I am done with the social media scene. Everything is at the link above.
I am done with the social media scene. Everything is at the link above.
John Ford shooting a scene. Photograph courtesy of Netflix.
I have been watching a 3 part Netflix documentary about the 5 legendary Hollywood directors who volunteered for service in World War II. These 5 directors, William Wyler, Frank Capra, George Stevens, John Ford and John Huston not only shaped the way Americans viewed the war, but their participation affected their post war movie making.
Marlene Dietrich and Rita Hayworth serving meals to the servicemen
I have been watching the excellent Netflix series on the 5 Hollywood directors who went to war – a post could be written on how the war changed their outlook on moviemaking – Maybe I’ll write a post on how George Stevens was affected by the war when he made the western classic Shane.
Anyway, they mentioned the Hollywood Canteen.
Imagine that you are an Army or Marine Private ready to go overseas and dancing with Marlene Dietrich or Rita Hayworth. Or getting a meal served by Frank Sinatra. Any U.S. or allied Serviceman in uniform had free admission.
Here’s a YouTube video with Frank Sinatra singing there in August 1945.
Bob Hope said something I always remembered while entertaining Marines on a Pacific Island prior to a battle. He looked at that sea of young men, laughing and smiling and he knew that for some of them this would be the last good memory they had on earth.
I would imagine that for some the Hollywood Canteen was their last good memory.
It wasn’t that long ago….
There’s really only a small handful of movies in my opinion that remain true to showing the horrors of combat. Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan was one of them, as was Mel Gibson’s We Were Soldiers.
Gibson’s new movie, Hacksaw Ridge, is in this category. It is a story about an Army soldier that movie producers have tried to make for 60 years.
As with most heroes – virtually all of them in my opinion – they are very humble and do not wish the limelight. You won’t find any of them bragging about their exploits in a bar trying to impress people.
A Hero for my definition here is anyone who served honorably in combat.
In this instance, the subject of this movie, Desmond Doss, a humble man from the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia, was even approached by Audie Murphy years ago to obtain movie rights.
All Doss wanted to do after the war was tend his garden and be left alone. A few years ago before his death, he relented and allowed a movie to be made. What makes this subject unique in a war movie is that he enlisted as a C.O. – Conscientious Objector – after Pearl Harbor. Because of his strong faith, he refused to pick up a weapon. From Basic Training to the battlefield.
It is a story of faith and courage, both on and off the battlefield.
He was even willing to face a court marshal for his beliefs.
It was during the court marshal scene that my bladder over-pressure light went on as a result of the large Diet Coke.
And it was glowing brightly.
But the scene was so compelling I did not want to leave the theater so I was out of my seat and standing along the wall, not wanting to miss anything integral to the movie (which was written so tightly that virtually every scene was integral).
The battle scenes of Hacksaw Ridge in Okinawa were uncomfortably realistic.
As to what Doss did to be the first Conscientious Objector awarded the Medal of Honor – you will have to see the movie and learn of this amazing story.
Part 1 is here
I enjoy history. The problem is it is generally taught so poorly. Mediocre teachers want you to remember names and dates. Superior teachers have the gift of bringing the times to life, such that one could almost imagine living in that place and time. In my experience, there aren’t many superior history teachers.
If you go to Virginia City, Nevada today without a knowledge of its glorious past, you are missing most of the experience. You can get some of its background reading a classic from Mark Twain, Roughing It.
It was here that Samuel Clemens became Mark Twain. It is here that Clemens, finding mining too backbreaking and difficult, decided to try writing, having gotten a job as a reporter for the city’s newspaper, the Territorial Enterprise.
In his book, he describes many Nevada towns that rose with the discovery of more silver. Some of them are but dusty memories, like Esmeralda, while others, like Austin and Eureka, soldier on minus the silver.
It was at Eureka that I wanted to make my first stop. I had heard of an old historic hotel, and wanted to stay there.
I got there after dusk, and found the hotel dark and seemingly unoccupied. After wandering all the way around its perimeter, I call their number and got another hotel owned by the same people, the Gold Country Inn. The receptionist told me that the Jackson House is closed after the spring and summer.
Oh well. I stayed at the Gold Country Inn. Meh. It was a nice modern hotel.
Anyway, one other thing I found interesting. While I knew that Highway 50 from Sacramento was the original Stage Coach route to Virginia City, I did’t realize that the Pony Express also traveled that route all the way across Nevada. Since I am apparently in a trivia-minded mood tonight, probably boring my 2 readers, I will mention the small town of Strawberry near the Sierra Summit on the way to Lake Tahoe from Sacramento.
For years I couldn’t see a relationship between a fruit and a small Sierra town. Well, as I learned some time ago, it had nothing to do with the fruit, but a man named Berry. He was at the Lodge overnight (which is still there from the stage days) and apparently insulted a man he later learned was ex CA Chief Justice David Terry.
Upon learning who Terry was and his reputation, Berry left in the middle of the night. Those witness to this hasty retreat said that he was made of Straw.
Anyway, we have left Fallon and are on the way to the first town, Austin (which is a bit smaller than the other Austin, reportedly in Texas 😉 )
Coming into Austin. There is a bar/saloon there that has changed little in 150 years. Still has the creaky wooden floors.
…on to Eureka…
If Time hasn’t stopped in Eureka, it sure has slowed down….
Next morning I wanted to stop and see Ely, which is a thriving small town. It started as a railroad town.
As I am on the Loneliest Road, I kept thinking of the Pony Express riders across this – sometimes trying to save their lives as the Paiutes are chasing them…
I walked around Ely a bit. I had noticed that when on the road we tend to eat the same as before without exercise, so I was trying to get some exercise in…I had thought that this was original housing for the railroad workers, and a local confirmed it.
OK, I like old walls reminding us of other times decades ago…
Another local told me that at one time this was Nevada’s tallest building, and if you want the “old experience” stay here…..
Tomorrow: On to Southern Utah where I saw some of the most spectacular scenery….
I’m ten years older than Lex was, and Vietnam to me is still on my mind.
I remember something he said in one of his posts, about a time he was playing golf at Miramar with a retired Naval Aviator who served in Vietnam .
His partner said that around the beginning of the war in Vietnam everyone was gung-ho (which is I believe a military expression Claire Chenault and his pilots brought back from China) –
Towards the end of the war with so many targets determined off limits those who flew through some of the heaviest and most dangerous AAA just wanted to finish their tour and go home. Many of them died doing this. Dying from targets that could have been destroyed.
Our military has always had some form of Rules of Engagement but it seems since WW2 it has been overly restrictive. The civilians control the political side while the military controls, obviously, the battlefield side.
Truman was right in that the civilians – and President in particular – are in charge. But was MacArthur right in wanting to take the war to the Chinese? Truman was worried, obviously, about starting WW3.
Should Truman have given MacArthur more freedom?
After all, 60 some years later there has never been a truce signed and we are still worried about the North Koreans. Now we are worried about them having nukes. Would we be doing this today if MacArthur had captured Prongyang and secured Korea from the Yalu River?
(For that matter let’s speculate how the Cold War would have been different had Patton gone to Berlin. On the positive side I have read that some historians consider one of the reasons Truman dropped the Bomb on Japan was to keep the Russians out of Japan. Imagine a partitioned Japan, like Germany, for 60 years.)
What made me think of this was just seeing a movie on Netflix, Hyena Road. It is a Canadian film from a Canadian perspective on the war in Afghanistan, but I doubt that it was much different from American units.
Two of the main characters are an intelligence officer who is back at Begram and a sniper team. The sniper is constantly radioing back to headquarters asking for permission to shoot a target. The intelligence officer sees “the bigger picture” and the sniper wants to shoot an obvious belligerent.
Where’s the balance?
It’s an open question.