History of the World According to the Movies: Part 71 – World War II: POWs, Resistance Fighters, and Other Things

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1963’s The Great Escape famous for starring Steve McQueen in that iconic motorcycle scene where he’s chasing himself. Yet, it’s also known for it’s famous depiction of a great POW camp escape in which three tunnels were dug in the prisoners’ bunkers that were named Tom, Dick, and Harry. While it kind of does take liberties with the truth, I’m sure this film will be loved by generations. Nevertheless, POW camp prisoners in Germany considered escaping as a duty and would come up with a lot of creative ways to do so, some of those not shown in film.

I mainly did my movie history blog posts around World War II based on location but there are some aspects in which it isn’t possible, yet there are plenty of movies made pertaining to them nevertheless. In some ways, World War II movies don’t just have to be war movies. You can have prison movies set in POW Camps like Bridge on the River Kwai or The Great Escape with Nazi commandants and such. A lot of times you’ll always have at least one person who wants to escape but some may not have the kind of bad luck William Holden did. You have movies with Resistance (mostly French) freedom fighters who’ve had enough with Hitler’s occupation and if Hitler was in a theater, they wouldn’t hesitate to blow it up to bits. Then you have spy stuff with internationally assembled crack teams of soldiers played by some of the most famous names in cinema also possibly trying to blow something up. Or possibly stealing some secrets from the Nazis. Either way, there would have to be a Nazi uniform change at some point in the plot. Still, while there are plenty of movies about these things, there are plenty of stuff they tend to get wrong, which I shall make note of accordingly.

Resistance Movements:

Everyone in France supported the French resistance and the Free French movement. (The truth is most French mostly remained neutral at least in the beginning up to D-Day even though they certainly didn’t like being occupied. Also, the French Resistance mostly consisted of young people.)

Else Gebel was a political anti-fascist prisoner who was sympathetic to Sophie Scholl’s plight. (Unlike the German movie Sophie Scholl, it’s plausible that Gebel was a Gestapo mole. Then again Sophie probably wouldn’t have known that.)

Resistance movements were only on the Allied side. (Actually there were people who did have resistance movements but joined the Axis powers. People like Indian Independence leader Chandra Bose for instance. You can see why he isn’t remembered. Also, you have the White Russians.)

Resistance movements were all united in a common goal and seldom fought amongst each other. (Some countries actually had more than one movement and it wasn’t unusual for them to end up fighting each other as well. According to TTI: “China had so many turncoats-turned-resistance fighters-turned-bandits that the historical community generally wrings its hands and splits it up into local and regional warlords, nationalist guerrillas, communist guerrillas and Chinese Communist Party guerrillas, with some room for overlap.”)

Norwegian “limpet mines” gave off big explosions on German ships. (Contrary to Max Manus, according to Imdb: “Such mines contained only a small amount (4 kg) of explosives and were placed on a target ship’s hull beneath the water line. In that position, even a small hole can do a lot of damage (in part due to the water pressure surrounding the hull).” But filmmakers can’t be satisfied with a small amount of explosives so if it doesn’t blow up spectacularly, it’s not worth seeing.)

Jens Christian Hauge was in the Norwegian resistance in 1940. (He joined the resistance later because he was in jail in 1940.)

The Oslo harbor was brightly lit to help Norwegian resistance members sabotage German ships. (Unlike in Max Manus, Oslo had a blackout enforced in case of long awaited Allied bombing raids. Max and his friends probably had to work in the dark.)

POW Camps:

World War II prisoners were treated in accords with the Geneva Conventions or at least had a right to. (The Japanese weren’t subject to the Geneva Convention and POWs until the 1950s and treated their prisoners horrifically {though this had more to do with them being under a fascist military dictatorship}. As for Japanese POWs, they didn’t expect to be treated as anything other than shit to begin with though the Japanese government at the time couldn’t care less about their fates. Still, treatment of them varied by country, though no Japanese POW wouldn’t want to be held in captivity by the Chinese or Soviets.

