Cinema Greats in War
A Tale of Two Men
8th Air Force
(taken from the CGLogic Free Reader)
Many a great war movie has come out of Hollywood, California. Movies I watched as a young man gave me a sense of what it was to be a hero. In addition to portraying life-like heroes on screen, a good many of those acting in war movies also experienced real life combat.
It gives you an additional dimension on how to view those who acted out battle on the screen and experienced battle for real. Following are some of the most notable names from the silver screen who donned military garb in World War II.
John Payne, who’s most memorable role for me was defending Santa Claus in the Christmas classic “Miracle on 34th Street”. In his real life he served as a flight instructor in the Army Air Corp.
Lee Marvin played the great “Kid Shelleen” in the movie “Cat Ballou”. He earned his Purple Heart as a Marine in the war.
Renowned tough guy, Charles Bronson served in WWII as a B-29 tail gunner and went on to screen stardom in such films as “The Magnificent Seven” and “Death Wish”.
One of my favorite TV stars was James Doohan because I loved the series Star Trek. Doohan’s service was in the Canadian Army where he saw D-Day action as a Captain
Tyrone Power was a powerful screen image in a myriad of Hollywood productions. As a Marine pilot he flew supply and rescue missions in the Pacific Theater.
Eddie Albert has many movies titles in his repertoire but his greatest role was a Naval Officer during the bloody battle at the Island of Tarawa in the Pacific in 1943.
Alec Guinness performed many dramatic roles before becoming the iconic Obi-wan Kenobi of Star Wars fame.
On D-Day he piloted a Royal Navy landing craft.
Every Christmas the movie “It’s A Wonderful Life” is a must see for my Holiday movie agenda. Jimmy Stewart nailed the self-sacrificing George Bailey in a mirror image of what he achieved in real life. Mr. Stewart started as a lowly Private in the Army Air Force but performed well enough to rise to the rank of Colonel. He piloted a bomber in 20 missions over Germany and flew hundreds of air strikes. Jimmy Stewart retired from the Air Force Reserve as a Lieutenant Colonel. Atta boy, George!
While heroism is not unique just because these people achieved Hollywood stardom, it is indicative of the typical American spirit at the time of World War II. I admire these actors because they did not use their star status to avoid making their contribution to a global conflict.
I was a high school student when America became deeply involved in Vietnam. I remember the “peaceniks” and the draft card burners. Without addressing the politicalization of Viet Nam, I went to serve when being given my draft notice. The depiction of so many heroic deeds in film helped cement my concept of what my duty might be when called.
Heroism is a term I personally give to any who willingly don the uniform knowing that a threat to his or her life exists. I’ve met scores of military veterans in my lifetime and have reason to honor them all, past and present.
Those who died at Normandy, Bastogne, Iwo Jima, Taiwan, never received an Academy Award but are true legends in my mind.
Veterans Day – 2016
June 6th, 1944
When the War started, 19-year-old John left his family farm to enter the fight, leaving his younger siblings behind to help Mom and Dad run the family farm. John now clutches his rifle tightly as the landing craft door falls open. He and his fellow soldiers’ storm into the surf and make a struggle to the beach. Machine gun fire and explosions blast all around him. He sees some of his companions shot – limbs torn from bodies – death is all around him. His only adornments are his dog tags and a crucifix. In spite of the horrors around him he presses on. He manages to reach the high ground later in the day and continues fighting on through Europe, liberating town after town and receiving the hugs and cheers of those he helped liberate. He is wounded but survives World War II. He carries the scars of battle with him throughout the rest of his life. He returns home after the war but the nightmares remain. He marries and has a family – teaching his children the value and greatness of his country, the United States of America.
November 9th, 2016
19-year-old John as at the University, having left home for the education granted him by student loans. He has retreated to a “safe space” provided by the school administration due to his distress at the election results. His adornments are an earring in one ear and a small piece of jewelry pierces his eyebrow. He and some classmates were in a room watching the election results and were horrified at the outcome – some breaking into tears. His whole hope of having a free college education appears to have ended with the election results. He is handed a coloring book and some Play-doh by school staff as a means of comfort. At the “safe space”, where students are guaranteed not to hear anything offensive, he and classmates plan their demonstration for the next day. He already has the materials for making his sign, “America Was Never Great!”
Where has America gone in the years between our two Johns? What happened in America to have two such diverse outlooks on life in our country? Young people are first influenced by those who raise them – then those who educate them – then those in the media and leadership. With whom does the responsibility exist that created each John? Who presented the influences that created each outcome? Answer those questions and you will know how each outcome developed. And, you will realize the actual direction our country is taking now.
8th Air Force
I met a guy today who was in the 8th Air Force during World War 2. It gave me pause as I had just watched a TV documentary on the 8th Air Force.
I don’t know why and when I first started to have an interest in military history. It was sometime when I was a boy. Usually in school, whatever the grade I was in, the history book I was assigned was read in the first week.
Perhaps in all of my readings, the heroics of individual may have been the spark that kept me reading far more about military actions.
