Tuesday, July 25, 2017

New World War II Films

The British Army in France and Belgium 1940.
A Morris-Commercial CS8 15cwt truck passes a group of Belgian troops resting by the roadside in Louvain, 14 May 1940. (Source)
After seeing the film Dunkirk last Friday, I've been digging through the archives for material on the events leading up to the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force from France in 1940. A number of folks have expressed an interest in knowing "the rest of the story." Now this stuff (the European viewpoint) wasn't taught in high school when I was a kid, I grew up knowing it because I love to read. A lot. Particularly military history.

Did you know that there are at least three recent or upcoming films dealing with World War II other than Dunkirk? I didn't. The first, a preview of which I saw at the theater where we saw Dunkirk, is Darkest Hour (and which led me to stumble across the other two while searching YouTube for the trailer).

Darkest Hour is a film about the time when Sir Winston Churchill was called to serve as the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom. In hindsight, that appointment, not popular with some, was, in this scribe's humble opinion, the death knell of Hitler and his henchman. There was no quit in Sir Winston. None at all.

Gary Oldman is a brilliant and talented actor, watching that preview I was nearly convinced that Churchill was somehow alive again. Am I looking forward to this film? You betcha!

Another film, one of those I stumbled across, is a Norwegian offering, The King's Choice which apparently came out last year.

Before Hitler invaded France, he sent his forces north, to Norway and Denmark. There they met British and French troops sent to seize the Norwegian port of Narvik. Iron ore from Sweden was being shipped through that port and down to Germany inside Norwegian waters and Churchill and others had a thought to stop that trade. The Allied forces invaded Norway at about the same time the Germans did. It was a disaster for the British and the French (the Royal Navy lost a carrier, HMS Glorious) and should have given the Allies some idea of German capabilities.

It did not.

I need to find this film, the preview looks interesting.

The other film, set later in the war, is HHhH, a rather odd title indeed, turns out that it is an acronym popular inside Germany during the war for "Himmlers Hirn heißt Heydrich."

Say what?

What that translates to is "Himmler's brain is called Heydrich." Heinrich Himmler was the head of the SS and a major power in Nazi Germany. Reinhard Heydrich (his "brain") was a very intelligent and ruthless Nazi who was the "Protector of Bohemia and Moravia" which is what the Nazis called what was left of Czechoslovakia after they'd ripped chunks from it, courtesy of, among others, Churchill's predecessor Neville Chamberlain. He ruled the area from Prague with an iron fist.

This film is about the assassination of Heydrich by Czech patriots sent in by the British. It's a sad story. An entire Czech town, Lidice, was destroyed, the inhabitants murdered or enslaved by the Nazis in retaliation for the killing of Heydrich. Who, incidentally, was one of those fellows of whom a Texan might have said, "needed killing."

This film, which will apparently be released this year, looks pretty good and I plan to see it as well. (Seems that it's title in English is The Man With the Iron Heart, which is what Hitler called Heydrich. Nazis, I hate those guys...)

I wonder why this resurgence of interest in World War II? I'm not complaining but it seems odd. Your thoughts?

I just might exceed my one film a year limit this year. Who knows?


  1. I just read that Heydrich died because he wouldn't let a non-German doctor work on him. He survived the bomb, but died of infection from the the cloth that lodged in his body. Too good a death for a rat like that.

    Thanks for the info, I'll start saving my greenbacks to see one of all of these.

    1. Yup. Apparently it was infection due to material from the car seats which caused the infection.

      Kinda hoping he suffered.

    2. IIRC it was horsehair stuffing. And he suffered a lot. Not enough mind you, but a lot.

    3. Yup, horsehair.

      It's never enough suffering when it's a Nazi bastard.

    4. I think he has been experienceing some extra special suffering for the past 74 years, and an eternity more to come.

  2. Hey Old AFSarge;

    I saw a movie a couple of days ago that was made in the late 70's called"A bridge too far" and it had a steller cast, an awesome soundtrack and was filmed in Holland, it still ranks as one of my favorite WWII movies.

    1. An awesome film. A friend of mine was an extra in the movie. He "died" during the assault on Arnhem bridge. He played a German.

      Historically it's also pretty true to the facts.

