For the gloryDamn, I hate whiners.
For the men who've gone before
For the men who will come after
We will wage this bloody war
--The Glory - Michael Lanning, Gene Miller, Linda Eder and Choir
The Civil War - The Complete Work
What brought this on, you ask? See the following post on Sky News. Basically it's a whiny piece about Hollywood movies rewriting World War II to emphasize American contributions at the expense of those of our Allies.
Now, they make some good points. U-571 never claimed to be a historical documentary, but it didn't happen either. Yet the article goes on to attribute the breaking of the Enigma code solely to the Royal Navy, when in fact the original grunt work of breaking Enigma was actually done by the Poles. Everything the British did after that was built on the work done by the Polish code breakers.
Apparently there is also a movie coming out about Colditz Castle, which has Americans escaping after being imprisoned there. Nothing like that happened in reality, but since this movie is not out yet I will reserve judgement.
The bit of the article that pisses me off is the slap at Saving Private Ryan. They just couldn't leave it alone, having to throw in a whine: "the British involvement in the 1944 D-Day landing at Normandy was all but ignored."
Point of fact here, folks. NO British or other Allied troops landed at Omaha Beach. 2,400 casualties at Omaha alone on June 6th, and every one of them was an American soldier. Saving Private Ryan never claimed to be a documentary on the whole of the D-Day landings, that's already been done (see The Longest Day).
Purely from a standpoint of accuracy in depicting the conditions on Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6th, SPR is dead on. Tom Hanks was portraying a member of the 2nd Battalion, US Army Rangers, who landed with the 29th Infantry Division, west of the beach where the 116th Infantry Regiment landed in the first wave on Omaha Beach. Their specific landing beach was Dog Green, almost at the west end of the landing zone. The next beach east was Gold, where the British 50th Infantry Division landed, on the other side of the US 1st Infantry Division. West of them was Utah Beach, owned by the US 4th Infantry Division.
The British and Canadian objectives were Bayeux and Caen, in a general southeasterly direction from the landing beaches. The US divisions were supposed to move south and west, to link up with the areas where the 101st and 82nd Airborne Divisions had landed in the night. By 2200 hours the evening of June 6th, the US 1st Infantry on the east end of Omaha was 11 kilometers from the positions of the British 50th Infantry at the west end of Gold. The position of the 2nd Ranger Battalion at the end of the day was just west of Vierville, west of the landing beach.
For the rest of the movie, Tom Hanks and his crew kept moving west, into the areas contested by the fragmented bits of the 101st and 82nd Airborne. I don't remember now exactly what the date was on his headstone at the end of the movie, but I think it was June 12 or so, something like a week or a little less after the first landings. Basically, the 2nd Ranger Battalion landed right in the center of the American beaches and kept moving west into areas that were controlled or contested by the US Army, away from the direction the British and Canadian troops were moving. Since Tom's character didn't live long enough to see the battles in northern France post-Normandy, it's not surprising they didn't run into front line British or Canadian troops in that area, because historically, they weren't there.
I wish I had all this information committed to memory, but I reference Stephen E. Ambrose's D-Day June 6, 1944: The Climactic Battle of World War II and Cornelius Ryan's The Longest Day while writing this article. But the whiners are missing the point. SPR was not, was never intended to be, a definitive account of all that went into D-Day. If it had been the movie would have had to start chronologically two years earlier than it did, and have been a five part series with each movie being four hours long. We wouldn't have gotten to finding Private Ryan til the end of the last movie if Spielberg had done that.
I do not wish to minimize the contributions of our Allies in winning World War II. The British suffered 400 casualties going ashore at Gold and 630 at Sword. The Canadians took 1,200 at Juno. I honor every member of the Allied armies who died in Europe, who gave up all their tomorrows so we today could have all of ours.
Unfortunately, some people just can't stand to see someone doing the right thing, remembering their veterans and their dead. I am an American veteran, a son and grandson of veterans. There has been someone in uniform in my family going back to the Revolution. Every man who went ashore over the beaches on June 6th covered himself in glory wherever he landed, but Omaha was an American nightmare and an American triumph all at once. Those men are my heroes, and will be for as long as I live.