In June of 1944, Allied forces made their historic landing in Normandy, France, and the race was on to use ground forces to end the war in Europe. As forces continued to push back against the Germans, it was thought that a major operation could have enough of an impact to end the war by Christmas.
Released in 1977, A Bridge Too Far tells the tale of Operation Market Garden, a major Allied attempt to use paratroopers to go behind the German lines in the Netherlands and capture key bridges, trapping the German Fifteenth Army and allowing Allies to cross the Rhine River with tanks, artillery and necessary supplies.
A Bridge Too Far was directed by legendary English actor and film maker Richard Attenborough. The British-American war film features an impressive cast including James Caan, Michael Caine, Sean Connery, Gene Hackman, Anthony Hopkins, Robert Redford, and even a small role for Denholm Elliott (Dr. Marcus Brody from Raiders of the Lost Ark as well as Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade).
A Bridge Too Far begins in Holland as the German army is low on supplies. Its morale is also low, and they’re waiting for the Allies to attack them at some point. Unless the Germans can reorganize, receive more supplies, and find a way to stop the Allies and push them off the continent again, then it’s just a matter of time until the war in Europe is finished.
In England, Lieutenant-General Browning (Dirk Bogarde) creates a plan to use airborne troops to land behind German lines in the Netherlands. It’s a major operation involving some 35,000 Allied soldiers. The plans call for the American 82nd & 101st Airborne soldiers to capture roads and bridges in Nijmegen, and the British 1st Airborne and Polish paratroopers to capture a major bridge in Arnhem. If all goes well, the British XXX Armoured Corps will arrive at Arnhem (a distance of over sixty miles) two days after the drop. Read more…
Movies that are based on true stories, or inspired by true events, normally make good movies and stories, especially when it involves warfare or survival.
But as we know, or how we should know, sometimes those movies based on true stories get distorted for one reason or another. Sometimes it occurs to make the lead characters more interesting. Sometimes it occurs to help push a message or political statement.
Sadly, such a thing occurs frequently in the 2012 World War 2 aviation movie, Red Tails.
Red Tails begins in the skies of Europe during World War 2.
We see a group of German Bf 109 fighters making a hit-and-run attack on a squadron of Allied B-17 Flying Fortress bombers. The bombers’ escort fighters suddenly peel off and chase the fighters, just as the Germans intended. One of the B-17 pilots expresses anger as the Allied fighters leave the bomber formation unprotected again, chasing glory instead of protecting the bombers.
Sure enough, the German Bf 109s return and wreck havoc on the unprotected bombers. A few B-17s are shot down. We see crew members get killed while bombers tumble from the skies in burning wreckage.
Gee, if only those white fighter pilots had stayed with the bombers and protected them instead of chasing glory and inflating their egos! It’s hard to imagine that the Allied forces won the won with such arrogant pilots. I hope some other pilots can step up to the plate and actually do their jobs correctly!
Red Tails (2012) – (c) Lucasfilm, Ltd.
Red Tails then cuts to a scene of four black pilots flying a patrol mission. These men from the Tuskegee training program are part of the racially segregated 332d Fighter Group. As we learn, these pilots (“Easy” (played by Nate Parker), “Lightning” (played by David Oyelowo), “Ray Gun” (played by Tristan Wilds), and “Joker” (played by Elijah Kelley)) are bored. Some of them struggle to see the point of their patrol missions as they’re intentionally kept well away from the front lines of the war. Read more…
Our review of Pearl Harbor-themed films concludes with the biggest (and probably most disappointing) film of them all — 2001’s blockbuster Pearl Harbor.
Pearl Harbor is an epic war film that follows two American fighter pilots before and after the Japanese air raid on December 7, 1941. One pilot volunteers to fight with England’s Royal Air Force while the other is sent to a squadron in Pearl Harbor. They’re reunited just prior to the attack, and during the air raid they use their P-40 Warhawks to shoot down several enemy aircraft. Several months later they fly with James Doolittle and his historic bombing of Japan. There’s also a love story involving the two pilots and their affections for a nurse.
Directed by Michael Bay, Pearl Harbor was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer. The film stars Ben Affleck as Lieutenant Rafe McCawley. Co-starring in the film are Josh Hartnett as Rafe’s best friend, Lieutenant Daniel Walker; and Kate Beckinsale as Nurse Evelyn Johnson. Supporting them are a variety of Hollywood celebrities including Cuba Gooding, Jr., Tom Sizemore, Jon Voight, and Alec Baldwin.
Pearl Harbor (2001) – (c) Buena Vista Pictures
Pearl Harbor begins at a Tennessee farm in 1923.