As for the Germans, while they generally kept to the Geneva Convention when it came to US, UK, French prisoners or what not until perhaps close to the end though treatment did vary from camp to camp. Yet, the Nazis didn’t believe the Geneva Convention applied to Eastern Europeans so captured Red Army soldiers usually ended up as slaves or starved in death camps at best {this is why they’re considered Holocaust victims. Also, while 5 million Soviet POWs were taken, only 2 million were liberated by the end of the war}. Those who were liberated were sent to filtration camps that were effectively high security prisons until they were cleared or condemned. Those who were cleared were cleared {consisting of more than 90% of Soviet POWs}, were freed and sometimes re-drafted. Those who were condemned could be executed, sent to a Siberian gulag, or stripped of rank and sent to a penal regiment {which was for mid-rate crimes like surrendering or retreating when fully capable to fight}. Those in penal regiments had hard, dirty, and dangerous jobs with a high death rate. This would entail penal tank crews being sent out with their hatches shut to prevent them surrendering again while penal infantries were tasked with playing a deadly game of minesweeper. Maybe the Japanese had the right idea with committing suicide as far as the Russians were concerned. Italian POWs in German custody were also treated poorly. Soviet prison camps were unsurprisingly harsh to Axis prisoners that many would try to surrender to other Allied countries like Britain or the US. Their treatment of Axis POWs consists of basically what you’d expect in Stalinist Russia. Then you have the Katyn Massacre of Poles that happened while Russia was allied with Nazi Germany.)

The three guys who got away in the great escape were from the British Commonwealth. (Contrary to The Great Escape, the guys who got away were Dutch and Norwegian. Most were killed, executed, or sent back though.)

The great escape happened during the summer months. (The actual escape actually occurred in March when there was still snow on the ground. Most of the escapees trying to run across country were forced by deep snow to leave the fields and go onto the roads as well as into the hands of German patrols. Oops!)

Escapees during the great escape were all shot in a common space at one time. (50 were shot in many different places, sometimes alone or in groups.)

Executions of great escapees were conducted by uniformed German troops using a Spandau machine gun. (Actually contrary to The Great Escape, they were conducted by Gestapo agents using pistols at close range not with a machine gun in Ramboesque fashion.)
It wasn’t unusual for Allied prisoners to assault German guards during an escape. (Contrary to The Great Escape, Allied prisoners actually avoided doing this at all costs since such actions would be tantamount for inviting execution or at least some time in a highly unpleasant German military prison like Colditz if lucky.)

Italian prisoners in Allied POW camps were considered civilians once Italy joined the Allies. (Sorry, Major Battiagila, but your country’s allegiance doesn’t exempt you from being tried for war crimes as you said in Von Ryan’s Express.)

POWs in German prison camps always wanted to escape for some reason. (Actually it was their duty to try to escape and would go through many creative ways to pull it off. Believe me, I’ve seen Nova episodes on this.)

Officers and enlisted men would be in mixed quarters in every German POW camp. (The Germans always segregated officers and enlisted men in separate POW camps.)

A group of Allied prisoners at a German POW camp formed their own soccer team that won against Germans for respect. (Well, there’s a movie about this called Victory, but there wasn’t an Allied soccer team and to my knowledge I don’t think Pele served in World War II, let alone do time at a German prison camp {seriously why?}. Yet, there was a Ukranian POW soccer team but they beat their resident Nazi captors miserably and repeatedly that they ended up arrested, tortured, and executed by the Gestapo as well as taken to work camps.)

Espionage:

Ian Fleming was a WWI vet by the time he joined the 30 Commando Unit. (Though Fleming is seen wearing ribbons of the 1914-1918 War Medal and Victory Medal in Age of Heroes, he was born in 1908 and would’ve been too young to fight since he was only 10 when the war ended.)

British spy Violette Szabo was tall blonde. (She was a brunette who was less than 5’5.” But she’s played by British actress Virginia McKenna {the woman from Born Free} in a biopic about her. She was a widow of a French soldier as well as a British spy who underwent two missions in occupied France. She was captured by the Germans on her second mission who interrogated, tortured, and deported her to a concentration camp in Germany. Still, the film Carve Her Name with Pride doesn’t show her fate in Ravensbrueck concentration camp which was execution by firing squad at the age of twenty-three but it was made in the 1950s. Her companions were gassed.)

