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July 30, 2008

Best War Movies of all Time

Sean had a great idea inspired by the recent posts on the 173rd Airborne: what, in your opinion, are the greatest war movies of all time, and what makes them worth watching?

For me, the first war movie that got me interested in the genre was Gettysburg. There are so many moments from this movie that I love. I must have watched it a thousand times.

To me, a great movie is like that. It's like a great book: it only improves the more you see it. There are books I read every few years because I love them so. I actually look forward to certain passages that particularly resonate with me. Shakespeare has the power to move me that way (you probably couldn't tell, could you?). There is a universality to his characters and plots. Often when reading some news story, I'll find a snippet of verse from some play floating into my mind, and when I watch a performance of one of the Bard's plays there are certain passages that can predictably send a chill right down my spine or cause anticipatory tears to well up in my eyes long before the first words ring out on the stage.

They're that good. The strength of Gettysburg, to me, was that it showed the goodness and humanity of both sides of a bitterly contested war. I consider myself a Southerner, and yet I thrilled with pride to hear Joshua Chamberlain's stirring "What we're fighting for" speech to the 20th Maine.

I think, sometimes, that is what has broken my heart about this war.

Not the cruelty of al Qaeda, but the bitterness and cruelty of so many Americans to those who simply disagree with them.

I understand disagreement. I don't understand what causes so many of us to impugn the motives of those who, for all they know, may be doing what they sincerely believe is right. We - none of us - can see into each other's hearts.

It is so easy to speak in anger and so hard to understand that sometimes, looking in the mirror in the morning demands that each of us be true to our own principles. I am not sure that any of us has a monopoly on wisdom, justice, or the truth as determined by almighty God or the ACLU. We can only fumble through life doing the best we can.

I sometimes wish we could be kinder to each other. As corny as I'm sure this sounds, it takes all kinds of people to make up this crazy world. I wouldn't change it.

Not even the people who make me nuts. A little challenge to the way we think keeps us from being smug and self-satisfied. Whether or not you believe in God, I have always found much wisdom (as well as beauty) in the Bible. As one of my favorite verses reminds us, being right isn't everything:

This is the part that is most often quoted, and which you are probably most familiar with:

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and have not charity, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal.

And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and have not charity, I am nothing.

And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, and have not charity, it profiteth me nothing.

Charity suffereth long, and is kind; charity envieth not; charity vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up,

Doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil;

Rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth;
Beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things.

Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away
.

But this is part I have always loved:

For we know in part, and we prophesy in part.
But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away.

When I was a child, I spake as a child, I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away childish things.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face:
now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.



And now abideth faith, hope, charity, these three; but the greatest of these is charity.

I am not sure it is given to us during life to fully understand certain things. If we did, we'd be so frightened that we should almost certainly crawl under the covers and never attempt anything worthwhile.

I think charity and humility exist to remind us not to get too full of ourselves; that there is much we don't understand, much we don't know. Not that the Princess requires such reminders, mind you... :p

Heh.

Anyway... movies. Comments.

My two cents:

Bridge on the River Kwai.
Das Boot.
Lawrence of Arabia
The Caine Mutiny
Zulu (yeah, I liked that one too!)
Sands of Iwo Jima
Big Red One
Dirty Dozen

I am forgetting tons, I know. I don't watch war movies a lot, being more of the boring Merchant-Ivory pretentiously mind numbing British period piece/historical drama persuasion.

I'll throw a few more up after I've gotten a few things down.

Posted by Cassandra at July 30, 2008 10:19 AM

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Comments

"Caine Mutiny" is an excellent movie, but the book is even better. In the book, quite a lot happens after the point at which the movie ends.

Posted by: david foster at July 30, 2008 11:31 AM

In no particular order,
Cross of Iron
Das Boot
The Great Escape
We Were Soldiers
Zulu
Bridge on the River Kwai
Black Hawk Down
All Quiet on the Western Front (1930 version)
No Man’s Land
Hell in the Pacific
Saving Private Ryan

Your mileage may vary.

Posted by: BillT at July 30, 2008 11:37 AM

Gone With The Wind
Patton
Slaughterhouse 5
The Great Escape
Catch-22
Apocalyse Now
Sergeant York
War and Peace - Russian version
Shenandoah
The Patriot
The Bridge on the River Kwai

just a few of my favorites

Posted by: twolaneflash at July 30, 2008 11:43 AM

Oh! I loved We Were Soldiers and Private Ryan.

Found both hard to watch. I kept leaving the room and coming back in.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 11:46 AM

GWTW too.

And Henry V. For some reason I didn't class those with war movies, but they are.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 11:46 AM

Don't worry about the hard words of the last few years, dear Cass. The healing has begun.

Posted by: Grim at July 30, 2008 11:47 AM

I didn't realize Caine Mutiny was a book. I will have to read it - thanks for the recommendation.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 11:49 AM

Also...it isn't precisely a war movie, but "The Devil's Arithmetic" is about a young Jewish girl of the present day who--via a time-travel anomaly--finds herself in Poland at the time of the Holocaust. The screenplay was written by blogger Robert Avrech, and it's one of the rare cases where the movie, IMNSHO, is better than the book on which it was based.

Posted by: david foster at July 30, 2008 11:54 AM

Hmmmm... so many to name so little time. Here's a couple not yet mentioned:

Tora Tora Tora
The Enemy Below
Run Silent, Run Deep
The Blue Max
Letters From Iwo Jima

Posted by: spd rdr at July 30, 2008 12:07 PM

I vote for:

Lawrence of Arabia
The Battle of Britain
Patton

Posted by: Randomscrub at July 30, 2008 12:14 PM

Midway, I guess, is my vote for the single best war movie.

Posted by: Grim at July 30, 2008 12:19 PM

I never got around to seeing Eastwood's Iwo Jima movies, but I'm a huge Ken Watanabe fan. I guess I should see Letters.

I thought that I would watch more movies last year while the Unit was in Iraq. I got that movie service (I forget the name) - oh yeah - Netflix. And I started to send away for classic movies and historical documentaries and things that I've been meaning to see. But I was just gone too much on the weekends and I kept forgetting. I should go back up and reserve some of these.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 12:21 PM

Grim, I was particularly waiting for your list. I figured it would be a good one.