This continued into my teen years when I read the book, “The First and the Last”. This book detailed the air war over England prior to America’s entry into the conflict. Typically known as the “Battle of Britain”, the story relayed the heroic actions of Hurricane and Spitfire pilots fending off air attacks by the German Luftwaffe.
As Veterans know, the British lost many a fine young man during the German attempt to wipe the RAF out of the skies as a prelude to invasion. The Luftwaffe head, Hermann Goering, had to admit failure when those on a tiny country surrounded by water successfully stopped the German air force.
It was in 1943 when American pilots and bomber squadrons arrived in force in an attempt to destroy the enemy. What the 8th Air Force lacked in expertise was made up in an unwillingness to contemplate failure.
Young crews stepped into planes like the British Lancaster, rated by some as the finest bomber of the war, while Americans manned the B-17 Flying Fortress or the B-24 Liberator.
During this period the British took on bombing missions during the cover of nighttime, the Americans taking on daytime missions. Early on, bombing missions did not venture much farther than targets in France. Targets for the 8th Air Force within Germany came about that year but there were problems.
For one, fighter escorts, typically made up of P-47 Thunderbolts, only had the fuel capacity to reach the German border then had to turn around. With the loss of the fighter escort the Germans tore into the bomber groups with a vengeance. The TV program mentioned earlier put the losses of U.S. Airmen at 26,000, an amount higher than all of Marines lost in WWII.
The purpose of the day and night bombing of Germany was to hit hardest at the war machine of Hitler. Cities like Hamburg and Dresden took terrible hits from Allied bombing.
Even though first built before America entered the war, the P-51 Mustang eventually became one aircraft that helped turn the tide of war in Europe.
The P-51D was the culmination of everything that was state-of-the-art in combat aircraft. When the Merlin 12-cylinder engine was added, it solved the problem of maintaining speed at high altitude. This plane also sported six 50 caliber wing-mounted machine guns along with a fuel capacity to take it deep into Germany and return.
With the bombing and fighter aircraft capabilities of the Allies near the end of 1944 and early 1945, the Luftwaffe and the German war industry was brought to its knees. But not before many a hero made the ultimate sacrifice.
Today we salute all veterans of the 8th Air Force during World War II.
ARMY—Government officially created the Army on the 3rd of June, 1784, basing its roots on the Continental Army created on the 14th of June, 1775. Settlers moving into what was Indian territories caused the government to create the Legion of the United States which went from 1791 until 1796.
The War of 1812 was the first test of our military after the British burned our capital. The new nation did not have the strength or organization of the English but proved itself with victories in the Niagara campaign of 1814. The American defeat of the British in the Battle of New Orleans gave warning to other nations that the U.S. could field a credible combat force.
NAVY—While the Continental Navy first server our nation, it was trouble far from our shores that caused the U.S. Navy to be born. Pirates along the Barbary Coast gave Congress the impetus to build and rig six naval frigates. Coincidentally, this area of conflict was the first time Marines left their ships and attacked the enemy on foreign soil.
During the Mexican-American war our navy ships blockaded Mexican ports. The Civil War again expanded the use of a Naval force when northern ships blockaded Confederate ports.
The Spanish American war was the first time the US Navy gained global attention when Spanish ships were destroyed in the Philippines and gave fame to the phrase, “You may fire when ready, Gridley”.
MARINES—The Continental Marines were formed 1775 as Naval Infantry. Not only could Marines be used during ship to ship battles by firing rifles at the adversary, boarding enemy vessels and could be put ashore and used as a land force such as they did in Tripoli.
The advent of amphibious assaults became a mainstay of the Marines, especially in the Pacific theater of World War II. Today the Marine Corp carries a mystique of power and accomplishment. My Father-in-law, a WW II marine, served in California maintaining the Corsair aircraft. Just before he was to board a ship for the South Pacific, the war against Japan ended.
AIR FORCE—The US Air Force cannot claim the legendary roots like the Army and Marines can. Its simply because the invention of the airplane was not achievable until the first years of the 1900’s.
Early military use of aircraft was for observation purposes. In World War I aircraft from both sides would fly over the battlefield and report enemy troop movements. It wasn’t long before pilots and their observer passenger were carrying guns and took pot-shots at each other. Then small bombs, dropped from the aircraft, became the harbinger of how the aircraft might best be used.
It wasn’t long before aircraft mounted machine guns and had sizeable bombs strapped to their undersides. The era of the modern air war had begun.
Aircraft post-World War I became faster, could fly higher and had more lethal weapons as time passed. Today’s Air Force has the latest in speed and stealth capabilities.
COAST GUARD—The Coast Guard can trace its roots to the Revenue Cutter Service in 1790. The Department of Defense authorizes the Guard to conduct military actions or for the President.
The Coast Guard was officially given its in January, 1915 and has fulfilled it’s role as guardian of America’s shores and has come to the rescue of many a stranded ship or pleasure craft on open waters. In February, 2003, due to the new threats facing America from radical terror groups, the Coast Guard was placed under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security.
"We Are What We Learn" Webmaster e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Copyright © 2023 We are what we learn - All Rights Reserved.
Powered by GoDaddy Website Builder