A Polish spy at Bletchley Park passed crucial secrets to the Soviet Union during the Enigma decryption. (Actually contrary to the 2001 Enigma, the traitor was actually a guy named John Cairncross who’s British.)

The OSS was around before Pearl Harbor. (It was founded in 1942.)

MI6 was a reliable intelligence agency during WWII. (Actually in 1939, the Nazis had already exposed MI6’s networks in Europe and the Special Operations Executive took over functions in wartime. Thus, you wouldn’t want to report secrets to MI6 but the SOE.)

Ulysses Diello was a valet to the British ambassador in Turkey who passed secrets to the Germans as Agent Cicero. (Yes, there was an Agent Cicero who was a valet to the British Ambassador to Turkey and was an immensely successful spy. Yet, unlike what 5 Fingers suggests, he was actually Kosovo born Albanian Elyeza Bazna who spoke very poor English and was far from the perfect facsimile of an English gentleman as James Mason’s portrayal. Also, that part about the pursuit after Agent Cicero flees the British Ambassador’s residence is pure fiction.)

War Crimes Trials:

German soldiers were executed for the Malmedy massacre during the Battle of the Bulge. (Actually while there were Germans found guilty as well as sentenced to death, no death sentence was carried out so Marlene Dietrich wouldn’t have to worry so much in Judgment at Nuremberg.)

Wehrmacht officers would disguise themselves as SS officials during the Nuremberg trials. (Actually SS officers would try to disguise themselves as Wehrmacht officials to hide their involvement. At Nuremberg, you’d rather be an ordinary soldier than an SS official.)

Miscellaneous:

World War II soldiers lit their cigarettes with butane lighters. (Butane lighters weren’t invented until the 1950s.)

Air raid sirens always gave a continuously constant sound. (Most of the sirens were hand cranked and gave variable sound when cranked hard 5 times and slacked off 5 times.)

Nazi sympathizers were fans of Chopin’s music. (Contrary to Shining Through, most Nazi supporters would’ve detested Chopin for his Polish and French ethnicity alone.)

WWII bombing crews always stood at a good chance of surviving. (If it’s World War II and you find yourself on a bombing crew, make sure you get your affairs in order and make your peace with the Almighty because less than 50% of them managed to survive their tour.)

German soldiers used night vision scopes in World War II. (Well, not exactly though they were around in Nazi Germany at the time. Still, these infrared scopes were clumsy, very heavy, rare, and reserved for special ops. Also, it’s inconceivable any would’ve been stationed near a glorified officer’s brothel.)

Combat squads could travel in broad daylight and allow enlisted men to talk a lot. (Unlike the journey in Saving Private Ryan, squads would never be allowed to travel during the day time because they’d risk exposing themselves to the enemy. They usually would travel at night in order to go unprotected by the enemy. Also, arguing with your captain during such a mission would’ve resulted in you getting court-martialed.)

World War II military vehicles had radial tires. (Radial tires were patented in 1915 but they weren’t used on vehicles until the 1960s.)

Monopolization of the radio during combat was always a good idea. (Radio nets were shared with the entire squadron during combat and were only to be used in emergencies or by a commanding officer. To describe everything you’re doing while crowding out what others in your squadron are doing, would lead to your squad mates beating the living crap out of you back at the base.)

Aerial torpedoes were designed to attack airfields. (They were made to attack ships and were launched at low-level waters, not to attack land based targets.)

Military nurses had long flowing hairstyles during the war. (They weren’t permitted to have long flowing hair styles while in uniform. Rather the permitted length of hair had to be just above their collars. Thus, they either had to wear it up or cut it. As for makeup, they either were allowed to wear skin tone cosmetics or none at all.)

Nobody smoked during World War II. (Contrary to Pearl Harbor, most people smoked during the 1940s. The only people who didn’t smoke in 1940s movies, were those who hadn’t yet entered puberty. To have nobody smoke in a World War II film is perhaps one of the greatest historical sins a filmmaker could commit. Yes, I know smoking is bad for you, but still.)

