We're not lost, Sergeant, We're in … France

Tora, Tora, Tora in Carlisle!

February shapes up to be an interesting month for those interested in WWII history.

The U.S. Army Heritage and Education Center (USAHEC) continues the Strategic Art Film Program with a viewing, dinner and discussion of the award-winning film, Tora! Tora! Tora!, depicting the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on Tuesday, February 3, 2015 at 6:00pm,  in Carlisle, Pennsylvania.

The evening will feature U.S. Army War College Professor Al Lord as film moderator.  He will review the film while guests enjoy a Japanese themed dinner with a complimentary glass of sake. In addition, the event will feature local Pacific theater militaria collections, as well as miniature and model displays highlighting Japanese WWII aircraft. Finally, guests will also have the opportunity to participate in assembling paper models of the famed Japanese Zero fighter plane, which gained its notoriety because of its widespread use during World War II.

Those who wish to participate in the dinner must purchase tickets from Carlisle Barracks MWR and can do so by calling 717-245-3099 or 717-245-4329. Preferred seating is provided for dinner guests, but those who do not wish to purchase dinner are welcome to enjoy the movie for free. Parking is also free, and the USAHEC facility is handicapped accessible. For more information about this and all other events, please visit the website: www.USAHEC.org or call: 717-245-3972.

I was up in Carlisle for the showing of Sergeant York, starring Gary Cooper, which included a revealing talk by Doug Mastriano, whose work Alvin York: A New Biography of the Hero of the Argonne places York’s action very specifically, down to having dug up the actual shell casings from the fight (no other action in that area during the war). The dinner was very good, though since the main course arrived while the light were out, I was guessing what I was eating. The staff there is very helpful with the reservation process, as I’d already experienced with the library staff. We drove up for the night and stayed at the nearby Marriott Residence Inn.

GI Film Festival Returns to Town
12 April 2013, 18:02
Filed under: 517th, Films, Paratroopers, WWII | Tags: ,

Last year, my wife, my mother-in-law and I all attended parts of the GI Film Festival here in DC. The 2013 version runs 6-12 May. Looking over the films, there are several I’ll be interested in seeing and they have not yet revealed what the “Red Carpet” films for Friday and Saturday night will be. I noticed in particular that “Saints & Soldiers: Airborne Creed”, which involves paratroopers from the 517th Parachute Regimental Combat Team is being shown on Saturday at noon at the AMC Shirlington. (Some of their web pages are contradictory, but I am sure will be updated closer to the date.)

Don’t forget, you can sign up as an intern or volunteer.

There are a number of WWII period films, so definitely expect to hear more from me as we get closer to the date.

They Sent Me To Finish The Race
18 September 2012, 19:06
Filed under: Films | Tags: , , , ,

John Stephen Akhwari ran many marathons. He even finished one in 2:15:05, though that was in 1970. In Mexico City in 1968, he was not nearly so fast. 57 of the 75 runners who’d started the race, finished the race. Akhwari was the last, by nearly 20 minutes.

Often, I look to sports for inspiration. Sport often challenges people, exposing the heart of who they are.

If I look back into my own mediocre sports performances, I think back most fondly on a race in which I also finished last. I don’t know that I’d seen Akhwari’s story when I first ran the high hurdles in competition. It was only a 60-yard race, since I was in the 7th grade in spring of 1979. I’ve always loved the Olympics, so it’s possible that I’d seen Bud Greenspan’s documentary on Akhwari, likely during a Saturday of Wide World of Sports. I’m slow and I’ve always been slow, but fortunately, in practice, I’d done well in hurdling, even out-racing a faster teammate with me going over high hurdles and he over low ones. Nonetheless, when I got to my first high hurdle in my first race, I hit the hurdle and fell down. I have no recollection of my thoughts, expect that I got up and ran toward the second hurdle. I hit that one and fell down again. Undeterred, I stood and raced to the third hurdle, falling down a third time. Something got me up again and I managed to complete the race without hitting any more hurdles.

I wish I could say that eventually I won some high hurdle races, but I didn’t. I’ll always have the knowledge that I did finish, despite everything.

John Akhwari had far “higher” hurdles in his race. Mexico City sits at 7,350 feet (2,240 meters) above sea level and the thin air holds far less oxygen. Walking can be stressful for those not used to the altitude. Akhwari hadn’t trained at that altitude and was cramping up. Around 19 kilometers, there was some jockeying among the runners and Akhwari fell, injuring both his knee and then his shoulder when it hit the pavement. His knee was dislocated and he was bandaged. He kept running. Other runners passed him until he was running alone.

As he neared the stadium in the darkness, the lights of escorting police motorcycles lit a small area ahead of him. Mamo Wolde of Ethiopia had finished an hour earlier. His bandages looked tattered and he alternated between an awkward walk-run and a spirited jog. The pain is evident in his movement. As he entered the brightly-lit stadium, the few remaining spectators and staff applauded. His Tanzanian jersey with the number 36 on it hung on him limply, as he moved around the track, blood dripping from his badly injured knee. After nearly 3 and a half hours (3:25:27), nearly 20 minutes after the 56th finisher, he crossed the line, a testament to determination.

We’re fortunate that they sent a film crew from the medal ceremony out to follow Akhwari. Bud Greenspan’s film tells the story vividly. Akhwari was invited to Beijing by film-makers who’d seen it and served as a torch-bearer in Dar-es-Salaam for the relay to Beijing in 2008.

When asked why he did not drop out of the race, at first, he seemed confused by the question. “Nchi yangu ya Tanzania hikunituma hapa Mexico kuanza mbio..bali imenituma hapa kumaliza mbio.”

“My country, Tanzania, did not send me here to Mexico to start the race. They sent me to finish.”

Training Bulletin 180
26 May 2012, 12:02
Filed under: Films, Signal Corps, WWII | Tags: , ,

Consistent with the thesis that high rates of fire waste ammunition, the Signal Corps produced a short film to reassure late war replacements that German weapons were inherently inaccurate. Since some German veterans they would face had been at war for five years, one can be certain that they concentrated on controlled bursts. Of course, the Signal Corps was not only training the men, but also doing a little propaganda. If the green trooper followed orders and remained calm, he and his squad would succeed. Thanks to Bob Sabasteanski for the link….

GI Film Festival: Into Harm’s Way
16 May 2012, 08:37
Filed under: Films, Henderson, Veterans | Tags: , , ,

Last night, we went to see a screening of Into Harm’s Way, which is a terrific film. Actually, I should say, I know that 79 of the 94 minutes of the film are terrific.

It’s being shown as part of the GI Film Festival here in DC this week and my wife, two of her executives and I took my mother-in-law, whose husband LTC Richard Henderson served two tours in Viet Nam.


When 846 young men entered West Point in 1963, they signed up with an American Army at peace. At their graduation ceremony in 1967, the Vietnam War was raging. Into Harm’s Way is a story of Army officers who lead and lost soldiers in combat.

It’s a story of fathers and sons and duty to country. It’s a story of glory and sacrifice. Into Harm’s Way is the first person chronicle of the West Point Class of 1967.

The film is really well done, with the interviews emphasized and punctuated with impressionistic depictions of the events that the veterans are describing. In particular, as one is describing his encounter with a mortally wounded enemy soldier, the depiction of that’s soldier’s eyes adds a chilling effect as he describes the scene.

My mother-in-law, Mary Lou, was particularly moved by the film. One of the interviewees was the widow of one of the men in the Class of 1967 and they played some of the tapes he’d sent home from Viet Nam. Dick had also sent home tapes and photos, so she could identify with the emotions and experience. We’ll likely pull up those photos and listen to the tapes soon.

I would heartily recommend the film to everyone. They are looking to include it in film festivals going forward and I’d think that if you’re having an air show, a historical re-enactment or a gathering of ROTC students, this would be a fine film to view. I’d also recommend it for the Viet Nam on Film course I took back as an undergrad (I actually took it twice), if they still offered it.

Unfortunately, I missed the first 15 minutes of the film. Typically, the blame for this would be my own as I am often late. This time, I dropped off the four ladies a full 20 minutes before the scheduled start. It took me a while to find a parking spot (this was shown in the Congressional Auditorium in the US Capitol Visitor Center, though I was able to park just a block away) and STILL got through security and into my seat a full five minutes before the scheduled start. This was, unfortunately, 15 minutes into the film as they started 20 minutes early.

So much for the team-building exercise for my wife’s executive team.

Update: The good news is that the nice folks who run the festival made up for it by giving us two tickets for Sunday morning’s screenings. Waiting on the word about whether they can get us a DVD of Into Harm’s Way so that we can see the full movie.

