We shall defend our Island

Churchill studies reports of the action that day with Vice Admiral Sir Bertram Ramsay, 28 August 1940, © IWM (H 3508)

I almost never, as you know, talk about current movies. That’s mostly because they don’t interest me, very occasionally I’ll watch one, although, in truth, it’s more often that I’ll try to, and either fall asleep or get bored out of my mind and give up.

But there is one opening today that I do want very much to see. You see, I was raised by the guys that fought World War Two, the ones we sometimes call ‘The Greatest Generation’ and not unjustly. That’s true in America, and it’s arguably even more true in the UK. Remember, their war started on 1 September 1939, ours not until 7 December 1941. For two years the Empire held the line, worldwide, pretty much alone.

During all this time until Barbarossa went in on 22 June 1941, Germany and the Soviet Union had the Molotov Ribbentrop Pact guaranteeing peace between them.

In April of 1940 the Germans executed  Operation Weserübung, the conquest of Norway, and then in May came the Battle of France. The Allies despite having numerical superiority were surprised terribly by the German tactics, often referred to as Blitzkrieg, a style of campaign first executed by General Sherman in the US Civil War and popularised by JFC Fuller and Basil Liddel-Hart. As executed by Guderian and Rommel it was devastating. As the campaign developed the British Expeditionary Force and elements of the French army were trapped in and around Dunkirk. In an epic of improvisation and sheer bravery the Royal Navy, covered by the Royal Air Force and with the assistance of hundreds of small civilian craft managed to extricate over 300,000 members of that force.

That’s what the movie opening today is about. It is titled Dunkirk and promises to be an epic. Here is one of the trailers

The Prime Minister famously said that wars are not won by evacuations, and he is, of course, correct. But in this case, it was a very great moral victory, and besides, without it, there would have been almost no regular forces to defend Britain itself.

I imagine you have heard as I have that a singularly stupid twit, named Brian Truitt writing a review in USA Today, has said this:

The trio of timelines can be jarring as you figure out how they all fit, and the fact that there are only a couple of women and no lead actors of color may rub some the wrong way.

He also managed to conflate Dunkirk with D Day, I don’t know, maybe because they both have a ‘D’ in them.

About all I can say is that he apparently slept through history, if he took any, and for that matter doesn’t understand how to run Google. We may safely, going forward, completely ignore anything he says. He’s actually too stupid to live, but not smart enough to die, so he will, no doubt continue to waste oxygen and contribute his very own carbon footprint. Sad.

Here, from the International Churchill Society is Sir Winston’s speech, after Dunkirk.

The other film I very much want to see is connected viscerally to this, as well. Steven Hayward, writing in PowerLine tells us this:

Fortunately, another Churchill movie has finished production, Darkest Hour, starring Gary Oldman as Churchill, and focusing on the key period of the first weeks of Churchill’s premiership in 1940. Based on the trailer below, it looks not only that Oldman is a superior Churchill, but that it gets the key moment—the climactic events in the war cabinet of May 27-28 (which were unknown to the public until the 1980s)—exactly right. A couple of previous attempts, especially the HBO version of Finest Hour about ten years back, don’t get it right. (In addition to the brief evidence in the trailer, I’m pretty sure some sound friends of mine had significant input into the script.)

I haven’t heard from my friends that are Churchill experts about it, but maybe they will chime in as well. But judging by the trailer, this film, which opens in November, will be well worth our time. This trailer came out last week.

And so they did, in Churchill’s own words, ” until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.”

“Bless ’em all, the long and the short and the tall.”

Advertisements

Remembering Rosie

Mostly this weekend we will speak of the (mostly) men who paid the ultimate price for our freedom. That’s what the holiday is for, after all. But those guys went to war, wearing clothes, eating food, using equipment and so forth. The legendary, beans, bullets, and gas that are the lifeblood of victorious war. Where did it come from?

Yes, the holiday is based in the Civil War, so we could easily speak of the Studebaker brothers, who produced the ambulances that served the army in all sorts of ways until mechanization. There are many stories like theirs about, and during that war, immigrants were eagerly welcomed, both in the armies and in American industry, which really got its start here.

