The D-Day movie to watch
June 6, 2014 by Thomas Wictor
Today is the seventieth anniversary of the Allied invasion of Europe. If you’re in the mood, I’d like to recommend a D-Day movie. The reason it’s so great is that it’s a deeply serious, low-key look at the decision to launch an operation that would cost untold numbers of lives.
In case you don’t know, the D-Day invasion killed 25,000 French civilians. This piece says 20,000, but that’s lowballing it.
D-Day: French torn over ‘criminal’ British and American D-Day bombings of Caen
As survivors of the Allied bombings of Caen recall the devastating raids that reduced the city to rubble, French resentment persists over the operation to “flatten” towns and villages in the battle for Normandy in which 20,000 civilians died.
While thousands of veterans gather in Normandy to honour their fallen comrades, France will begin the 70th anniversary ofD-Day remembering the civilian casualties of what some regard as “criminal” Allied bombing raids.
Some French locals still have “a problem” with the actions of the British, who were referred to as “bastards” by some shortly after devastating RAF raids on the city of Caen and other Norman towns and villages.
Don’t let French anger bother you. Given the military technology of the day, it was impossible to land troops without smashing the countryside flat first. World War II is defined by “collateral damage.” As many as 125,000 German civilians died in the Battle of Berlin in less than a month of fighting. The Soviets made no effort to spare noncombatants.
Also, just ten years after the destruction of Caen, the French began the most vicious counterinsurgency on record. To put down the rebels during the Algerian War of Independence (1954-1962), the French used mass summary executions of hostages, the punitive bombing or shelling of entire villages, torture, murder, and concentration camps. The number of Algerians killed is unknown. Historians have settled on 300,000 to 400,000 for political reasons, but some sources claim it’s as high as 1.5 million.
Regardless of the true death toll, it’s indisputable that the same French who criticize the bombing of Caen adopted mind-bogglingly savage tactics to quell the equally savage Algerian insurgency. Villages were deliberately destroyed for the express purpose of reprisal killings. The Allied bombings of Caen on D-Day were not carried out in order to kill civilians.
So, some French are angry, and some Americans feel shame that we defeated the Nazis in World War II. Saving Private Ryan is easily the most anti-American big-budget film ever made. The only soldiers who commit atrocities are Americans. They shoot unarmed, surrendering Germans and loot the bodies. They use a flamethrower on a bunker, and when the burning Germans fall out, they shout, “Don’t shoot! Let ’em burn!” They shoot German tank crewmen in the face as they try to bail out of their immobilized vehicle. And the only man with morals becomes a cold-blooded murderer by the end of the movie.
Part of me thinks Ryan’s right. Why does he deserve this? He wants to stay, fine. Let’s leave and go home. But another part of me thinks, “What if by some miracle we stay and actually make it out of here?” Someday we might look back on this and decide that saving Private Ryan was the one decent thing we did in this whole godawful, shitty mess.
So, according to Steven Spielberg, the only decent thing American troops could’ve done in World War II was remove a fellow soldier from the war to save the planet from genocidal Nazi expansionism.
The movie ends with a faded, nearly transparent American flag flying over the crosses at the Normandy American Cemetery. The message is clear: It was all for nothing.
I’d say, “Steven Spielberg should be ashamed of himself,” but I know he’s incapable of shame. I worked in Hollywood for ten years. He’s just another confused weirdo who feels shallow guilt about his wealth, so he pretends to make up for it by attacking the nation that made him rich and famous.
A far superior movie to the execrable Saving Private Ryan is Ike: Countdown to D-Day. It’s not a war movie; it’s a human movie. Tom Selleck gives a stellar performance as General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man who had to decide when the invasion would take place.
Storms delayed Operation Overlord, and the assault troops loaded on the ships in Portsmouth were getting seasick. Eisenhower made the decision to launch the invasion fleet, gambling—based on weather reports—that the storm would have cleared by the time it arrived. He wrote out a message to the troops that was distributed before the invasion.
He also composed a second note, in case disaster struck.
Our landings in the Cherbourg-Havre area have failed to gain a satisfactory foothold and I have withdrawn the troops. My decision to attack at this time and place was based upon the best information available. The troops, the air and the Navy did all that Bravery and devotion to duty could do. If any blame or fault attaches to the attempt it is mine alone.
In the Tom Selleck film, the most moving scene is when Eisenhower goes to meet a group of paratroopers before they get on their transport. The estimates were that 70 percent of them would be killed. Eisenhower felt morally obliged to meet the men he thought he was sending to their deaths. The scene is based on an actual incident.
Sometimes we don’t realize how fortunate we are. It’s likely that there will never be another world war. You have almost no chance of being drafted and sent off to jump from aircraft into machine-gun fire.
For me there’s no moral ambiguity whatsoever. Seventy years ago today, the human race took a huge step forward. We evolved into a better species. D-Day was a great and noble undertaking.
Thank you, General Eisenhower and everybody you commanded. I’m deeply grateful.
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