Mistreating civilians was a violation of the Geneva Convention at this time. (No, the revision of the Geneva Convention in regard to civilians wasn’t adopted until 1949, unfortunately.)

Soldiers always wore their helmets buckled. (It was common for soldiers to leave their helmets unbuckled due to the common belief that the helmet would break a soldier’s neck when it reacted to a concussion due to a nearby explosion.)
During the war, people rode on bicycles with rubber tires. (By a certain point in the war, only wooden tires would be available, especially in Europe.)

You could easily pick out a Gestapo. (Gestapo usually wore civilian clothes so, no.)

Foreign girls always went for American GIs, particularly if he’s the white protagonist.

During special operations, an Allied soldier could always find a Nazi uniform to fit him perfectly as a disguise.

Special operations always consisted of a group of people from different countries played by big named actors so no Allied country’s participation in the war goes unrecognized.

Despite being bombed, buildings would always have electricity and running water.

History of the World According to the Movies: Part 70 – World War II: The American Home Front

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The 1989 film Fat Man and Little Boy is about the story of the Manhattan Project and the development of the Atomic Bomb. Paul Newman is seen here playing General Leslie Groves while a guy named Dwight Schultz plays the legendary Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer. Nevertheless, while Richard Joffe does get some things right, the story is more suited for his political viewpoints and it’s far from the historic truth. For one, it was Oppenheimer’s dream job to work in the Manhattan Project (while Groves would rather be leading combat troops) and he and Groves got along famously, despite being polar opposites in personality for they both wanted the same thing. Also, Oppenheimer and many of his fellow scientists didn’t have any second thoughts about dropping the atom bombs until after they found out about the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Also, Paul Newman was way too handsome to be General Groves.

Of course, while there wasn’t much attacking on US soil besides Pearl Harbor, it didn’t mean that there wasn’t much going on in the home front. Like the British, Americans did experience rationing, air raid drills, sending bacon grease and scrap metal to the war effort, women working in munitions factories as well as families waiting for their loved ones to come home from the war. Yet, in other ways, it was unique with WWII propaganda films as well as movies from Hollywood, the USO, the role of racial minorities, and other things. You have Japanese American internment camps that were filled with a group of people who were displaced mostly due to ethnicity, culture, and they or their ancestors came from an enemy of the US at the time. Oh, and racism as well of suspicion of disloyalty did have a lot to do with it, too. Yet, the disloyalty of Japanese Americans was somehow put to rest since 20,000 of them fought in the war. You have the Tuskegee Airmen who were an elite unit aerial African American fighters whose overcoming of racism and adversity greatly contributed to their success. Then there’s the Manhattan Project which would be famous for developing one of the most deadly weapons in human history and usher in the atomic age. Nevertheless, while there are plenty of movies made about the American home front, there are plenty of inaccuracies in them as well, which I shall list.

Japanese American Internment:

Japanese Americans were the only group in America to be rounded to internment camps. (Actually, they were the only group to be interred who were mostly American born. German and Italian Americans were also interred but these numbers were small and only pertained to first generation or legal aliens.)

Almost all Japanese Americans were placed in internment camps during World War II. (Actually you may think this is true but not really. Most of the Japanese Americans interned were living on the West Coast, particularly in California where interment was popular among white farmers who resented their Japanese American counterparts {most Japanese Americans there at the time were farmers}. Not to mention, California wasn’t a state known by its friendliness toward Japanese Americans, just the opposite. Anti-Japanese bias on the West Coast was prevalent at this time. By contrast, Hawaii only sent a very small portion of their Japanese American population to internment camps {mostly prominent politicians and community leaders} since the area had been on martial law already and the risk of sabotage and espionage by Japanese residents on the islands was low. Not to mention, 35% of their population had Japanese ancestry and they were active in almost every sector of its economy. Had Hawaii had most of their Japanese American population interred, the then-territory would’ve had its economy crippled. Over 50,000 Japanese Americans on Hawaii remained undisturbed during the course of the war mostly due to being too economically viable to evict.)

The AAGPBL:

The AAGPBL played regulation baseball. (Contrary to A League of Their Own, they actually played a baseball/softball hybrid game. In its first years it was closer to softball.)

Racine won the 1943 World Series in a 7 game series against the Rockford Peaches. (It was in a 5 game series against the Kenosha Comets.)

The Tuskegee Airmen:

Not a single Tuskegee Airman was shot down by enemy fire. (66 Tuskegee Airmen were killed in action and they didn’t have an official flying ace even though one may have had enough unregistered kills to qualify. 25 of their bombers were lost to enemy fire.)

The Tuskegee Airmen was created to prove that blacks could effectively fly a plane. (They were trained by racist instructors who washed trainees out for the smallest mistakes to prove that African Americans were unsuitable to be fighter pilots. The result was hand-picked elite that wiped the floor with everything they met as well as were provided the best protection of all US Army Air Force fighter groups in Europe. Thus, contrary to Red Tails, their status as an elite fighting unit was almost purely accidental and as a result of training from hell.)

The Manhattan Project:

Tchaikovsky’s “Dance of the Reed Flutes” was played during the countdown of the Trinity atomic test in Alamogordo, New Mexico. (Actually it was Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade of Strings” but this is a minor error in Fat Man and Little Boy.)

Frenzied nuclear weapon expansion had been driven from the outset by pigheaded militarists intimidating morally sensitive scientists into doing what they knew to be wrong. (Sorry, Richard Joffe, but this is wrong. Nuclear expansion served the best interests of the military and the Manhattan Project scientists. Maybe they knew designing the bomb was wrong, but they greatly underestimated the bomb’s potential for wiping humanity which came to haunt them after the Hiroshima and Nagasaki.)

General Leslie R. Groves was a warmongering jerk and strutting martinet. (Yes, he was a jerk as Major General Kenneth Nichols called him “the biggest son of a bitch I’ve ever met in my life. I hated his guts and so did everyone.” He was known to be arrogant, socially awkward, as well extremely sarcastic. Yet, even he said that his commander was one of the “most capable individuals” he ever met. He’s said to be an organizer without equal as well as a tireless leader who held together the far-flung elements of the Manhattan Project, which employed 125,000 workers at facilities nationwide. Not to mention, he was the guy in charge of building the Pentagon which was the reason he was picked to lead the Manhattan Project in the first place. He was also a student of MIT before transferring to West Point, where he graduated 4th in his class. Then again, his security measures weren’t the most adequate since Los Alamos employees named Klaus Fuchs and David Greenglass {brother-in-law to Julius Rosenberg} were still able to smuggle atom bomb details to the Soviets, which Fat Man and Little Boy doesn’t address.)

General Leslie Groves was happy leading the Manhattan Project. (Groves actually didn’t want to lead the Manhattan Project, which he called, “Oh, that thing” and later chafed at being a taskmaster to “the largest collection of eggheads in the world.” He had longed to lead combat troops into war but his career had languished in the corps of engineers and his leadership of the Pentagon’s construction was a success, that he was the most likely candidate. He only changed his mind about the job when he saw that the Manhattan Project was his opportunity for glory and worked unceasingly to the end.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and his fellow scientists were against the idea of the atom bomb and felt guilty about being a part of the Manhattan Project for the rest of their lives. (Well, yes, many Manhattan Project scientists did regret their roles in the Manhattan Project but only after the horrors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were known, unlike in Fat Man and Little Boy. He would become a vocal opponent of the development of the even more powerful H-bomb though. But during the atomic bomb’s designing phase, Oppenheimer craved a job at Los Alamos so badly that he’d even be interested in obtaining an army commission to curry favor with General Groves. Once hired in 1942, Oppenheimer worked on the Manhattan Project with appropriate martial zeal as well as gave an idea of poisoning the Germans’ food with radiation. Most of his fellow scientists supported nuking Japan as well and had a big celebration after the bombs were dropped and Japan surrendered.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer was a quiet, moralistic, and easy going man. (Actually though kind of bohemian and witty, this was a guy who stole chemicals and tried to kill his own tutor for making him attend classes on experimental physics which he hated {he preferred theoretical}. This was while he was studying for his doctorate in physics at Cambridge University.  He also betrayed his friend Haakon Chevalier, a literature professor at Berkeley, as someone who had contacted him about sharing secrets with the Russians when asked by the FBI to name names during his time at Los Alamos {though he’d later regret this and said he invented this “cock and bull” story but Chaevalier’s career was ruined because of him, though Oppenheimer might’ve named him to protect his brother who was a known Communist Party member}. Also, contrary to Fat Man and Little Boy, he was a much more outgoing man than portrayed in the film. Interestingly, the said tutor was Patrick Blackett who’d  go on to win a Nobel Prize. Oppenheimer also had a humongous ego to boot despite having a voice like Mr. Rogers. And yes, he was associated with Communist politics in the 1930s as were both his wife and ex-girlfriend. His past association with leftist politics would later hurt him during the Red Scare as he opposed the Cold War arms race.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer and General Leslie R. Groves didn’t get along. (Contrary to Fat Man and Little Boy, despite their personality differences, they got along fine because they both wanted the same thing. Groves even praised him on his work in the Manhattan Project saying, “I was reproachfully told that only a Nobel prize-winner or at least a somewhat older man would be able to exercise sufficient authority over the many ‘prima donnas’ concerned. But I stuck to Oppenheimer and his success proved that I was right. No one else could have done what that man achieved.” Groves also got along well with the other scientists save Hungarian Leo Szilard.)

Dr. J. Robert Oppenheimer came up with the idea of implosion. (It was actually fellow scientist Seth Neddermayer who proposed the theory and his formulation came gradually.)

The experiment with the two hemispheres of beryllium surrounding a core of plutonium and held apart with a screwdriver was called the “drop” experiment. (It was called “tickling the dragon’s tail” but it’s by the expy for Canadian physicist Louis Slotin from Fat Man and Little Boy. Yet, though he died from an experiment relating to radioactivity, his death didn’t provide any cautionary warning for Oppenheimer since it happened on May 30, 1946.)

General Leslie Groves was a fit man. (Actually he weighed between 250-300 pounds in contrast to Paul Newman’s fit figure in Fat Man and Little Boy. Oppenheimer by contrast, weighed 116 pounds during the Trinity Test.)

J. Robert Oppenheimer’s ex-girlfriend Dr. Jean Tatlock committed suicide on January 1945. (She killed herself in January of 1944. Interestingly, she was Oppenheimer’s first love and the first person he ever dated but she suffered from depression {he married his wife Kitty a year after he broke up with Jean}. Still, it’s said he had an affair with her during his time in the Manhattan Project while some say that he only spent the night with her once in mid-June of 1943 after he was picked as head of the laboratory in Los Alamos. It’s highly disputed. We could say that he certainly cared about her and may have felt guilty on breaking up with her despite knowing that she certainly wasn’t relationship material. Still, while we can’t really confirm whether Oppenheimer and Tatlock were romantically involved during his time at Los Alamos, he did have an extramarital affair but it was with Kitty when she was married to her third husband, a physician named Richard Harrison. And it wasn’t until Kitty found out she was pregnant to Oppenheimer when she divorced Harrison and Robert became her fourth
husband in November of 1940. Still, despite only dating two women throughout his entire earthly existence, Oppenheimer certainly had an interesting love life.)

General Leslie Groves was a recipient for the Good Conduct Ribbon. (To qualify for the Good Conduct Ribbon, a soldier must be an enlisted man for at least 36 months. Groves was a West Point graduate and thus ineligible.)

General Leslie Groves met Dr. Leo Szilard in his hotel bathroom while the latter was in a bathtub and the former was on the toilet. (They actually met at the Metallurgy Laboratory at the University of Chicago along with the rest of the scientists. They had an antagonistic relation and Groves tried to fire him.)

The Trinity explosion took 2-3 seconds. (It actually took 40 seconds.)

Kitty Oppenheimer was an adoring wife who thought her husband Robert was the greatest man who deserved anything he wants. (Oppenheimer would’ve probably wished his wife to be like this since he kind of thought he was God’s gift to humanity who deserved anything he wanted. Still, she was known to drink and make catty remarks about her husband.)

Miscellaneous:

America had the best artillery, tanks, tacticians, or generals in World War II. (America had the most money, the highest rate of productivity, and perhaps the most adaptive and self-reliant rank and file of all the fighting armies.)

USAAF bombing crews usually survived with no ill effects. (Since the USAAF bombed German targets by day, they had a monstrously high casualty rate in the bomber department. There’s a reason why the policy for USAAF airmen was “25 and out” for most of the war. Once most airmen completed 25 missions, their war was over but the average crewman only had a 1 in 4 chance of actually completing his tour of duty. Yet, as the war progressed, 25 got upped to 30 and then 35. The average bombing crew got shot down in its 20th mission. American bomber crews were known to be notoriously fatalistic, having determined that after reaching the half-way point on their tours of duty, they were living on borrowed time.)

“Little Brown Jug” was recorded after Glenn Miller’s death. (Actually contrary to The Glenn Miller Story, it was one of his first bonafide hits in 1939, but the movie makes it clear where he got it from.)

WWII was a universally supported one in the US. (The US only went into the war at around Pearl Harbor and even then there were Americans who opposed the war either because they were pacifists or Nazi sympathizers. And yes, World War II did have its share of draft dodgers even in the United States.)

A PT boat’s main function was “to harass the enemy and buy time for a navy that was still on the drawing boards.” (This is sort of accurate but as Washington lawyer and WWII veteran Leonard Nikoloric said, “Let me be honest. Motor torpedo boats were no good. You couldn’t get close to anything without being spotted. I suppose we [Squadron Three] attacked capital ships maybe forty times. I think we hit a bunch of them, but whether we sank anything is questionable. The PT brass were the greatest con artists of all time. They got everything they wanted-the cream of everything, especially the personnel. But the only thing the PTs were effective at was raising War Bonds.”)

The United States military was integrated at this time. (Actually it was still segregated and would be desegregated shortly after World War II. However, many of World War II movies were made after that time and with the assistance of the US military like The Glenn Miller Story. However, such errors could be forgiven since the war was fought by Americans of all races and creeds anyway even if they didn’t fight in integrated units.)

Female cadets were in attendance at West Point at this time. (West Point didn’t start admitting women until 1962.)

There were no gays in the US military during World War II. (Actually the US military effort during World War II was one of the reasons why the gay community became a more prominent force in later years. Sure there was a Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy but the war effort brought so many people away from their homes and into contact with people they wouldn’t have met otherwise, sometimes these were people like them. Also, gay US WWII vets include Rock Hudson, Gore Vidal, and others.)

The US Navy made a petty fuss about shirts. (Actually Mister Roberts is right about the US Navy’s fuss about shirts but it wasn’t out of pettiness. The navy’s medical branch actually found that shirts provide protection against burns in case of explosion.)

US soldiers would leave their sweethearts behind who faithfully waited for them to return home, while their men didn’t mess around. (This wasn’t 100% the case since there were soldiers who did cheat on their sweethearts {sometimes wives} or sometimes abandoned them altogether. Not to mention, sometimes the sweethearts weren’t so devoted either as you understand the concept of a “Dear John” letter. Then there’s the fact that 1946 saw a jump of divorces in the United States.)

“Fouled up” was a common phrase of American soldiers during World War II. (Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, I believe the correct terminology is “fucked up.” For God’s sake, Spielberg, were you aiming for a PG-13 audience? I mean what’s wrong with including swearing in a rated R movie, especially if the main reason for it is violence.)

During combat jumps, US paratroopers jumped out of planes one by one with the jumpmaster commanding, “Go! Go!” (The jumpmaster was always the first off the plane while the rest of the paratroopers immediately followed behind him exiting the plane as fast as they could in order to land as close together as possible. I know the one by one combat jump is always done in movies but paratrooping has never worked that way since it would result in the whole unit being spread out in various locations. Try locating the rest of your unit using that method.)