But starting in World War I and increasing greatly during the second, the burden of supplying the forces was born by American women – the semi-legendary Rosie the Riveter. If you are my age, as you knew many veterans amongst the men, you knew many Rosies as well. They did this in addition to the traditional role of loving, missing, and grieving the boys. Without them, victory would not have happened. That picture above is the original Rosie, painted by Norman Rockwell, complete with rivet gun, bologna sandwich, and Mein Kampf crushed under her shoes. She isn’t the pin-up queen of the more common Westinghouse worker that is so common now. But she speaks for her generation, and to ours quite effectively.

Kimberly Bloom Jackson wrote on The Federalist Friday about some of those Rosies, and I think you should read it.

“You came out to California, put on your pants, and took your lunch pail to a man’s job,” recalls Sybil Lewis, a black Rosie who worked at Lockheed Aircraft as a riveter. “This was the beginning of women’s feeling that they could do something more.”

By the end of the war, women had mass-produced some 80,000 landing craft, 100,000 tanks and armored vehicles, 200,000 airplanes, 6 million tons of bombs, 41 billion rounds of ammunition, and so much more.

But did you know that black and white Rosies often worked side by side during the war? Despite widespread Jim Crow laws at the time, industrialists like Henry Kaiser established an integrated workforce of over 100,000 Americans, “many of whom were African Americans, Latinos, American Indians and Asian Americans.”

In fact, in 1941, after civil rights activists threatened to march in protest of racial discrimination in industry and the military, Democratic President Franklin D. Roosevelt went against the wishes of his own party and issued Executive Order 8802 prohibiting workplace discrimination. This included repealing much of fellow Democrat Woodrow Wilson’s longstanding pro-segregation policies in the defense industries and federal government jobs.

To enforce the order, FDR also set up the Fair Employment Practices Committee. This government initiative, along with wartime necessity to mobilize workers, transformed the workforce. Eventually, this would help lay the groundwork for post-war civil rights legislation which didn’t start in earnest for the Democratic Party until Harry S. Truman was elected president in 1946, but not without the usual opposition by Democrats, as history has shown. […]

  • Ollie M. Hawkins (black Rosie, shipyards of San Francisco Bay):  “When you got off work, you’d go to Oakland to go shopping, and everywhere you’d go, you’d see ‘White Trade Only’ signs. … In theshipyards you didn’t run into that prejudice because everyone was working side by side for the same purpose.”

  • Charlyne Harper (white Rosie, Welder at Kaiser Shipyard, Richmond): “I am real proud of the women of my day. We just knew that war had to be won, and we were proud to do our part. And the women just flocked there. … So everybody back then helped win that war. But the men on the front lines was the ones that sacrificed. … There were some women in service at that time, but most of them were in the war effort. They did something. Everybody did something and sacrificed. It was no big deal to do without new shoes or certain foods. … Everybody was in it together. We all had a rough time.”

  • Sybil Lewis (black Rosie, Lockheed Aircraft in Los Angeles): “The women worked in pairs. I was theriveter and this big, strong, white girl from a cotton farm in Arkansas worked as thebucker.

  • The riveter used a gun to shoot rivets through the metal and fasten it together. Thebucker used a bucking bar on the other side of the metal to smooth out the rivets. Bucking was harder than shooting rivets; it required more muscle. Riveting required more skill.”

  • Esther Horne (white Rosie, machine operator, Gussack’s Machine Products, Long Island City):  “Lunch hour, for the longest time, we would sit around, sit on crates with our long work aprons and pants, or whatever and one of the bosses, Moe Kammer, would read a scene from “Othello” and we would discuss it. Remember the differences in education? I saw all around me people, some of whom had never finished eighth grade, entranced. We all went to see “Othello.” And we all saw Paul Robeson and Uta Hagen, and Jose Ferrer as Iago. For a factory!”

  • Wanita Allen (black Rosie, Ford’s River Rouge foundry, Detroit): “It was good to work with people. It’s something about that camaraderie that you really need on a job. If the job is hard and everyone is working, you don’t mind. It’s just that sharing and all doing it together.”

Do read her article. But above all, remember that without these women, we would not have won the war, they were every bit as important as any man with the eagle on his button. This is also where the women’s movement came from, like all movements, it has sometimes gotten excessive, but these women proved they were worth as much as any man.

As you think about the guys we’ve lost in our wars this weekend, remember too the brave women who supported them, loved them and grieved for them. Never was the old saying more true, “Behind every good man there is a good woman”.