I know a lot of the movies already you like b/c you write about them at the Hall. But still, I was curious about which ones you liked.

Also spd b/c he likes history so I figured his movie choices would be good ones. And Don too, and Bill. I always like to hear what you all enjoy watching.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 12:23 PM

In addition to all the great movies/stories already mentioned, I'd have to mention a few with Humphrey Bogart.

-Sahara
-African Queen
-Casablanca
-To Have and Have Not
and in case this one is overlooked
-The Longest Day...

This could take a while...

Posted by: bthun at July 30, 2008 12:26 PM

I love most of the movies already mentioned (including Gettysburg...Cassandra, you're right on the mark with that one and I'd classify Henry V as a war movie, just for the St Crispin's Day Speech alone). As former AF, I have to mention 12 O'Clock High; a great movie about leadership, but I have to say that Saving Private Ryan, We Were Soldiers, Das Boot, and Gallipoli are my favorites.

Posted by: lela at July 30, 2008 12:27 PM

In addition to the films thus named; I'd like to mention "Glory". This civil war drama still reminds me of the pain that we are able to visit on ourselves; and that the seeds of that conflict are still planted in the American Psyche.

Posted by: MadMike at July 30, 2008 12:30 PM

I liked Glory too, as I recall.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 12:34 PM

I cn't blv nwn hz mntd my fvrt mvy evr:

th nglsh ptnt

*rnng lk hlk*

Posted by: spd's evl twn at July 30, 2008 12:37 PM

Very well, Cass.

El Cid
Fort Apache
The Longest Day
Midway

I think bthun is right to name Casablanca, though I wouldn't have thought of it as part of the genre. But, genre piece or not, it was a war movie in very truth because it was written to justify our joining one.

Posted by: Grim at July 30, 2008 12:46 PM

Good heavens :p

I did not mean to drag it out of you by force!

Posted by: spd's evl twn at July 30, 2008 01:04 PM

Sean had a great idea inspired by the recent posts on the 173rd Airborne: what, in your opinion, are the greatest war movies of all time, and what makes them worth watching?

The Legend of the Galactic Heroes is probably the most comprehensive work on war that I have yet to see.

It is not a movie, but it is made by studios and artists just the same.

(you probably couldn't tell, could you?)

If we could, we would be too afraid to ; )

The strength of Gettysburg, to me, was that it showed the goodness and humanity of both sides of a bitterly contested war.

That was a primary reason why I liked LOGH. The ability to capture two warring sides and tell the truth of conflict, not as you wish to tell it, but as they actually exist or have existed in human history, is a rare ability.

If you will notice recent Hollywood movies depicting evil, like John Hancock, Batman the Dark Knight, or any one of those anti-war movies, you will often see that one side is held to all sorts of standards and expectations and the other side has no humanity or expectations of higher conduct. In real conflict, this is not the norm. The norm is the Sunni Al Anbar Awakening and America's previous war with tehm and America's current alliance with them. Alliances and allegiances and political factions shift eternally in war. Which is highlighted exceptionally in LOGH, in the war between the Free Planets Alliance and the Empire.

A little challenge to the way we think keeps us from being smug and self-satisfied.

And a little victory on the battlefield will bend all opponents to agreement.

that there is much we don't understand, much we don't know. Not that the Princess requires such reminders, mind you...

I know that only that Bill needs no requirements, just the dare.

I don't watch war movies a lot, being more of the boring Merchant-Ivory pretentiously mind numbing British period piece/historical drama persuasion.

That's like Pride and Prejudice?

Midway, I guess, is my vote for the single best war movie.

more than half of the time, I didn't get what the heck was happening. All I saw was people ordering the planes loaded and reloaded and sent out and sent back trying to find the Japanese.

Course, I first saw this in the 90s.

For more of my thoughts on LOGH, there's two blog posts I wrote on the subject

I have currently finished watching all episodes. Here are some of the themes and philosophies I encountered, which it might benefit you to know and hopefully motivate people who love the things that I love to watch the series.

War vs Peace (When is war right and when is peace right, and vice a versa, when is war wrong and peace wrong)

Autocracy vs Reprensetative Democracy (Is autocracy always evil and democracy always good, or do they both have good and bad traits)

The Mob vs the Individuals (Much as Plato wrote in the Republic and much as how he reacted negatively to the Athenian "Mob", as he called it, voting his teacher, Socrates, to death. How far may individuals go and to what point is the masses a self-defeating organization?)

Military vs Civilian (To what extent does the military get to decide policy in a democracy and how will the military decide where their true loyalty and duty lies when democracy becomes autocracy)

Bad advisers vs true loyalty (To what extent does a ruler have an obligation to save more lives by the expense of certain expedient and ruthless actions? To what extent should a ruler listen to real politek and violate the standards of honor and duty that got him to the throne in the first place?)

The Weak vs the Virtuous (How justified are death merchants who manipulate stronger polities due to the political and military weaknesses of the death merchants? Much the same as the Palestinian moral dilemma, which isn't much of a dilemma, about how ethical you are to resist the "occupiers" who have stronger technology than you)

There is just so much, more than I have ever seen that could be encapsulated in a "movie". A movie is just 1 to 4 hours long. LOGH is at least 42 hours long. Not counting the opening and ending music.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 01:10 PM

Grim -- did you mean Fort Apache or ? Had a detective buddy in the NYPD and he had some pretty wild war stories...

Posted by: BillT at July 30, 2008 01:10 PM

For those that have see any Japanese anime movie, ovas, or tv series or have seen any American based cartoons, they, literally, cannot compare to LOGH.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 01:14 PM

A pox upon thee, foul server burp!

That should have read "...Fort Apache or Fort Apache: The Bronx?...

Posted by: BillT at July 30, 2008 01:15 PM

"What we're fighting for" - not exactly a St Crispin's Day speech, but powerful nevertheless. In the Old Days, you fought for King and Country. We fight for freedom - ours, somebody else's, not much difference. It's just worth fighting for.