American soldiers used “thunder” as a challenge word to identify friendlies while “flash” was used as a response. (Contrary to Saving Private Ryan, it’s the other way around with “flash” as the challenge word and “thunder” as the response. The reason why “thunder” was chosen as a response word for identifying friendlies was because of the “th” sound which is nonexistent in German. Thus, if a German were to say, “thunder” to “flash” he wouldn’t be able to hide his accent.)

The US Army had a 113th Tank Division during this time. (There was never a US 113th Tank Division in WWII.)

The Pentagon was completed by 1942. (It wasn’t completed until 1943.)

Women factory workers in the US home front were treated decently by their bosses. (While the average US serviceman was paid $54.65 weekly, factory women were paid $31.50. Also, if they were working among men, there’s a possibility that sexual harassment was frequent in some places. I mean there were no laws against it.)

World War II was the first time when housewives took up work outside the home as their husbands went to war. (Despite the fact that women were expected to be housewives throughout most of human history, this wasn’t always the case, even in America. Even before World War II, many women worked outside the home, especially in times under financial ruin like the Great Depression or death in the family like a spouse. If you’ve seen Mildred Pierce, you know what I mean. It was just that more women were doing the more important jobs that would be normally reserved for men. Not to mention, before that time, many didn’t really consider women’s work as anything of relative importance.)

“Little Orphan Annie” was a 1940s radio show sponsored by Ovaltine. (Ovaltine dropped “Little Orphan Annie” and switched to “Captain Midnight” in 1940. That year “Little Orphan Annie” would be sponsored by Quaker Puff Wheat. Announcer Pierre Andre would also go to “Captain Midnight” in early 1940 since audiences identified him too much with Ovaltine. This detail would help set A Christmas Story to 1939 since The Wizard of Oz came out that year and there’s no mention of Pearl Harbor.)

Bing Crosby’s “Merry Christmas” album was released at around 1940. (It wasn’t released until 1945 and reissued in 1947.)

The Red Ryder BB gun had a sundial and a compass among its features. (The screenwriter for A Christmas Story confused the Red Ryder with another kind of BB gun that had these features. Thus, guns had to specially made for the film. Yet, the Red Ryder BB gun was real but it doesn’t have a sundial and compass.)

Indiana schools were integrated in 1939. (They weren’t until 1949 yet there are three black kids in Ralphie’s class.)

Window air conditioners were widely available at this time in the US. (Contrary to Lost in Yonkers, while window air conditioners were sold as early as 1938, they weren’t mass produced until after World War II.)

US Navy seamen were experienced swimmers. (US Navy seamen weren’t required to know how to swim and many didn’t during this time.)

Movies during this time were seen in a wide screen format. (Not until the 1950s.)

All American aircraft carriers had angled decks. (Not in World War II they didn’t. But there aren’t that many straight decked carriers left as attempts to preserver the USS Enterprise {most decorated warship in US history} into a museum as a museum all ended in failure.)

June Carter was 10 in 1944. (By this time, she would’ve been 14 or 15.)

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

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

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

Winston Churchill:

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

Barnes Wallis:

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

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

Wing Commander Guy Gibson:

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

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

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

Douglas Bader:

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

Dylan Thomas:

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

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

Vera Philips:

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

Battle of Britain:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Evacuee Children:

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field Marshal Erwin Rommel:

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

Field Marshal Gerd von Runstedt:

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

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

General George S. Patton:

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

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

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

General Omar Bradley:

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

General Dwight D. Eisenhower:

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

The Monuments Men:

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

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

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

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

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

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery:

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

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

Dunkirk:

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

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

Occupation of France:

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

D-Day:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Normandy Invasion:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Liberation of Paris:

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

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

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

Operation Market Garden:

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

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

The Battle of the Bulge:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

General George S. Patton:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery:

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

Count Lazlo Almasy:

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

North Africa:

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

Tobruk:

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

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

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

El Alamein:

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

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

Italy:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Miscellaneous:

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

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

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

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

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

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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.)

Midway:

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}.)

Okinawa:

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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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

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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.)

Miscellaneous:

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

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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.)

Gallipoli:

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.)

Espionage:

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

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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.

Indians:

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.)

Plains:

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.)

Soldiers:

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.)

Scouts:

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.)