Happy 100th Birthday to Dame Vera Lynn

Yesterday we regretted the loss of Chuck Berry, whom so many of us loved and enjoyed. Today is a happier occasion for today is the 100th birthday of Dame Vera Lynn, DBE, OStJ, CH, honorary citizen of Nashville Tennessee, holder of the British War medal, and the Burma Star. She is known worldwide as the British Forces Sweetheart. Quite a career for a girl from East Ham, Essex.

And besides, all here know of my weakness for British redheads, so any excuse to feature one is welcome.

Her first recording was Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire, recorded on Crown Records in 1936.

 

Her greatest fame came during the Second World War when she became the Force’s Sweetheart with songs such as these

And this

This

And tonight her image will b projected on those very same white cliffs, by the country she served so well.

This is interesting

But it wasn’t all about loneliness either, especially before the war got so grim, the humour showed itself.

Eventually, it was over

But she kept right on singing, this was the very first #1 on the American charts by a British artist.

And still she goes on, Decca released a new album,  Vera Lynn 100, just three days ago. Here is the trailer

And yes, amazon.co.uk says they will send it out to us Yanks, as well, if we want.

So, how do we end this glorious retrospective? There is only one possible way, in my mind.

And it will truly always be a:

Happy Birthday, Dame Vera!

 

 

 

Pearl Harbor Day, 75 Years on

uss_arizona_memorialWe often talk of World War II, it was a major series of events in American and world history, as long as those survivors were in charge, things were better than ever, as they leave the stage, we are seeming to come face-to-face with the fact that they went too easy on us, and the discipline to succeed in the real world appears to be lacking. We need to look back and take the lesson that America was taught starting today, 75 years ago.

75 years ago today, America was attacked at Pearl Harbor. We were thus thrust onto center stage of the 20th Century’s biggest conflict and the most clear-cut war for liberty in the history of the world. It’s a day to remember the sacrifices made by that generation, who are now leaving us at a very rapid pace. They saved the world for freedom, this would be a very good day to thank them. In this video, I want you to listen to the resolve of Franklin Roosevelt, in it, you will learn much about leadership in a free country.

This is how an American President responds to an attack on the homeland.

The forward magazines of the U.S. Navy battles...

The Arizona at Pearl Harbor: Image via Wikipedia

We all know (or should) that behind them the Japanese attackers left 2,403 dead, 188 destroyed planes and a crippled Pacific Fleet that included 8 damaged or destroyed battleships. One of them the USS Arizona is still there, minus her hull, still to this day leaking oil and designated as both an American Military Cemetery and the Pearl Harbor Memorial.

The Japanese fleet also left behind it the most implacable foe there is, the determined and united people of the United States. ADM Halsey’s comment is an indicator: “When this war is over, Japanese will be spoken only in Hell”. It nearly came to that. The casualty projections for the invasion of Japan ran to over 1 Million American casualties only, the only other alternatives were for the Navy to starve the entire country while the Air Force burned it down. Every American (and Japanese) should thank their God for the Atom Bomb for this was the future it prevented. And as the Confederate Air Force has said: “There would have been no Hiroshima without Pearl Harbor”.

It probably should be noted that nearly the entire Royal Navy, Royal Canadian Navy, and Royal Australian Navy, as well as the US Atlantic Fleet, were in the process of joining the US Pacific fleet, which had long since become (by far) the most powerful fleet in the history of the world. Also transhipping were the Allied armies that had defeated Nazi Germany. Götterdämmerung had come for the Japanese as it had for the Germans before them. The implacable free people of the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, China, the Philippine Islands, and even Soviet Russia had made the world (mostly) free, again.

We live in a world shaped by tragedies inflicted on the United States, 9/11 has been very influential in our lives but, Pearl Harbor is even more so. It taught us again that freedom is never free, if we don’t defend it, it will pass as it did, for a time, for many of our allies. It also taught us that when America leads anything is possible.

English: General Douglas MacArthur signs as Su...

The Surrender in Tokyo Bay: Image via Wikipedia

The Pacific Campaign was marked by a series of terrible battles in some of the most inhospitable of climates. Who can forget the battles that followed Pearl Harbor: Guadalcanal, the Coral Sea, The Mitchell raid, Corregidor and the Bataan Death march, Midway, the Marianas, Tarawa, the Liberation of the Philippines, Iwo Jima and the flag, Okinawa, and that final scene in Tokyo Bay, where MacArthur and Wainwright accepted the Japanese surrender on the deck of one of the most powerful battleships ever built: The USS Missouri.  All of this happened in only 44 Months.