Rafe McCawley and Daniel “Danny” Walker are best friends. Rafe’s father is a crop duster pilot while Danny’s father is a farmer. One day after Rafe’s father returns, the boys climb into the aircraft and pretend to fly it. As they flick the switches and play with the controls, the engine suddenly comes to life. A moment later the biplane is roaring down the dirt runway and it briefly flies in the air. The biplane lands and the boys bring it to a halt. They’re exhilarated by the flight but Danny’s catches hell from his father who witnessed the incident.
Fast forward to January of 1941.
War is raging in Europe and it’s just a matter of time before America finally joins the fight. In the meantime, the American military continues training its pilots and sharpening their skills.
At Mitchel Field on Long Island, New York, both Rafe McCawley (Ben Affleck) and Danny Walker (Josh Hartnett) are first lieutenants in the Army Air Corps and pilots of the P-40 Warhawk. At the end of one of their training sessions, both of the pilots do a little showboating in front of their peers. They aim their aircraft at each other and then suddenly break away at the last second in a game of “chicken.” The maneuver thrills their colleagues but it lands them in hot water with their commanding officer, Major James “Jimmy” Doolittle (Alec Baldwin). Read more…
Imagine if one day you were suddenly transported back in time.
In addition to that, imagine that not only were you transported to a point back in time just prior to a key event in American history, but you also had the capability of changing history.
That’s the premise behind The Final Countdown, a 1980 science-fiction film that transports a modern aircraft carrier back in time to December 6, 1941. The ship’s captain is faced with the ultimate decision: Do you destroy the Japanese fleet and prevent the attack at Pearl Harbor?
Directed by Don Taylor, The Final Countdown stars Kirk Douglas as Captain Matthew Yelland, the skipper of the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. Co-starring in the film is Martin Sheen in the role of Warren Lasky, a civilian observer who works for the Department of Defense. Supporting them are James Farentino as Carrier Air Wing Commander Richard T. Owens / Mr. Richard Tideman; Katharine Ross as Laurel Scott; Ron O’Neal as Commander Dan Thurman, the Nimitiz’s executive officer; and Charles Durning as Senator Samuel Chapman.
The Final Countdown (1980) – (c) United Artists
The Final Countdown begins with Warren Lasky (Martin Sheen) arriving at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. Before departing on his mission for the Department of Defense, he’s seen off by a mysterious man named Mr. Tideman. Allegedly Mr. Tideman knows Lasky, but nothing more is mentioned about it at this point in the film. Lasky boards a naval SH-3 Sea King helicopter and he’s flown out to the USS Nimitz aircraft carrier. Read more…
On December 7, 1941, the nation of Japan launched a sneak attack at the U.S. naval base headquartered at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii.
The attack was carried out with complete success, and the end result was a massive blow to the U.S. naval fleet. This attack sparked massive outrage throughout the country. The following day the U.S. declared war on Japan. Three days later, Germany and Italy declared war on the U.S., and those declarations were reciprocated by the U.S. the same day. Because of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. was now involved with World War 2.
Tora! Tora! Tora! tells the story about the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The story is told from both the American and Japanese perspectives, and we learn more about why the attack was carried out. The film exposes historical errors which helped Japan achieve a complete tactical success with their attack. It was only a stroke of luck that the U.S. aircraft carriers were out at sea, and none of them were attacked or sunk on that day.
The film was directed by Richard Fleischer, and the music was composed by Jerry Goldsmith. Tora! Tora! Tora! itself doesn’t star any well-known Hollywood stars. This decision was made so that the viewers would pay more attention to the story rather than the actors starring in it.
Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) – (c) 20th Century Fox
Tora! Tora! Tora! begins in 1941 on a Japanese battleship as Vice-Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto (Sō Yamamura) arrives to take command of the Japanese combined fleet. Admiral Yamamoto officially receives command from Admiral Zengo Yoshida (Junya Usami), and the two admirals discuss the need to have a strong navy and not get swayed by the politics that control Japan’s army. Read more…
The other day I finished Harry Turtledove’s alternative history novel, Days of Infamy.
Ask yourself this question: On December 7, 1941, the U.S. naval base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, was attacked by the nation of Japan in a devastating aerial raid. What if the Japanese carrier task force was also accompanied by two divisions of soldiers?
Harry Turtledove attempts to answer that question in his book, Days of Infamy.
Set primarily on the Hawaiian island of Oahu, Days of Infamy begins shorty before the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor. We’re introduced to a few of the island’s residents, including an American surfing instructor, the wife of an Army soldier, and a Japanese fisherman and his two sons. Each has his or her own story to tell about the American style of life in Oahu in 1941.
Don’t worry about that part of the story being too long or boring. The air attack on Pearl Harbor is already taking place about thirty pages into the 520-page book. The main split between history and fiction also takes places around that early point in the book, guaranteeing the readers a TON of new scenarios throughout the remainder of the story.
Apart from the inbound Japanese amphibious force, the readers will quickly notice that the Japanese navy launches a third wave of attacks upon Pearl Harbor. Around that time period in the book, the U.S. navy’s carrier, USS Enterprise, is sailing back towards the island and launching its own wave of fighters. In no time, a squadron of F4F Wildcats is caught up in a massive dogfight with Japanese A6M Zeros in the sunny skies over Hawaii.
And virtually all of the Wildcats are shot down. Although the Wildcats had better armor and firepower, the Zeros were faster and more maneuverable. It wouldn’t be later in the war before Wildcat pilots developed an effective combat strategy against the Zeroes. For the time being, the Japanese Zero pilots had no difficulty shooting down the American fighters.
After the crushing air attack in which the Japanese navy destroyed critical American forces and earned total air superiority over Oahu and the Hawaiian islands, the Japanese amphibious forces made their beach landings. The Japanese soldiers marched right onto the beaches and jungle terrain of Oahu. Read more…
W.E.B. Griffin’s Brotherhood of War novels tell the stories of U.S. Army officers as they tackle problems both on an off the battlefields.
The Lieutenants, book number one in the Brotherhood of War series, begins in February of 1943 as the Allies are still fighting the Germans in northern Africa. Major Robert Bellmon is leading a few tanks when they’re ambushed by the Germans. All of his men are killed and Major Bellmon is thrown clear of the action. He plays dead but the German soldiers don’t buy it. Bellmon is captured and taken to a German prisoner-of-war camp in Poland.
Robert Bellmon’s father-in-law, Major General Peterson Waterford, is powerless to conduct a search in hostile territory for the missing soldier. The general is aware that Bellmon may have been taken prisoner, but the odds of seeing his son-in-law alive again were incredibly small.
While Major Bellmon is being held captive in Poland, the POW camp commander, Generalleutant Graf Peter Paul von Greiffenberg, treats Bellmon favorably and allows the prison certain liberties. Robert Bellmon would later discover that General Waterford and General von Greiffenberg have been friends since before World War 2. While a prisoner, Robert Bellmon is used by the Germans and taken to a site where Russian troops massacred Polish army officers. Bellmon sees the horrific sights and allows his photograph to be taken as proof of him seeing the truth. Bellmon agrees to take the evidence of the massacre to his superiors and bring the Russian troops responsible for it to justice.
While in captivity, Robert Bellmon receives news that just before he was captured he was promoted to lieutenant colonel. General von Greiffenberg allows the promotion to proceed inside of the prison camp, and Bellmon is even awarded the correct American rank to wear on his uniform.
Back in the United States, a U.S. military academy cadet in West Point convinces his superiors to let him drop out and enlist in the army. Sanford Felter believes that his linguistics skills can help army intelligence gather information about the German troops and other assets over in Europe. Because Felter has already completed a few years at the academy and the army needs linguistics experts, Felter is commissioned as a second lieutenant and sent overseas.
The war in Europe has progressed and the Allies and Russians are closing the trap on Germany. By 1945 most of the combat against Germany is finished. Read more…
During World War 2, the Eastern Front was primarily a tale of slaughter and carnage.
In particular, the Russian city of Stalingrad experienced unspeakable terror as the Nazis put the city under siege, hoping to break the Russian backbone and conquer the city. If the Russian stronghold fell, then the Third Reich would be able to conquer southern Asia and all of its valuable natural resources. The city was a battleground as the two military forces fought it out during the fall and winter of 1942-43.
Enemy at the Gates tells the story of Russian sniper, Vassili Zaitsev, from his time in the Red Army’s infantry through his climb to glory. Along the way he loses friends in combat, battles a German marksman (Major Erwin Konig), and manages to fall in love with Tania, a local Stalingrad girl.
It’s the sniper battle with Major Konig where the brunt of the movie takes place.
Enemy at the Gates (2001) – (c) Mandalay Pictures
Upon the Major’s arrival in Stalingrad, the movie becomes a cat-and-mouse game as the two skilled hunters battle wit and strategy, hoping to catch the opponent in his sights. Each of the snipers use his tricks to outwit his opponent, and each one nearly gets shot in the process. Of course, one of them ultimately falls in battle. It’s interesting though how the movie reaches that pinnacle, the very moment when the loser realizes that the battle (and his life) is finished. Read more…