  3. While Norway was a win for Germans it costed them a couple of cruisers and literally half of DD force.
    With that level of irrepalceable losses German hopes fopr Seeloewe were slim at best.
    Hoping to see some mention of the FbF (TM) featurted battle of the Oslofjord.

    1. The trailer had a scene where Norwegian coast artillery opening fire. That might be the Oslofjord battle.

      Also, a large chunk of the Wehrmacht was tied down on occupation duty in Norway for the rest of the war. Those troops could have made a big difference elsewhere.

    2. Reading about Norway at the beginning of the war, the campaign seems terribly disjointed on both sides. It hasn't yet been "smoothed" by historians, at least not to the extent that most of the rest of the war has been smoothed. Therefore it gets you a bit closer to the true nature of the fog of war IMO. The profligate spending of lives and treasure...

    3. I tend to be a bit of a nonconformist on the Norway campaign. I think it was basically strategically sound given what the planners knew at the time. It was a logistic FUBAR for the allied side, but could have been winnable---much like Gallipoli. The German defeat of the Allies in Belgium/France was the primary reason for the Allied withdrawal, as I recall. The image of HMS Warspite hunting German destroyers in the Fjords remains compelling, and a reminder of how naval force properly applied can be decisive.

    4. Shaun - Smoothing. I never looked at it that way. But you're right.

    5. Cap'n - It was strategically sound, as was Gallipoli. Churchill had a good brain for that sort of thing. But the execution (especially logistically) was FUBARed, that's for sure.

      Concur on the application of naval force being decisive. Norway pretty much killed off the German destroyer force, and without destroyers your capital ships are naked.

      Then again, Comrade Misfit raises some very good points. (I modified this comment after reading hers. Now I kind of question the move on Norway. Especially after looking at a map!)

    6. I did insert the weasel words "what the planners knew at the time" on purpose. Given German domination of the entire continent, of course Narvik would not have been sustainable logistically--or any other way. However IF (BIG IF) the campaign in France/Belgium had ground to a stalemate--which is what the planners expected---The Norwegian campaign would have been sustainable and a strategic blow to Germany's ability to keep fighting.

    7. I missed that Cap'n mea culpa. You're right of course. I wonder how much of history would be different if "what the planners knew at the time" matched reality. It's tough to make plans at any time, the old saw "no plan survives contact with the enemy" applies at all times. I like to say "no plan survives contact with reality."

      The only thing worse than a bad plan is no plan at all.

      Even some German generals expected a stalemate of sorts in France. The original plan for the invasion of France and the Low Countries (call it "The von Schlieffen Plan - Part 3") might have ground up the panzers in short order. The Germans would still have taken Paris, but their armor would have been in sad shape for 1941 and Russia. That's my thought anyway.

  4. We think alike. Your site gets me 'surfing' and i get lost for hours much to the dismay of MiLady as I waste away seeking more info and knowledge. Those three movies will be on my to see list. The Kings Choice is listed on Amazon but only from 3rd party for $30.00 or so.
    Another is Churchill ( https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/churchill_2017/ ) released earlier this year. I was pumped when I first heard of it as Churchill is one of my favorites. Trailer kinda turned me off but I'll probably buy it when it reaches BluRay.

  5. Possibly some political implications in all these films, but they must have been in the works long before any recent events.

    1. Yeah, at first I got out the tinfoil hat, then realized that all of those films were in production before the election.

      Just seems odd to me.

  6. I wonder if there isn't some level of pushback against postmodernism/neomarxism going on, at least at a subliminal level. All of those people in gubmint, from the prez down to the lowliest bureaucrat and the fattest tsa special (ed)agent, they could be just like the Nazis, and I think at some level most people realize that.

    Gary Oldman has always had a Churchillian flare...


    1. Heh, anything from The Fifth Element tickles my fancy.


  7. If the Brits had managed to occupy Norway, it may have become a major strategic blunder. They would have had to supply their forces across the North Sea and been within range of German airpower from just after sailing until docking. Then there is the issue of how would the Norwegian people have taken such an occupation and what ramifications would that have meant for the eventual formation of NATO.