I'm really staggered by the movies you've all posted. [I really don't want to think about some of the more recent "war movies" Hollywood has turned out.]

One of my favorite all-time movies is "King of Hearts" (search www.imdb.com). It really is one of those "war is dumb" movies, but it was done long before the pc-libs came on the scene. Alan Bates and Genevieve Bujold (sigh). It ran continuously for 5 years at a theater in Cambridge, MA. I like it not because it's a "war movie", but because it's a delightful charming story. (And Bujold is in it.)

What about the other stunning "war is stupid" movie, "Paths of Glory" (Stanly Kubrick; Kirk Douglas)?

Posted by: ZZMike at July 30, 2008 01:16 PM

Not in the grand scheme of all the others but my favorite above all the rest - The Sand Pebbles with Steve McQueen. Although the "war" part is minimal it all happens on a grand stage. It also takes note of the service of so many men in the world's backwaters - lest we forget. The book was excellent also.

Posted by: george at July 30, 2008 01:21 PM

Ymar:

more than half of the time, I didn't get what the heck was happening. All I saw was people ordering the planes loaded and reloaded and sent out and sent back trying to find the Japanese.

That's why it's such an accurate movie. That's pretty much what war looks like.

Bill:

There were two movies by that name, now that you mention it. I meant this one.

Posted by: Grim at July 30, 2008 01:26 PM

More from the way-back machine;

-The Four Feathers (1939 version)
-Gunga Din (1939)
-Charge of the Light Brigade (1936)
-Khartoum (1966)

I enjoy seeing bad guys rent quark from quark as much as the next guy, but a good story in addition to particulate scatter is hard to beat.

Posted by: bthun at July 30, 2008 01:29 PM

Oh, "Zulu!" That's one of the best. Watch it in company with a short history of the event, though, as they treat several of the heroes of the battle unfairly in an attempt to make them more comfortable to Vietnam-era audiences.

Posted by: Grim at July 30, 2008 01:32 PM

The Great Escape
The Devil's Brigade
Tora! Tora! Tora!
Patton
Gone With The Wind
Saving Private Ryan
Das Boot
M*A*S*H (the movie and the book)
A Bridge Too Far
The Battle of Britain
Mrs. Miniver
Midway
13 Rue Madelaine (a Jimmy Cagney movie)
Sergeant York
The Fourth Protocol (a Cold War era movie)
Schindler's List
The Hiding Place

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 01:37 PM

The Caine Mutiny was an excellent move ... back in the day we made a lot of comparisons between my then battalion commander and Captain Queeg!

The Four Feathers another good one I missed on the other thread.

Posted by: Frodo at July 30, 2008 01:37 PM

I have to add that Midway was spectacular for the battle shots and the dogfights, but it had a major suckitude when it came to the editing. The story line got hammered.

Isn't there one about the Bataan Death March?
How many of us here watched 'MacArthur' and tried not to spit up?

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 01:40 PM

That's why it's such an accurate movie. That's pretty much what war looks like.

If I had known then, what I knew now, it wouldn't have been so confusing ; )

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 01:41 PM

as they treat several of the heroes of the battle unfairly in an attempt to make them more comfortable to Vietnam-era audiences.

That's why I don't list such movies even I have watched them. Not my favorites, and not what I want to watch even.

Black Hawk Down and Saving Private Ryan and certain Call of Duty movie scenes about Russia and Omaha Beach, should be given credit for starting to convince people like me that the US military really isn't full of heartless myrmidon assassins and conscienceless killers.

They actually had some virtues, yanno? That's an amazing thing, isn't it, Grim.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 01:44 PM

"Isn't there one about the Bataan Death March?"
Cricket, would you be thinking of this one? Bataan.

Posted by: bthun at July 30, 2008 01:52 PM

12 O'clock High
Victory at Sea (Not a movie, a documentary, but it's the standard for judging the historical accuracy of WWII movies and a reminder of a time when victory was thought a Good Thing.)

Posted by: Max at July 30, 2008 01:54 PM

Has anyone mentioned The Great Raid? The story is awesome.

Posted by: bthun at July 30, 2008 01:57 PM

I copied this from the other thread on the 173rd Airborne, as this is where it belongs.


Some (not all) of my faves:

Battleground
They Were Expendable
Pork Chop Hill
12 O'Clock High
Gettysburg
In Harm's Way
Run Silent, Run Deep
Stalag 17 (is that really a war movie?)

Waterloo (with Rod Steiger as Napolean, and Christpher Plummer as the Duke of Wellington)

Ran (well, not exactly a war movie, although there is a family war being fought in the middle of it)

The Battle of Britain (hey! Michael Caine is in that too!)

There are a couple other good movies that come to mind in addition to this.
I Bombed Pearl Harbor (made many years ago, the 50's I think, in Japan. B & W. I have not seen it on TV in many years, never on DVD or VHS). The first part of the movie captures the Japanese exultation at their victory at Pearl. The second half of the movie is about the battle of Midway and the confusion on the part of the IJN, their defeat, and finally the shoot-down and capture of the protagonist teliing the story.

Band of Brothers. though not really a "movie", just a lot of episodes strung together, with a continous story line of the 101st Airborne, 506th Para regiment.

Dawn Patrol - A classic
And yes, "Gods and Generals" stunk.

I imagine Grim liked the whole "Cavalry Trilogy" that John Ford made:
"Rio Grande"
"Fort Apache"
"She Wore a Yellow Ribbon"

It's interesting that there are a plethora of WWII movies, many of them pretty good (and an astounding number of stinkers), but so very few good movies about the Civil War, except of course, "Gettysburg", and "Glory". When you consider the incredible amount of what has been written about the Civil War, it makes you wonder. Even now, +140 years later, this is still something of a sore subject with many Americans, north and south. It would STILL be very controversial to make a movie about W.T. Sherman and his campaigns (which could be made very interesting!) and either make him a hero or a scoundrel, depending on your point of view.
I think this will be the same mental backwash of the present era, the "Terror Wars", unless there are some incredible political and philosophical revelations that come down the pike in the next few years to change the minds of the 'Copperheads'.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 30, 2008 02:00 PM

I would agree with most of the ones named so far, I'm sure there's a few more I am misremembering at the moment. As a former Marine married to a retired Army major, our joint favorite is probably M*A*S*H, preferably unedited (Bobby Trup's "G*ddam Army" pretty well sums it all up ;).

