Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Guns of Navarone

Based on Alistair MacLean's novel of the same name, The Guns of Navarone is a thrilling adventure that was nominated for 7 Oscars, including Best Picture.

Gregory Peck, Anthony Quinn, and David Niven are members of a special team recruited to take out the guns on the German-occupied Greek island of Navarone to save over 2,000 British soldiers stranded on the nearby Kiros. If the guns are not taken out, naval destroyers will be blown to bits in their rescue attempts.

Peck does a wonderful job portraying a leader who never hesitates to make the decision that will most benefit the mission, often putting him at odds with David Niven's Cpl. Miller. Anthony Quinn plays an embittered, determined Greek avenging the death of his family.

An excellent World War II movie, splendidly portraying the human side of war.

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

Remember those who fought...

Remember those who died...

Freedom is not free.

Dedicated to all the brave men and women of our armed forces, both past and present. Thank you for your sacrifice, for your courage, and for your bravery.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend

If you're around Reading, Pennsylvania, the weekend of June 2-4, 2006, make sure you catch the Mid-Atlantic Air Museum's World War II Weekend!

Entertainers, special guests, vendors, airshows, and much more are part of this event, which is in its 16th year. I've never been there before, but it looks like a fabulous time!

Check out their website to learn more - and look for me there next year!

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Perilous Fight: World War II in Color

Even though I was exhausted last night, I stayed up to watch Pacific War: They Filmed the War in Color on PBS. I had a late morning today, but it was worth it. World War II in color somehow makes it all seem more "real" than in black and white.

I had never before seen pictures of the battles of Okinawa or Midway. Watching the kamikaze's diving into aircraft carriers was a sobering sight. But I think the scene that got to me the most was of the stacks and stacks of helmuts sitting on some beach in the Pacific - helmuts that belonged to dead U.S. soldiers.

In my studies, I've tended to focus on the European theater. Nazism and Germany are two of the main topics I handled in graduate school, but I did happen to take a History of Japan class, as well. It was very eye-opening and helped me to understand, if just a little, why the Japanese were so difficult to defeat and felt that there was honor in suicide missions.

But I have a new admiration for the U.S. Marines. They fought not only the Japanese, but malaria, heat, humidity, bugs, rain, and loneliness. Guerilla warfare was a different kind of war - and fighting an enemy that refused to surrender no matter how bad their position was only intensified the marines' experience. I remember listening to a veteran who was a marine in the Pacific recounting his experiences. He wept when he said, "It was not for a marine to question why - it was for us to do or die." That memory has stuck with me for years, and I doubt it will ever lose its power.

Tonight there is a different series on - The Perilous Fight: America's World War II in Color. Check your local PBS stations for the time.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

The Devil's Brigade

On a whim, I bought this movie over the weekend. I rarely buy a movie on DVD that I haven't viewed before, but this one looked good enough to take a risk. And I was right.

Loosely based on the real Devil's Brigade officially activated in July of 1942 as a joint U.S. - Canadian effort- the First Special Service Force - The Devil's Brigade is the story of how the Americans and Canadians put aside their differences to become one of the most legendary commando units of World War II.

While the movie is not entirely historically accurate - for example, the U.S. forces were not made up of "jailbirds" and "misfits" as portrayed in the movie - it does portray the determination and dedication of this special fighting force, especially the camraderie between the Canadians and Americans.

William Holden does a terrific job as Lt. Colonel Robert T. Frederick. There are also some terrific performances by character actor Robert Jaeckel and Claude Akins.

Great battle sequences and interactions between the men, but if you're looking for a historically accurate portrayal of the real Devil's Brigade, this doesn't quite fit the bill. But it's entertaining, nevertheless, and worth watching.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Entertaining the Troops! (Or in this case, the POWs!)

This picture was taken at the German POW camp in Fort Robinson, Nebraska, during World War II. The men pictured are POWs who participated in the theater troupe Varista - a contraction of the words Variete im Stacheldraht, or Variety in Barbed Wire. Some of the members had been performing artists back in pre-war Germany, such as Willi Schwind, who had been a trapeze artist, comedian, and professional clown. The hall where Varista performed (shown above) was relatively small, necessitating that the troupe give eighteen performances of the same show in order that all the POWs could attend.

These productions were also shown to the American personnel and even to civilians. One of the most notable productions the troupe performed was the opera Fledermaus. Pictures survive of the variety shows at Fort Robinson, including one with jugglers and costumed POWs. Varista also had a regular segment in the camp newspaper.