    1. I had to pull out a map (electronically of course) to orient myself around what you're saying. Now if somehow the Brits and the French had been able to occupy and hold Narvik, the port the Germans were using to ship the Swedish ore from, you're absolutely right. (IIRC Narvik was the goal of the Allies, it was never to occupy all of Norway. "Just" occupying Narvik would still have pissed off the Norwegians.) A logistical nightmare. Of course, to hold Narvik there's no real need to hold the rest of Norway, as Narvik is way up to the north. (I had to look at the map to remind myself of that, it's 130 miles NORTH of the Arctic Circle.)

      That being said, I'm sure the Germans would have seized the rest of Norway as they did historically, which would have made resupplying Narvik nearly impossible. (I can't see the Brits or the French being able to occupy the whole of Norway without stripping France of its defenses.) It was tough enough getting convoys to Murmansk with the Luftwaffe based in Norway.

      As to the eventual ramifications for NATO, damn. You have given me much to think about. Perhaps I have overestimated Churchill's strategic acumen. Damn.

      Most excellent points Ma'am. Most excellent.

  8. Seems to me, we've gotten to the point in our education system, that kids graduate high school and college with minimum knowledge of our history and certainly of the rest of the world. I'm bid fan of Williamson Murray and a seemingly constant thread is that knowledge of history is necessary to not predict the future but to understand what and how things have happened and therefore could in some shape or form happen again. In a latest reread he noted all the mistakes in the last decade or so that had plenty of historical events that if studied and factored in as possibilities might have altered how our government decided yo act.

    In that light, I always welcome new war films with hope that at least some viewers might ask "what really happened" then read a book or google. Despite being a history buff, I do that all the time. I just ordered Walter Lord's book on Dunkirk because I realized I knew less about Dukirk than I did about Battle of Midway.

    Having consulted just a little on a couple of movies, I know how hard it is to compress real facts to 2 hrs. Unless the movie just out and out changes the history, I'm not one of those military guys who gets his shorts all twisted when movies play with the facts a bit. Of course if it touts itself as a documentary that's different. I'll close with remark that a lot will have issues with:
    I actually liked the movie Pearl Harbor. To me it was a flash back to all those B&W movies like John Wayne in the Flying Tigers.
    Looking forward to seeing Dunkirk.

    1. Good stuff Ed. I can't believe I have never heard of Williamson Murray. I must get me to a library!

      I confess, I liked Pearl Harbor for precisely the reason you give.

      And we, as viewers, need to keep in mind the difference between entertainment films and documentary films. The former MUST entertain, and if accurate enough, I say nicely done. The latter MUST be accurate, entertaining is a secondary consideration.

      Thanks Ed!

    2. He's pretty prolific, but collection so far - most in Kindle cause shelf space is non existent anymore:
      The Dynamics of Military Revolution, 1300–2050, Air War in the Persian Gulf, America and the Future of War: The Past as Prologue, Military Adaptation In War: With Fear Of Change, Hybrid Warfare.

    3. I tried to like "Pearl Harbor" but I was raised on "Tora, Tora, Tora" so playing loose with the facts in PH kinda messed me up.

      And I really wish someone would make a new movie just on the Doolittle raid. That, right there, would be a fantastic movie. I know, already done, but that would be nifty neato.

    4. In color, with better special effects. Heck, there are still a number of airworthy B-25s!

  9. Knowing history subverts the path that the PTBs have set this Nation upon. I fear for my grandkids, they are neither interested nor taught about what has happened on these shores for the last two hundred plus years.

  10. I tend to catch up on movies I've missed when I take a long flight somewhere. Hacksaw Ridge is a recent example- viewed during my trip to Norway coincidentally. However, I mentioned to the wife that I wanted to see Dunkirk and to much my surprise, so does she! Friday night date night. After watching "The Crown" on Netflix, she's acquired a taste for historical accounts, which means I'll probably see these movies with her too.

    1. I am awaiting the second season of The Crown with great anticipation.

      Let us know what you think of the film (No, you don't have to post about it, but you can if you want to. Hahahaha!)

  11. I think the rise of the new 'Anti-Nazi' movies may be linked to the understated resistance to the EU and to the 'new Caliphate of Europe' that seems to be forming rapidly. Merkel and the EU are doing everything that Hitler and his ilk wanted: unification, German control of Europe, destruction of certain minority groups (yep, time to kick the Jews yet again, but this time the Christians, especially the Catholics, are also in the crosshairs.)

    My friends overseas say that currently the goverments and powergroups say one thing, while the populace is saying another. Kinda like the DNC in the way the last election over here ran.

    And, well, as to the Nazis, they are the easy target. 70+ years of being told the NAZIS are BAD-BAD-BAD. No one really talks about the two big lies of WWII politics - who the Nazis were, and who the 'other' evil empire was.

    I do my best to edumecate the young-uns that the Nazis were the National SOCIALIST Workers Party of Germany. That they were SOCIALISTS!!! Government control of Business, Health, Family, all aspects of society. And no one believes it. And no-one cares.

    And the other evil empire, the one we should be reviling as much or more than the Nazis, is, of course, the Soviet Russians under Stalin. The evil empire that affected our own politics before, during and after the war. The evil empire that took over our schools, our news agencies, and the State Department. And.... But.... Then.... (Sounds of men in white coats with nets and tasers entering room and...)


    Maybe the Europeans will rescue themselves from the pit they tossed themselves into. I hope so.

    And, dammit, more Pacific Theater movies. Maybe one showing what an ass MacArthur was, or one dealing with Tarawa, bloody Tarawa. Some on the island hopping, please? Or... Leyte. The heroic actions of Taffy 3 should be worth a movie all by itself (come on guys, escort carriers and destroyers full of plucky American characters against heavy ships of the IJN, what more can you want?)

    And, yeah, die Nazi bastards...

    1. I like where you're going with this Andrew! You're on a roll!

      (I second ALL of your movie recommendations.)

    2. I like the way you think Andrew. I've been telling people for years that Nazis were leftists not right wing. One of the reasons that Uncle Joe's evil was not called out during WWII, is that FDR was a socialist/communist. Of course he thought Uncle Joe was the finest kind. Churchill held his nose when dealing with Stalin, but he knew what Stalin was.

      Paul L. Quandt

    3. Far too many people kowtowed to Stalin.

      And yes, National Socialists, Nazis. Left wing for sure.

    4. Thanks for the comments. One of my friends is the son of an SS officer (fighter, not camp side) and I watched him get into a flame-war with another friend who was the son of a Soviet officer (yeah, I have some weird, weird friends. Heck, one of mine is a source of information on the Mongols. So much so that when his girlfriend asked a college prof a question, the prof referred her to her boyfriend. Yes, really weird.) (So, back to the story.) I inserted myself into the discussion with the remarkably bland statement of, "I don't know why Hitler and Stalin fought. I thought socialists were supposed to be brothers around the world." And then a hole opened up in front of me and...

      And Paul. Yeah, FDR got me in trouble with one of my history teachers. Even after I proved to the commie son-of-a-birch tree that FDR and his State Department should have been declared enemies of the American State. (Along with Katherin Hepburn, who sounded much like Bernie Sanders - all for the people, as long as I get mine first and most.)

      I would love to see a tv series on the forgotten things of WWII. Like US Merchantmen fighting Nazi subs, US Navy blimps and all the things they did, why margarine was invented, how we killed so many by not turning off our lights at night, etc. Freaky weird stuff. Much better belonging on the History channel than 'Ancient Aliens.'

    5. Ah the History Channel. Very little, if any, history.

    6. Andrew:

      Funny you should mention Bernie Sanders, I'm currently reading ' Shattered ' in which he is mentioned at some length. I was lucky enough to go through school before all of the teachers/professors were required to be communists. You have a most interesting set of friends. Your last paragraph has some very worthwhile topics. However, tv would screw up the stories beyond belief. I'll stick with books; although, so many books and life is so short.


    7. BTW, I knew immediately you are very intelligent when I read this ( Maybe one showing what an ass MacArthur was ) line.


    8. PLQ, yeah. Pentagon like all "Hey, Dougie, them thar Japs gonna come around to Manila like this and that and you need X and Y and..." And Macarthur like all "Beyotch, it be just like smashing the Bonus Marchers, so shaddap, willya. Gotta go get me portrait #5,354 painted, this time with more Halo!"