English: "Remember December 7th" US ...

Image via Wikipedia

People my age knew the men who fought all those battles, they were our heroes. Combat may not have been realistic but it fired our admiration. Ensign George Gay, the sole survivor of Torpron 8 at Midway, grew up about 10 miles from where I did. They deserve our memories today because 75 years ago they started the counterattack that built the free (and mostly peaceful) world we have known all our life. We seldom remember that the Pax Americana has mostly held since 1945, we owe a debt to those men (and women), our parents (and mostly grandparents now) that we will never be able to repay except by keeping the peace and freedom they won.

Veteran’s Day

These are the men that have kept us free.

The Great War, of course, is when the United States made its debut as the great world power. From our entry in 1917 until today is fairly termed “The American Century” for as the Pax Britannica ended in 1914 and chaos ensued between the wars as we hid in our continent and from 1945 the Pax Americana has been in place.

It could be fairly said that the wars of the 20th Century were the “Wars of Freedom”, for more people have been freed from tyranny by the United States and our allies than at any other time in history.

The legend of American bravery is known worldwide, from the Marine sergeant, who lead the charge at the battle of Belleau Wood, who led the charge with the command, “Come on you sons-of-bitches, do you want to live forever.”( Noting that it is now “Bois de la Brigade de Marine“, in their honor) to General McAuliffe’s response to the German demand to surrender at Bastogne, “Nuts” to the Admiral Nimitz’s comment on Iwo Jima, “Uncommon valor was a common virtue.” Thus has been remarked the common bravery of American troops in every case in all the wars of these Planetary soldiers.

As probably everyone reading this knows, the average American idolizes American soldiers, they have gone from being the unwanted stepchildren of the revolution, because of the mistrust engendered by the occupying British regulars, to by far the most trusted of American institutions, trusted by over  80% of Americans. They have earned it and earned it the hard way by blood, toil, tears, honor, integrity, and sweat from Lexington Green to Afghanistan they have become a legend, at one and the same time, “America’s Army” and the “Army of the Free”. The Armed Forces are the best of America. If you were to ask the common people of any place they have been, you will find their fans, maybe not the government, but the people remember.

If you don’t happen to know, those streamers on the service flags are called battle streamers, each of them remembers a battle going back to Lexington Green. It has been a contentious life we have lived, and freedom always has enemies.

But they have done other things, they are often the first humanitarian aid anywhere in the world after a natural disaster, the mapping of the United States was done by the Army, your GPS system is courtesy of the Air Force and the Internet you’re reading this on was started by the US Department of Defense.

But let us not make the mistake many do, it’s not technology that wins wars, it’s men, and now women as well, women like these:

What do you think goes through the minds of women in the parts of the world that don’t offer women equal rights when these women show up in their midst as American officers and warriors? Think maybe some get the idea that women are equal to men.

I’d say things like this have done more to advance women’s rights than all the feminists yelling in the last fifty years. It was the same when the military integrated in 1948, that’s where it was all proved, although we already knew it, really, blacks have served bravely and well ever since Crispus Attucks was killed at the Boston Massacre.

But you know, it’s always had a cost, often a very high cost, and a wise people don’t forget that no matter the technology, it has to be operated by people and by brave people, from the rifleman to the man who may have to turn the key to unleash Armageddon itself. And in American history, the military has never failed us, even when we and our political leadership has not been worthy of them. Many of us use as a catchphrase a rewording of the last line of our national anthem, instead of  “the Land of the Free and The Home of the Brave“, we are wont to say “The Land of the Free because of the Brave.”

We are also quite content, while not resting in our quest, to be known by the friends we keep.

A few years ago, Jessica reminded us that there are other victims of war besides our soldiers, here is that article:

Thin red line of heroes?

I don’t know how it is in the USA with civilian/military relations in everyday life, but, as ever, Kipling in his Tommy still sums up the British attitude:

For it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Chuck him out, the brute!”
But it’s “Saviour of ‘is country” when the guns begin to shoot;
An’ it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ anything you please;
An’ Tommy ain’t a bloomin’ fool — you bet that Tommy sees!

As a sometime Army wife, I know this all too well.  For a long time, thanks to IRA activity, British soldiers were advised to wear civvies when off duty, and it is indicative of something bad that the first reaction of some of the Top Brass to the brutal murder of Drummer Lee Rigby was to suggest that soldiers might want to revert to that; it is indicative of something right that our soldiers give the old two-fingered saute to such nonsense.