BUT I would like to add a special shout out for We We Soldiers. I had read the book first. There are others on this list that are equally enthralling.

What We Were Soldiers DID have, though, I would never have appreciated had I not sent my husband off to Kuwait/Iraq in 2002.

There is a set of scenes early in the movie, where the officers are dancing at the OClub in their Army blues the night before leaving only to have to wake up at zero-dark-thirty and slip quietly out of the house, while everyone else is still pretending to sleep and Daddy goes off to war. The soldiers walk one by one to the pickup point at Ft Benning and stand there basically alone in the dark with their seabags just waiting for the bus to come.

That scene still brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it, and I think it sums up the meaning of war far better than any action scene ever filmed...

Posted by: emac at July 30, 2008 02:02 PM

Then there is the homecoming. To this day, there are a couple of buildings at Fort Gillem that bring back some bittersweet memories; parting and reunion.

That scene in We Were Soldiers did me in too.

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 02:17 PM

Oh yes.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 02:19 PM

Stalag 17 was outstanding.

Von Ryan's Express
The Manchurian Candidate (the original with Angela Lansbury)

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 02:23 PM

Hi Cass: good post. A couple of war movies that I enjoy over and over are:

Three Kings
Blackhawk Down

Posted by: Jeffrey at July 30, 2008 02:29 PM

I haven't seen Bataan. I just remember a neighbor of ours whose father was a doctor in the Philippines at the time. He was treating the resistance fighters (he was Spanish), and the Japanese finally caught him. He was dumped on his doorstep. She and her mother would have to heal him up...and he did NOT stop treating the resistance fighters, and he kept getting caught and tortured by the Japanese.

When the Americans liberated the islands and drove the Japanese back, you could not say one nasty thing about Americans to her from that time on. Her father died shortly thereafter...and I was hoping someone could tell his story. I think she passed away some time ago...and I have forgotten her maiden name.

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 02:30 PM

War brings out the best in humanity as well as the worst.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 02:35 PM

Blackhawk Down. I could not bring myself to watch that movie for years. I was in the Army when the incident occured, and I was furious beyond words with the whole situation. I simply did not trust myself to not fly into a rage watching it. Ultimately I was able to watch it, and was merely angry. But 5-10 years will do that for you.

All my favorites have already been listed:
Saving Private Ryan
The Great Escape
Tora Tora Tora
The Enemy Below
The Longest Day
Henry V (yes, it's a war movie)
etc

The only one I would add would be Alexander Nevsky by Eisenstein. It's a great piece of pre-WWII Soviet Propoganda, and not an awful piece of historical dramatization (the Battle of the Ice on Lake Piepus).

Posted by: MikeD at July 30, 2008 02:40 PM

Oh SCORE! I just found that the entire movie is available on Google video!

http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=3081784922766209878

If you've never seen this, watch it.

Posted by: MikeD at July 30, 2008 02:46 PM

Ultimately I was able to watch it, and was merely angry. But 5-10 years will do that for you.

I saw a PBS interview with the Rangers who were there, years after the fact. They weren't too happy about it either.

What they said, and I paraphrase, was "We have no problems giving up our lives for the mission, but if you are going to send us into harm's way, then don't just leave our work undone".

To most people, the idea of dying is the end. To the military, that's not entirely true. That's not the end of the mission.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 02:46 PM

re: Merchant-Ivory movies.

I liked Remains of the Day.

I love The Jewel in the Crown - another movie I've watched a million times over the years. The character of Sarah Layton in that miniseries is one that always kind of reminded me of myself. She tries so hard to do what she sees as her duty; she believes with all her heart in all "the right things". But in a lot of ways she is always on the outside, looking in too because no matter how much she wants to fit in, she can never quite keep from thinking for herself.

There was always something about the love scenes with Sgt. Perron that made me ache for them. Both of them had so much passion inside but they were so uncomfortable with it, and so there was only this awkward silence and so many things that were never said.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 02:51 PM

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 02:56 PM

"I haven't seen Bataan. I just remember a neighbor of ours whose father was a doctor in the Philippines at the time."
I'm a bit partial to stories of WWII and the fight in the Pacific during WWII.

My dad was a medic in the 534th Engineer Boat & Shore Regiment during the fighting in New Guinea & Luzon. A lot of hard fighting. And if memory serves, the amphibious landing on Luzon was larger than the one on D-Day in Europe. Just not as hard fought during the initial landings...

That rascal never did tell me much about his time in the Pacific. Only after his death did I gain access to his papers and discover his decorations and bronze stars. Such were and are the people who serve our nation.

This may explain my slight shading towards the WWII era.

"Blackhawk Down. I could not bring myself to watch that movie for years."
I put off watching that one for years for anger management reasons too.

Posted by: bthun at July 30, 2008 03:02 PM

There are war movies and then there are war movies.

Straight up action films:
Zulu
Fireball Forward
Dirty Dozen
Guns of Navarone
Von Ryan's express
Kelly's Hero's
Hellcats of the Navy
Run Silent, Run Deep
Fly Boys
Tears of the Sun
Strategic Air Command
The Dawn Patrol
etc...

Then you got the "Documentary/Docu-drama/biographies" movies:
Tora Tora Tora
Midway
The Longest Day
A Bridge Too Far
Battle of the Bulge
The Bridge at Remagen (sort of)
Black Hawk Down
Hamburger Hill
We Were Soldiers
Waterloo
Pork Chop Hill
To Hell and Back
Charge of the Light Brigade (1968)
Glory (sort of)
Patton
Joyeux Noel
etc...

Then you got the "message films"
Apocalypse Now
Platoon
Casualties of War
The Grand Illusion
The Hill
The Beast
etc...

Then you got the novels/plays:
A Walk in the Sun (based on the same)
The Bridges at Toko-Ri (based on the same)
The Deer Hunter (based on "the 3 Comrades)
Gettysburg (based on "The Killer Angels")
Ran (actually King Lear)
The Thin Red Line (based on the same)
All Quiet on the Western Front (based on the same)
Henry V (based on the same)
Manchurian Candidate (based on the same)
Gone with the Wind (based on the same)
Cross of Iron (based on the same)
War and Peace (based on the same)
The Blue Max (based on the same)
Slaughterhouse 5 (based on same)
etc..

Many of the novels are also 'message' films, but are usually better, since they're based on a decent book already, not somebody's crappy screen play.

Posted by: Eric Blair at July 30, 2008 03:14 PM

The words "John Kerry" and "penis straw" should never be uttered in the same sentence.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 02:56 PM

Izzat the same as a 'straw poll?'

Inquiring minds, you know.

Posted by: Bad Cricket at July 30, 2008 04:01 PM

Funny that several people have mentioned "Blackhawk Down". I was talking about this with a friend who is an ex-Army Major, who got called back to active duty in 2004-05 after retirement (medical) for a year in Iraq.
He refuses to read the book or watch the movie, because he has ridden in so many Blackhawks and it would tend to give him more jitters than he already has. I read the book years ago, and have the movie, but have never watched it. One of the dads of one of the kids on my son's middle school CC team was a former Ranger (captain) and knew Michael Steele (Army Ranger Captain, now a Colonel) who was one of the main protagonists in the story. He didn't have too high an opinion of him, as I recall from a brief conversation.

About the Phillipines; there was a book I read in my youth called "American Guerrilla in the Phillipines", written by one of the Navy guys who was part of the MTB Squadron from "They Were Expendable", left behind after the end. Pretty good story, but interesting how it was sanitized for the times, circa 1944-45. Itsold to raise War Bonds in WWII; my grandmother had a whole shelf of books like that. Guadalcanal Diary, They Were Expendable, etc.
She worked for the Army Air Force in WWII, re-building damaged Norden bombsights.

And that was my Dad's War; he was in the Army Corp of Engineers, and drove trucks and stuff in strange places like New Guinea, the Solomons (Guadalcanal and Bougainville) and the Phillipines (Luzon). Almost died of Dengue fever back in 1944. God, that was an ugly war. There was little that was charming about the war on the islands in the Pacific. Heat, disease, bugs, you name it, it was all unpleasant.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 30, 2008 04:09 PM

For some reason, Band of Brothers is something I can watch when I have a loved one deployed. Not sure why that is...I cry through it but it doesn't seem to bother me. I can't watch "We Were Soldiers" though. I've tried a couple of times but I just can't do it. I won't even try to watch "BlackHawk Down". I know myself better than that.
I loved "Zulu". Will rented it for us years and years ago (Cpl. Dark Prince was a little baby at the time) and I remember not being very interested when he brought it home but becoming enthralled once we started watching it.
GWTW is one of my alltime favorite movies.
"Hart's War" was pretty good.
"Flying Leathernecks" and "They were Expendable"
"Operation Petticoat" was hilarious but anything with Cary Grant in it has got my attention
"South Pacific"..I know..I know..it's a musical but I did like it.
Although I didn't like the way the Nicholas Cage character was portrayed, "Code Talkers" was pretty good.
Not a movie but a series from A&E, "Horatio Hornblower" was awesome!!! I wish there were mor of that series.


Posted by: Semper Fi Wife at July 30, 2008 04:26 PM

knew Michael Steele (Army Ranger Captain, now a Colonel) who was one of the main protagonists in the story. He didn't have too high an opinion of him, as I recall from a brief conversation.

I don't want to spread inaccurate rumours about the man, but I remember a story about porn being found and security violations prosecuted by one "Steele" with relations to that incident in Somalia.

About the Phillipines; there was a book I read in my youth called "American Guerrilla in the Phillipines"

Saw the interview with one guy who survived that, or it was a child involved in the resistance who later gave an interview of what she saw of American guerrilla efforts.


Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 04:32 PM

Not a movie but a series from A&E, "Horatio Hornblower" was awesome!!! I wish there were mor of that series.

That was based off the books?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 04:33 PM

"We were Soldiers" is too close to home. Hollywood doesn't get it right often, but that one so had the right feel about it.

There are so many scenes in that movie that you just feel were ripped from your life. I think the one where the wives are walking around delivering the casualty telegrams was just devastating. I can't even think about it without a whole flood of memories coming back.

I'm not surprised you can't watch it. As I said, I found it very, very difficult to sit through. I cried like a baby. There can't be too many officer's wives who didn't see their husbands in Gibson. It was heartbreaking.

Posted by: Cass at July 30, 2008 04:51 PM

Ymar,
Yes, the series was based on the books. It was really well done, IMHO..it had everyone in my family watching and enjoying it.

Cass, I tried to watch it when Will went to Iraq the first time. Couldn't. Waited a year AFTER we got back from Pendleton and could only make it halfway through.
That scene with the CO's wife delivering the CACO notifications gets me every damned time. The combat scenes?
Fuggedaboudit...
I do so admire the actual lady in question. Talk about your milspouse in action. We should all aspire to be as good as she was but she set the bar way too high.

Posted by: Semper Fi Wife at July 30, 2008 05:05 PM

Cary Grant war movies? "I Was a War Bride." That is a gem.

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 05:24 PM

*splatter* 300*splatter*

Posted by: spd rdr at July 30, 2008 05:27 PM

Did anyone mention "Master and Commander" yet?
How about "Destination: Tokyo?"
Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo?
Charge of the Light Brigade?
The Devil's Brigade?
Mister Roberts?
Operation Petticoat?
PT-109?
Merrill's Mauraders?
13 Rue Madeline?
Tobruk?
Wings?

Ok, I'm good for a while.

Posted by: spd rdr at July 30, 2008 05:46 PM

Ahem...I DID mention Operation Petticoat..
I see how you are, Spd...
Fine...

(I forgot about Mister Roberts and that was one really GOOD movie)

Posted by: Semper Fi Wife at July 30, 2008 05:48 PM

Hollywood doesn't get it right often, but that one so had the right feel about it.

I served with one of the X-Ray vets for thirty years, and he said they did it right, so that's good enough for me. And the helicopter sequences were a *lot* more realistic than the usual Filmland Fare.

On a side note, I crossed paths with Steele a couple of times -- at Ft. Polk during our pre-Boz workup and again during my SFOR stint. He was angry that he didn't come off well in the book, but didn't seem to understand that crediting him with preternatural knowledge of the Task Force guys in the building next to him wouldn't have been believable. Or true.

I won't share my impression of him, because it's colored by two incidents that may not have been typical of him.

Posted by: BillT at July 30, 2008 05:48 PM

Almost forgot -- I got Mike Durant drunk in 2004. Got myself drunk, too, but that's not germane to the thread.

Posted by: BillT at July 30, 2008 06:01 PM

There is an early-1950s British film, "Carve Her Name With Pride," about the WWII secret agent Violette Szabo. Hard to find, but worth seeing. Violette is played by Virginia McKenna, best known for "Born Free" and "A Town Like Alice."

Now in the early stages of development is a major Bollywood film about another WWII secret agent, Noor Inayat Khan. I believe the plan is to release it internationally as well as in India.

More about Noor and the upcoming film and about Violette.

Posted by: david foster at July 30, 2008 06:05 PM

At spd rdr:

Merril's Marauders

Yeah, that was a classic. I'll probably remember a few more really good ones tonight.

'Mr. Roberts' and 'The Wackiest Ship in the Army' (Jack Lemmon was great in that!) were really good entertainment, but they were more comedy-melodramas than serious war stories. I know my Dad liked 'Mr Roberts' because his CO was a lot like the Jimmy Cagney character; pretty unpleasant.

The classic movie "Horatio Hornblower" with Gregory Peck as Hornblower was pretty good, too.

There are a bunch of Soviet made movies about "The Great Patriotic War", which was the War in the East (WWII) that may start to emerge, after being made years ago. I have seen some outtakes from some of these on You Tube (from the Battle of Kursk for example) and the action scenes are pretty riveting. Even though it was something of Soviet propaganda, it's a story too few in the West are familiar with, and the battles in the East were spectacular in scale and horror, too.

I don't know if you would call "Exodus" a war movie, but it is a pretty good film. Not shown much anymore, which is sort of symbolic of the sentiments about Israel in the entertainment world.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 30, 2008 06:10 PM

"In Which We Serve" was a pretty good movie about the British Navy, early in WWII, with Noel Coward as the Captain. Seemed pretty realistic to me, as I remember it.

And of course

Sink the Bismark!
and
Pursuit of the Graf Spee

BillT, you really get around!! :D
I got Mike Durant's book at home. What a terrific guy!

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 30, 2008 06:14 PM

I mentioned The Devil's Brigade.

I have seen Blackhawk Down, but due to video equipment being on their last leg, missed a great deal of it.

The Patriot?

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 06:35 PM

I remember reading about Noor Khan when I was in elementary school. Her story was so intense and she seemed to be so brave and daring.

I will look forward to seeing any movies about her.

Posted by: Cricket at July 30, 2008 06:43 PM

SFwife, I first caught onto Horatio Hornblower when I was reading Honor Harrington by David Weber and people mentioned that it was inspired by HH, even to the point of making the main character have the same initials.

I won't share my impression of him, because it's colored by two incidents that may not have been typical of him.

Those wouldn't happen to be that http://ucmjdefense.blogspot.com/2007/12/michael-waddington-criminal-lawyer.html

Would it?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 07:08 PM

with Noel Coward as the Captain.

how did he get the last name of Coward?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 30, 2008 07:10 PM

Wasn't Noel Coward the Captain of a British corvette in "The Cruel Sea" too? Or is it teh same movie?

Posted by: spd rdr at July 30, 2008 07:29 PM

No, it's not teh same. I tink.

But it's like that one British character actor twho was a doctor in both 'King Rat' and the 'Bridge on the River Kwai'.

Those guys got the same roles over and over and over......

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 30, 2008 08:18 PM

I have to throw a couple of Alistair MacLeans out there:
Where Eagles Dare
The Guns Of Navarone

Posted by: Stewart at July 30, 2008 09:18 PM

"Breaker Morant". All too apropos today, too...

Posted by: emac at July 30, 2008 09:19 PM

The man who never was ... was a really great movie

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0049471/

Also .. "Atonement" an excellent movie and book ..for the Britofiles
but "Glory" tells the story of America and war

meleager

Posted by: meleager at July 30, 2008 09:41 PM

OK, most of my favorites have come up, but I don't know why nobody ever mentions "Go tell the Spartans" or "Memphis Belle". They ought to be at the front of any such lists. You just managed to put "Breaker Morant" in at the last moment, so you all get credit for that.

Posted by: Mangas Colorados at July 30, 2008 09:43 PM

Now that I have this tune stuck in my head, I'll share.

Posted by: Mitch Miller at July 30, 2008 09:56 PM

"Fat Man and Little Boy." One of the best on the development of the atomic bomb. They captured some of it pretty well.

"Gallipoli." Fools, heroes, and heartbreak.

Somewhat fits, "The Man Who Would be KIng."

Posted by: Allen at July 30, 2008 10:08 PM

Midnight Clear. WWII. Squad. The interelations of a squad.

NOt a movie, but Gundam:SEED. Why people fight. Soldiers and warriors are not mosters by default, actually they usually have some purpoe other than feeding their inner Death Drive, but some can become monsters and live solely to feed teh DD. Hubris of gov't. Difficulty of command. Costs. Pretty fair treatment.

Worst war film ever? Enemy at the Gates, imo.

Posted by: Charlie Brown's Teacher at July 30, 2008 11:35 PM

Ymar -- Nope, nothing relevant to courts-martial. Just interactions that may not have been typical (giving him an extreme benefit of my doubt).

I put Enemy at the Gates in the same class as Platoon -- great sets with cartoon characters.

Posted by: BillT at July 31, 2008 02:35 AM

I thought of Breaker Morant but for some reason forgot to type it into my list. Also Guns of Navarone.