GI Film Festival entrant needs your help

Firewatch is a short film by Marine Danilo Prieto, who deployed to Afghanistan with Sierra Battery, 5th Battalion, 10th Marines. Sergeant Prieto wants to come to Washington, DC to see the film screened at GI Film Festival 2012 (Firewatch will be shown with 7 other short films Sunday morning, 20 May 2012, starting at 10am in the Naval Heritage Center, at the Navy Memorial). Unfortunately, he lives in California, so, in order to make it to the Festival, he has posted a Kickstarter project to raise funds for the trip. If you donate, he’ll send you the link or a DVD of the film as thanks for your support. If you’ve ever stood a fire watch when you’d rather have been spending time drinking with your buddies, send Prieto the $20 or $30 you’d have spent on drinking in a bar, then get your buddies together (have them buy the drinks) and sit down at your place with the DVD when it arrives. Honor your fallen brothers, like Prieto’s friends CPL Binh Le and CPL Matthew Wyatt. You won’t regret it.

If you live in the DC Metro area, I expect we’ll see you at the Festival, right? It’s 14-20 May 2012 and ticket prices are quite affordable.

Weekend Wanderings: NCAA Opening Weekend 2012

While I haven’t made a Wandering post in a while, it is always nice to share what I find out there.

  • One of my favorite films was the 13th Warrior, with Antonio Banderas. For a lyrical review that paints the imagery of the film, see The Village Smith.
  • The military blogging community lost one of its brightest lights, Neptunus Lex. By chance, I spoke with one of his classmates who was stunned at both his passing and that he’d still been flying fighters at this age. The Captain was a great writer and I think it would behoove any of my readers to peruse his beliefs. The world is a poorer place without him.
  • As you know, I love my puppy, so I was overjoyed to see a story about an Army Sergeant First Class by the name of Zeke who helps out his comrades in their time of need. (Hat tip to CDR Salamander – http://cdrsalamander.blogspot.com/)

In continuing support of our dogs-in-arms….

Weekend Wanderings Divisional Weekend
16 January 2011, 11:30
Filed under: Films, Weekend Wanderings, WWII | Tags: ,

This weekend is the weekend for NFL division winners to play. For those who enjoy American football, last weekend featured some really good games, so we have a right to expect more good ones this weekend, right? Well, this week, surfing the internet did provide a few interesting things that were WWII-related.

There is a reason that Gen. Mattis and ADM Stavridis are such supporters of the study of history – as all professionals are – it is because it gives you a window into the future and provides a foundation to making decisions today.

  • If you have been thinking about an e-reader, Eric Wittenburg compares Nook and Kindle in layman’s terms, thanks to some notes from Dave Powell. I have Kindle on my android phone and may get one eventually. We bought my mother a Nook because her local library does e-lending in Nook format, but not in Kindle.

Weekend Wanderings Christmas 2010
26 December 2010, 11:30
Filed under: Books, Films, POWs, Weekend Wanderings, WWI, WWII | Tags:

A thought I’d see a lot of the posts this week concerning Christmas at war, but sadly not yet.

  • We start with a story from Time magazine about a British officer Lieutenant Michael Heming, who wished to learn to conduct after the war…
  • Lichanos posted an interesting bit on racism in War and Peace. Despite my interest in military history and time spent as an aspiring Sovietologist (back when that was political science and not history), I’ve never read Tolstoy. Maybe I can get it on Kindle after I finish The Three Musketeers and Twenty Years After….
  • Sometimes, one person out-performs everyone else in an organization. One of the best cryptanalysts of the first half of the twentieth century worked for the Navy as a civilian and as a Yeoman Chief Petty Officer, was without peer among cryptanalysts and was credited with making breaks into most of the Japanese naval codes. It’s not surprising that you’d find that person buried in Arlington Cemetery, but it is surprising that she was known as “Miss Aggie”.
  • Today’s best Christmas present is The Best Picture Project, which is blogging about every Best Picture nominee from the Oscars. The review of Jean Renoir’s Grand Illusion is intriguing enough that I recommend you try tracking it down (Netflix even has it on their ‘instant’ viewer). It’s about two French officers captured during World War I and sounds very interesting. Read that review for more information….
  • I found a woman who’s working on a WWII graphic novel and she has some great sketches. Make sure to check the comments on her About page, as there is an interesting rant on re-enacting authenticity.
  • More on the French resistance, this time on film AND made during the war. Sadly, it’s not available on Netflix.

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