      Knew a survivor of the Death March. Had absolutely nothing nice to say about General "I Walk On Water so I really don't need the PT Extraction" MacArthur. He actually respected his captors some. Hated them, but at least respected them. Not so much Mr. Corncob.

      A little Ego goes a long way. Patton (who should also have been extremely embarrassed as to his actions in the Bonus March incidents), Rommel, Grant, Stonewall, Forrest. All a tad or more ego but it worked for them.

      Too much ego, well, Custer, Montgomery and MacArthur being examples, gets in the way of ability, or common sense.

      Custer... MacArthur... Which one was the worst product of West Point? That right there would be a worthwhile tv show... Especially if they get the actors to fight each other, with swords... Like that stupid Spike show years ago, "Deadliest Warrior."

  12. Andrew seems to have a pretty realistic grip on current events. Bravo!
    I can't wait for the Churchill movie, the others will be seen at home via Amazon or Netflix or whatever works.
    I agree about a desire to see some flics about the Asian theater. The Japanese were extremely violent. The heroes of those encounters need to be told. As I recall, there were several John Wayne movies about that subject.

    1. Yeah, I'll see Churchill in the theater, the others via the media you mention.

    2. One of my favorite Pacific movies, besides, of course, "Tora, Tora, Tora" (which should be shown every December 7th, darned it.) is "Away All Boats."

      AAB is more the story of an attack transport, the Belinda, and its travels through the Pacific, from Tarawa up to the end. Excellent movie. Needs to be shown more. Only movie I know ever to show Kwajalein in it (spent 3 years there, loved the place, wish I could retire rich there.)

    3. You know, I have looked and looked and looked, and I cannot find a Belinda County anywhere. ( APAs were named after counties. I.E. USS BAYFIELD, after Bayfield County, WI.) I love that book, and the movie is very good, as well!

  13. ...Uncle Joe was an evil bastard...but the other Allies needed him...the Russians held the German tanks at Kursk (with the defenses forty miles deep)...and when they turned the city of Stalingrad into a battlefield...with every building a fortress...and every room a citadel..when the winter came, the other Allies needed this victory...

    1. Indeed, the Russians bled the Wehrmacht dry!

    2. I agree the Russians bled the Wehrmacht dry, but I much more admire the direct, in-the-face evil of the Nazis over the insidious, back-stabbing, two-faced evil bastard Stalin and his corps of evil kill-bots.

      Stalin, etal, played FDR and Foggy Bottom, and screwed the US royally.

      Lets see -
      Secret Pact with Germany to divide Poland.
      Katyn Forest Massacre.
      Invasion of Finland #1 - Fins supported by England, France and so forth..
      Invasion of Finland #2 - Wait, Stalin is our Friend. So NAZI GERMANY was the only country to pony up support to the Finns. We didn't even try to get Stalin Inc. to not attack Finland. No, we sat by and said, hey, have more free stuff that you'll never pay back like ever and you'll use all that stuff against us...which leads us to...
      Lend-Lease - Hey, you Commie Bastards, We want our money back, With INTEREST!!!!!! We'll have the IRS figure out the penalty.
      The seizure and imprisonment of US equipment and service members who landed or ended up in Russia. Hey, how's that exact copy of that B-29, mistakes copied also, working for you?
      The seizure of Art and other valuable objects from all the countries they took over, and then have the ever-loving gall to bitch when their stuff isn't returned, forthwith (I still think the Amber Room is somewhere in some Commie Oligarch's personal palace.)
      Their refusal to be involved in Manchuria and Japan until after we told Japan, Twice, to cut it out!
      Their open and blatant espionage operations in the USA, including espionage into the Atomic Bomb. (Take that, Rosenbergs. I know, I am a cold-hearted bastard.)
      Complaining about the Germans killing Partisans and reprisals, but stopping partisans by just killing everyone and everyone related to everyone that might have the potential possibility of possibly causing a potential problem - both in Russia and in all the lands they conquered.
      And on and on and on and on...

    3. Sneaky bastards indeed.

      Let's not forget the disappearance (and probably murder of) Raoul Wallenberg by the Soviets.


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Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

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