It's funny how many Michael Caine movies I thought of. Odd.

King Rat: that was a good novel. I read it right after my first son was born - read his whole series. They were addictive; ended up buying most of them in hardcover, though I don't think I ever got King Rat - that one we only have in paperback. We didn't have much money back then.

Didn't realize there was a movie though.

Posted by: Cass at July 31, 2008 05:39 AM

I saw the movie before I read the book. The movie somewhat inverted the moral tale from Clavell's novel. After I read the book and saw the movie again, I could see how they made some of Clavell's ideas more subtle, plus the story as told in the movie cuts against the type that we expect, like "The Bridge on the River Kwai", or "Stalag 17". Clavell's narrative which explained what was happening was missing from the movie.
George Segal was "King Rat", and was kind of mis-cast, which didn't help.
Tom Courtenay was the neo-Marxist British provo marshal for the POW camp, and played the sadistic role perfectly.

Posted by: Don Brouhaha at July 31, 2008 08:41 AM

George Segal was "King Rat", and was kind of mis-cast, which didn't help.

It would've been perfect for John Cassavetes...

Posted by: BillT at July 31, 2008 09:15 AM

James Clavell is a compelling writer. He wrote a short story entitled 'The Children's Story.' We read that once a year. I love his screenplays too.

Posted by: Cricket at July 31, 2008 09:48 AM

I read Shakespeare and the Bible, and I can shoot dice. That's what I call a liberal education. - Tallulah Bankhead

Three Kings (1999, George Clooney) was on the very edge of being a truly great movie. (I suspect I'm the only person on the planet who thinks this although I see someone has already mentioned this movie.) I've only seen it once, though - like at least one other movie and a couple of books I don't want to revisit it and dilute my initial impression.

Throne of Blood (Kurosawa, 1957) is not strictly a war movie but it's the best Macbeth I've seen - and the only one I've seen that attempts an explanation of Lady Macbeth's puzzling attack of conscience.

Braveheart (1995). Again, this was on the very edge of being a truly great movie.

Charlie Wilson's War (2007)

The African Queen (1951)

The King of Hearts (1966)

Seven Days in May (1964)

Fail-Safe (1964) - It's been years since I saw this and I think I might have liked the book better.

Enjoyable (rather than important) movies with a war background:

WarGames (1983, Matthew Broderick)

Two Mules for Sister Sara (1970, Eastwood and MacLaine)

Battlestar Galactica (the new series). Not a movie but quite good.

I hope you'll do the same sort of thread for books sometime.

Posted by: EliseK at July 31, 2008 10:14 AM

Why did you guys not like Enemy at the Gates?

I thought it was, more or less, an accurate, if ungood, portrayal of the Russians.

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 31, 2008 10:42 AM

I liked 'The Magnificent Seven.'

Posted by: Cricket at July 31, 2008 11:36 AM

MikeD: Nevsky on YouTube!! What a find! I've listened to the score on record and CD for decades. It's one of Prokofiev's best.

Anyone interested in old films, with 107 minutes to spare, ought to watch it. It's a propaganda film, true, but not like those the Soviets cranked out later on. (I saw one on YouTube that idolized Stalin (played by a double). It pulled out all the stops - made Riefenstahl look like an amateur.)

When they made Nevsky, the Germans were surely the ultimate Bad Guys. Watch how they protray the German - Christian - churchmen just before the Battle. It wouldn't hurt to read a little of the history beforehand.

bthun: "That rascal never did tell me much about his time in the Pacific."

I hear that over and over. I think part of that attitude may be that only someone who's been there can understand what it was like.

Posted by: ZZMike at July 31, 2008 02:01 PM

"bthun: "That rascal never did tell me much about his time in the Pacific."

I hear that over and over. I think part of that attitude may be that only someone who's been there can understand what it was like."

Agreed ZZMike.

Looking back, I know that he thought any attempt to tell a little guy about the reality of war in the Pacific would not turn out well.

When I saw the opening scenes in Flags of our Fathers, those of the old man dreaming, "Doc", it was like being hit by the proverbial ton of bricks.

Speaking of Flags of our Fathers, another movie that gets a nod from me.

Posted by: bthun at July 31, 2008 02:30 PM

Courage Under Fire

Posted by: Bruce Jones at July 31, 2008 03:18 PM

I thought it was, more or less, an accurate, if ungood, portrayal of the Russians.

It's a good action flick, but the protagonists are entirely two-dimensional -- the Russian sniper is the New Soviet Man personified and his German counterpart is Lucifer Incarnate, so I consider it a propaganda flick rather than a pure war movie.

Posted by: BillT at July 31, 2008 03:32 PM

Lots of good movies mentioned. Although, perhaps a bit hokey, I liked these:

Heartbreak Ridge
Go For Broke!
To Hell and Back

Posted by: Kevin L at July 31, 2008 04:00 PM

It's a good action flick, but the protagonists are entirely two-dimensional -- the Russian sniper is the New Soviet Man personified and his German counterpart is Lucifer Incarnate, so I consider it a propaganda flick rather than a pure war movie.

What about the guy at the end that took the shot cause he realized Communism was a con job?

Posted by: Ymarsakar at July 31, 2008 05:29 PM

here's some really good obscure ones (I think anyway):

Three Came Home
The Hasty Heart
Since You Went Away (Home Front)
The Pied Piper
Man Hunt (remade for TV as Rogue Male (title of the book too) with Peter O' Toole
I'll be Seeing You
Once Upon a Honeymoon
Tender Comrade (Home Front)
The Mortal Storm

Posted by: lee at August 1, 2008 02:09 AM

What about the guy at the end that took the shot cause he realized Communism was a con job?

Well, I *said* it was a good action flick, right?

Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2008 05:47 AM

Here's another obscure one for you:


The Four Feathers.

There are many versions of this one, but I like the 1939 version the best.

I confess to also liking Atonement, though it was a bit depressing :p But then I'm an Anglophile.

Posted by: Hope-ama at August 1, 2008 06:16 AM

Oh, yeah! The Four Feathers sang some *great* tunes in the 50s, didn't they!

Ummmm -- what?

Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2008 06:34 AM

The 50s....

That was a cruel and racist time in Amerikkka's history. CAN'T WE PLEASE FORGET ABOUT RACE???? JUST_FOR_ONE_FREAKING_MOMENT????

SHEESH.

Posted by: Hope-ama at August 1, 2008 06:43 AM

You can't ignore race in any reference to the fifties -- I could go so far as to posit that race *defined* the fifties.

NASCAR held its first road race at Linden Airport in 1954 -- and the lineup just *screamed* diversity! Dodge, Oldsmobile, a pair of Hudsons, a Jaguar, Austin-Healeys, MGs, a Porsche and a Morgan!

And *when* was the Grand National Division for stock cars instituted? 1956.

I rest my case.

Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2008 12:39 PM

Oooh! And the 1956 Transcontinental Air Rally!

Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2008 12:45 PM

WAR!
WHAT IS IT GOOD FOR!
Uh, driving out tyranny, nazism, communism, slavery. . . .
But other than than,
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING! SAY IT AGAIN!

Posted by: Hummer at August 1, 2008 01:33 PM

"I could go so far as to posit that race *defined* the fifties. "
True, but it was in '64 when we became indivisible, with one National Air Race for all, Reno Nevada.

Posted by: bt_pgif_hun at August 1, 2008 04:06 PM

It lost something when they went to a paved runway, though.

Tradition.

Nostalgia.

FOD'ed prop blades...

Posted by: BillT at August 1, 2008 04:30 PM

Heh... Assemble on the flight deck(flight line for non Naval Air types =8^} ) for the FOD walkdown... Ahhh.... Nostalgia indeed.

The Thunderbirds used to appear at Moody AFB almost every year way back when I was a little kid. Even the Blue Angles would show up from time to time. And I would worry my dad and anyone else with a means to get me to the air shows until they would take me just to shut me up.

My first time actually in the air was when I was around 13. It was at a grassy field outside of Savannah. A local EAA club gathering IIRC.

A friend of my younger, older bro had a homemade pusher assembled from what appeared to be a triangular radio tower for the airframe with what I recall were two Volkswagen seats mounted in line atop the triangular frame.

The owner/pilot was three sheets in the wind that afternoon, so at my bro's urging -and I suspect the fellow figured that there was some sport afoot, the owner/pilot secured me in the back seat with the seatbelt and took me up to play cut the ribbon with a dropped roll of TP.

Bro must have figured he'd finally be done with me, what with only a seatbelt betwixt my young carcass and Gaea and a noteworthy amount of space between the two... But when I was once again on the ground, I'd fallen in love with something much more spiffy than motorcycles, fast automobiles, or even sailing!

Yanno Bill you are right, aircraft, motorcycles, automobiles and sloops. Those are about the only race cards that ought to be played.

Come to think of it, Petit Le Mans is on again this Oct 1st at Road Atlanta.

Apologies for the racy diversion on race. We now return you to the BO Campaign's Race Card Tournament in progress. Will he hold em? Will he fold em?

Posted by: bt_pgif_hun at August 1, 2008 05:31 PM

How about the original Beau Geste? or Lives of a Bengal Lancer (well it was about soldiers)--All the versions of the Four Feathers were good except the Heath Ledger one--

Two Cary Grant ones:
None but the Lonely Heart to me was about the impending WWII and how his father had died in WWI

Susie (WWI)it seems that this and Fly Boys were based on the same story

Posted by: lee at August 1, 2008 05:38 PM

Susie is Suzy and Cary Grant 2 more war movies. One with Claude Rains called the Last Outpost (have never seen it) set in Kurdistan--there also was The Pride and the Passion--I thought it was so bad I couldn't finish watching it.

Posted by: lee at August 1, 2008 09:29 PM

Dang -- still wondering how I overlooked Beau Geste. Good call, lee...

Posted by: BillT at August 2, 2008 06:27 AM

Gallipoli
Breaker Morant 2nd
The Lighthorseman 3rd
Paths to Glory
The Great Santini
Town without Pity
Catch-22
Band of Brothers - the absolute best
Twelve O'clock High
We Were Soldiers
The Deer Hunter
Stipes
Blackhawk Down
Empire of the Sun
Saving Private Ryan

Posted by: Kelly Austin Personal Trainer at August 2, 2008 05:15 PM

Why is Enemy at the Gates bad?
It's a love story with the war only as a backdrop. A not as funny 'Operation Pettycoat' essentially.

The most important part of the film is the love triangle between propogandist, sniper, and the hot chick from The Mummy movies(Rachel Weiss). The war is a back drop only.

And the dude doesn't take a bullet because communism is a sham. He does it for his friend. He sees his ambitions as having screwed things up and does it as atonement. Nobody repudates communism in that film.

I also hated it because of the way it was marketed. The promised the battle of Stalingrad. I got a love story. Ripoff punks. Even if they had taken liberties with what happened as was done with 'Battle of the Bulge' I'd have been content, but instead they handed me a histo-drama love story with some killing tossed in here and there. Ripoff.

Though I'm surprised that Gallipoli is coming up so often. Most of the story is Gibson and his buddy. Very little there about the fight itself. And how can you not take it as an anti-war flick with the last moments being the in vain run to keep his friend from dying in a 'pointless charge'? Just my three half pennies.

Posted by: Charlie Brown's Teacher at August 3, 2008 04:59 AM

I have enjoyed many of these, but there is one that hasn't shown up yet...

The Train

Burt Lancaster portrays a French railroad official trying to keep a train full of looted art safe from the German Army in WWII.

Posted by: Hunter at August 3, 2008 09:42 PM

One I liked that I haven't seen yet on a "great war movies" list is:

The Cruel Sea (1953, British, based on a novel of the same name).

It follows the fortunes of the captain of a WW2 corvette -- mainly on escort duty and other less glamourous assignments than is usually the case in war movies. It is understated and shows the less heroic but no less honorable side of duty in war.

Dam Busters was also pretty interesting.

Posted by: Matt at August 10, 2008 10:49 PM

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