their men this way unless it was necessary.)

Sailors on wooden ships always had quality food. (Maybe at first, but the quality would deteriorate as the voyage went on and could be infested with vermin. Yet, for some, the ship cuisine would’ve been better than what they ate ashore.)

All seamen were white. (There was a sizeable number of black sailors during the 18th century since officers were willing to take all the healthy four-limbed men they could get even if they were runaway slaves. Practically every harpooner in Moby Dick is non-white.)

There were no children on board. (There were powder monkeys who assisted gun crews, ship’s boys who carried ammunition, and boy cadets as young as twelve or nine.  Also, seamen generally started their careers as boys before reaching the seaman rank at 16 and leaving the sea at 26. )


Captains on ships usually dished out orders on deck. (They also relied on their helmsmen to do such tasks.)

Captains on wooden ships would halt a thousand man ship of the line battle to rescue a single enlisted man who had fallen overboard. (Captains would’ve done no such thing since a naval battle was impossible to stop. Also, seamen were viewed as expendable in those days. A ship’s carpenter or doctor was more likely.)

Sadistic captains got away with everything. (Captain Bligh would’ve been court-martialed for tying a guy to the masthead during a storm, which he most certainly didn’t do.)

There were no child naval officers. (Most Royal Navy officers up until after the Napoleonic Wars {as far as I know} started as midshipmen  as early as their teens or younger. Midshipmen could be as young as twelve or even nine while lieutenants could be as young as eighteen. Of course, many of these kids were from prominent naval families, aristocrats, or the professional class. Master and Commander is perhaps one of the few movies that shows this. So yes, many seamen had to follow orders from teenagers believe it or not.)


Triple cannons could fire multiple shots around the 17th century. (Cannons were muzzle loading at this time and couldn’t be reloaded.)

No wooden warship ran out of cannon balls.

Sea battles were fairly clean affairs starting with cannons firing at close range eventually with crews engaging in close combat. (Most of the time there would be debris everywhere due to cannon balls at close range.)

Loading cannons on ships took seconds. (It took longer than that.)


The 18th century British Navy used Semaphore code with holding two flags in different positions. (They set up different flags on the masts on ships.)

British fleets in 1720 could have some 10 3-decked ships in a single line. (The Royal Navy had only six of these ships on commission worldwide in 1720.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Commodore during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1796.)

Royal Navy officers could be promoted to Lieutenant Commander during the 18th century. (This wasn’t a rank in the Royal Navy until 1877.)

Royal Navy press gangs only kidnapped adults into naval service. (They also abducted boys as young as eleven to serve as powder monkeys or teenage seamen. Powder monkeys assisted gun crews and learned most of the ship basics but were paid little {if anything}, treated poorly, and were expendable. Most boy pirates probably started out as powder monkeys.)

Royal Navy midshipmen went to school to learn how to become officers during the Age of Sail. (They didn’t attend school but learned on the ship as children.)


Ship surgeons performed slow and careful surgery. (Most ship surgeons usually cut limbs as fast as they could in order to spare the patient extra pain because they didn’t have any anesthesia in those days {except maybe alcoholic beverages}. Nevertheless, I don’t think that kid in Master and Commander would’ve been so laid back while Maturin was taking his freaking arm off since the pain would’ve been excruciating. I’m surprised this boy wasn’t screaming like a little kid getting a vaccination.)


‘Wild Indians” were vicious, or at least more vicious than Europeans.

Tropical island locals and Africans practiced cannibalism and were headhunters. (Not really. Also, accounts of cannibalism among Indians in the Caribbean were greatly exaggerated and stemmed from the notion of a tribal practice keeping the bones of one’s ancestors in their homes so their spirits could watch over them. There has never been any evidence of indigenous cannibalism ever found in the Caribbean.)

Native warriors were usually bare chested and were threats to civilized society.

Natives had loose sexual customs.

Natives were primitive and savage. (Many indigenous cultures were rather complex as well as sophisticated and not all consisted of hunter-gatherer societies.)

Only converting to Christianity made Indians less violent and savage. (I don’t think this is the case since Indians all had their reasons of whether to convert to Christianity. Indian women in French territories even had French husbands like Sacajawea.)

Indian princesses (or a chief’s daughter) usually ended up with a white protagonist. (Many cultures didn’t have hereditary royalty. However, there were plenty of normal native women who ended up with whites as well.)

Native women were scantily clad. (I’m sure some women from indigenous tribes wore more than a bikini made out of coconuts.)

Natives believed white people were gods. (White people would like think native tribesmen did. However, many natives weren’t that naïve.)

Native Polynesian women wore grass skirts and coconut bras, especially in Hawaii.


Martini Henry rifles had repeating ammunition. (They were single shot breech loading weapons.)

Singapore was a metropolis during the 18th century inhabited by Chinese. (It was a minor fishing village called “Temasek.” Also, it would’ve been inhabited by Malays and nobody would’ve heard anything about it. Singapore as we know it was founded Sir Thomas Stamford Bingley Raffles {love the guy’s name} in 1819 on behalf of the East India Company.)

Archaeologists were adventurers who discovered legendary artifacts, lost cities, and fought bad guys. (Even in the time of Imperialism a lot of archaeologists weren’t like Indiana Jones. T. E. Lawrence may have been an exception of this, however. Still, there were plenty of archaeologists with not so glorious discoveries as well.)

Old timey big game hunters were real manly men. (Yet, they somehow put a lot of animals on the endangered species list. Nowadays, many are known as “poachers.” However, Lieutenant Colonel Patterson at least didn’t kill those maneating lions for sport.)

All adventurers, archaeologists, and hunters wore safari outfits in Africa. (Some were in conventional dress.)

In 18th century Tortuga, women could safely walk around without any fear of being raped. (Considering that this was one of those hangouts for pirates who had no qualms about murder and spend long periods of time without women around, would I consider Tortuga safe in the 1700s? Hell, no.)