But there’s bound to be a divide between civilians and the military in times of peace when you have a professional army. Although the analogy with Monks might raise an eyebrow or two, there is a parallel (no, not that one).  Soldiers live a life apart. They are trained to do things which ordinary people don’t do, and probably don’t want to do.There has to be a high level of commitment, and at times the dedication to duty means that a soldier puts everything else to one side. Although no soldier’s wife worth her salt would dream of saying so, we all wait in terror for the knock on the door or the telephone call from the CO. Every time we kiss and wave good-bye, we know that for at least one of us, it is the final good-bye. And if your marriage doesn’t come to that honorable end, well the stress and strains on your man and marriage may make it come to another sort of end. The price soldiers pay to serve us all is huge.  But they also serve, who only stand and wait – and love.

Yes, here in the UK on 11 November, Armistice Day, we all remember our armed forces and the glorious dead, and we have pubic ceremonies where we celebrate and congratulate out Armed Forces; but what about the other 364 days? Well, unless there is a particularly horrible series of death, we forget – the ‘we’ being the vast majority of the population who know nothing and care less about our soldiers sailors and airmen.

I don’t know whether it is different in the US, but here, the armed forces are very much the Cinderella services – except when they are needed. Kipling, as ever, said it best:

Then it’s Tommy this, an’ Tommy that, an’ “Tommy, ‘ow’s yer soul?”
But it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll,
The drums begin to roll, my boys, the drums begin to roll,
O it’s “Thin red line of ‘eroes” when the drums begin to roll.

But how thin does that red line have to be before it breaks?

This is part of that Honor

56 Movie Mistakes: The Longest Day

2014-06-05-robertmitchumlongestday-thumb

Then there is this attempt to denigrate the movie The Longest Day recounting the Overlord operation to liberate Europe.

The Longest Day, which was made in black and white, features a large ensemble cast including John Wayne, Kenneth More,Richard Todd, Robert Mitchum, Richard Burton, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Red Buttons, Peter Lawford, Eddie Albert, Jeffrey Hunter, Stuart Whitman, Tom Tryon, Rod Steiger, Leo Genn, Gert Fröbe, Irina Demick, Bourvil, Curt Jürgens, Robert Wagner, Paul Anka and Arletty.

Many of these actors played roles that were virtually cameo appearances and several cast members such as Fonda, Genn, More, Steiger and Todd saw action as servicemen during the war, with Todd being among the first British officers to land in Normandy in Operation Overlord and participated in the assault on Pegasus Bridge. So just for some fun here are some of the movie mistakes – we expect you spotted most of them anyway 🙂

When the ships are about to begin bombarding the beaches you see a group of planes fly by the camera these are Douglas Sky Raiders which did not see service until the late 1940s.

The currency notes in Schultz’s winnings are of a later issue than was in circulation in 1944.

Features LCM-8s, which weren’t built until 1954.

German General Max Pemsel says: “Wir haben starke RADAR-störungen” (We have strong radar interference). The word “radar” was not used, perhaps even not known in Germany in 1944. They used a somewhat similar system, but called it “Funkmeßgeräte” (radio measuring equipment).

General Gavin is wearing a Senior Parachutist badge in 1944.The Parachutist Badge was formally approved on 10 March 1941. The senior and master parachutists badges were authorized by Headquarters, Department of the Army in 1949 and were announced by Change 4, Army Regulation 600-70, dated 24 January 1950.

During the go/no go sequence, a jet can be heard flying overhead as the naval representative is speaking.

During a very early scene in France, the back end of a Citroen 2CV can be seen parked at the side of the street as the German soldiers march down it.

via 56 Movie Mistakes: The Longest Day

And so on for three pages. Yes, it’s interesting and very likely true. But you know, it doesn’t matter a damn. Like the John Ford Trilogy, the story is the thing, and these warriors of America, Canada, Great Britain, France, Poland, and still others did something so heroic here, that all of these relatively picayune mistakes, while regrettable, just don’t matter. This is not a technical documentary, this is a commemoration of one of the greatest days in history, one of the first to try to be fair to all the participants.

I couldn’t find the whole movie on YouTube for you, but if you run the playlist in autoplay, it’ll be kind of like watching it on TV, which is where I fist saw it, long ago and far away. 🙂

%d bloggers like this: