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The Bad War—in Black & White

2,244 words [1]

The Victors
Directed by Carl Foreman
Starring George Hamilton, George Peppard, Eli Wallach, et al.
1963

In American culture today, there is a sticky-sweet worship of veterans that is about as enjoyable to experience as stepping barefoot on the dried-up syrup from a spilled soda pop on the concrete surface of a rundown public pool. The worst of this veteran worship involves the veneration of veterans of World War II.

In the late 1990s, there was a flurry of World War II veteran-worship led by figures such as the late historian Stephen Ambrose (1936–2002). Ambrose’s work portrayed the American WWII soldier as a sort of plastic demigod. The popular histories of the conflict by Ambrose influenced the 1998 movie Saving Private Ryan and the 2001 HBO miniseries Band of Brothers.

This veteran worship probably helped the neoconservatives push America into the strategic disasters in the Middle East after 9/11. For example, President George W. Bush poorly channeled Ambrose during one of his badly delivered speeches with the following quote from Citizen Soldiers (1997):

At the core, the American citizen soldiers knew the difference between right and wrong, and they didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed. So they fought, and won, and we all of us, living and yet to be born, must be forever profoundly grateful.[1] [2]

With the above drivel in mind, when one sees a movie coming out of Hollywood that doesn’t show the American soldier in European Theater of Operations during World War II as a plastic demigod that, “didn’t want to live in a world in which wrong prevailed” one must sit up and take notice. Such a film is the 1963 movie The Victors. This movie is a dark film which was out of step with the progressive, optimistic America of the time. Its director, producer, and screenwriter was Carl Foreman (1914–1984), a Jewish former member of the Communist Party.

As we know now, the winds of the historical narrative blew towards sanctifying World War II, so this movie probably could only come about in 1963. During the time of the late 1950s and early 1960s World War II was not yet holy. The public still knew what was what. Writes historian Brian McAllister Linn, “World War II was close enough that most young men were well aware of the risks of combat: a correspondent termed [the draftees of the time] ‘skeptical, critical, immune to propaganda – no matter how worthy; with few illusions of the grandeur of military service; fighting under pressure and killing only under extreme provocation.’”[2] [3]

Carl Foreman was a Jew who refused to “give up” names of Hollywood Communist subversives to the anti-Communist House Un-American Activities Committee, so there is a hostile, semi-honest at best, and subtle Jewish angle to The Victors that first must be deconstructed. That is to say, while the movie shines a critical light on sanctifying World War II, its opening montage has the simple, ultimately uncomprehending view of the origins of conflict. It is Winston Churchill’s view, with World War II seen as an unstoppable extension of World War I and caused by a fast-talking working-class veteran of a Bavarian Reserve Infantry Unit temporarily blinded by a gas attack.[3] [4]

The first scene of the opening montage is the famous machine-gunning of the French Infantry in the 1930 movie All Quiet on the Western Front. The opening montage then moves on to scenes of bombers, especially Stuka dive bombers, explosions, and Hitler giving a speech without subtitles – the effect of which makes the non-German speaking audiences the film is aimed at think Hitler is a raving madman. There is even an abstract clown-like Hitler figure doing some sort of curb stomp – misplaced imagery in an otherwise serious film.

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Portraying Hitler as a sort of clown in the opening montage is misplaced imagery in an otherwise outstanding critique of a war that turned Europe into ruins from Coventry to Moscow.

There is no asking the question in The Victors as to why the Germans (and Hungarians, Italians, Romanians, Finns, Croatians, etc.) would ally with Hitler and heed his message. There is no question asked in The Victors as to why these nations would fight the Allies so hard for so long. We now know that there was a solid geopolitical foundation to the strategic behavior of the Third Reich. After 1989, NATO went on to either absorb the heartland (Poland and East Germany) or support and/or fight for the frontiers (Croatia 1990, Albania 1999, western Ukraine 2014) of Hitler’s former empire.

There are other factors to the origins of World War II that Winston Churchill seems to have missed. The first is that the instability in Europe following the Treaty of Versailles was the direct result of the collapse of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The second is that by the 1930s, Jews had moved into positions of real power in both the Anglo-American world and the Soviet Union. While continental Europe had some defense against this subversion, in no part of the political or social culture of the United States was (or is?) there a defense against Jewish influence. These Jews would use all of their influence[4] [6] to maneuver the nations that became the Allies into conflict with Germany with no consideration of the costs of the conflict to any nation.[5] [7]

The Victors adds other bits of Jewish activism with two vignettes containing cheap, multiculturalist propaganda. One involves a scene at the bar where two black soldiers are beaten by a gang of white, undisciplined GI toughs. The whites flee when the MPs arrive to rescue the blacks. After the melee, the Italian barmaid (Malya Nappi) askes one of the soldiers (George Hamilton), “Why they fight? You all same people…Americani… why you fight?” In another scene, American Private Baker (Vincent Edwards) shows an Italian woman (Rosanna Schiaffino) that a Sikh soldier can gently hold her baby, although the Italian woman is suspicious of the non-European colonial soldiers.

In both cases this cheap propaganda clouds the truth. White and Black Americans are different people. Although they have some parallel historical experiences, the two races effectively live in different worlds and create different societies. Additionally, black American soldiers performed horribly in combat in Italy. During World War II, in all theaters of operation, safe in the rear areas many black units were, to put it frankly, more trouble than they were worth. Also, the troops from the non-white colonies were quite vicious to the Italians. The valor of the Moroccans in the Free French Army fighting the Germans is exaggerated, but the cruelty of the Moroccans towards unarmed Italian civilians is not. The Moroccans were exceptionally skilled thieves, rapists and murderers. Indeed, this scene in The Victors is probably a metapolitical smokescreen to hide the truth of the matter shown by the award-winning Italian movie La ciociara (1960). In La ciociara, starring actress Sofia Loren (who spent much of the war as a girl in Naples) is said to have “played her mother.”

Moving on from the nonsense above is the theme of the film as it can be interpreted following the end of the Cold War. That World War II in Europe was a terrible disaster for European Civilization. The war made its participants brutal – when it did not outright destroy them.

After the opening montage, the movie settles in to its routine. After showing an aerial bombardment in England, the audience sees a 1940s-style newsreel. These newsreels are a method to help move the story along and give the audience a sense of time and place. In the first newsreel, the main characters are introduced. They are in a squad of Americans from various places who’ve just been in battle in Italy. They’ve taken two German prisoners. The newsreel’s announcer says the POWs are “Two not so masterful examples of the master race.” The announcer then goes on to insist there is a “contrast” between the Germans – shown exhausted and smoking cigarettes and the Americans – who are also shown exhausted and smoking cigarettes. Here The Victors clearly shows that World War II was a disastrous European Civil War, a conflict between brothers.

The fictional squad is shown first in Italy and then, through the newsreels, the squad is shown in Normandy. Eventually one soldier winds up in the ruins of Berlin. The squad in The Victors doesn’t wear any unit insignia, but only four divisions were in both Italy and in Northwestern Europe. One of them, the 3rd Infantry invaded Southern France, not Normandy. The 45th Infantry Division was a unit from the Oklahoma National Guard. The other two units, the 1st and the 9th Infantry Divisions were in Italy and Normandy and made up of men from across the United States, so it is likely our protagonists came from those outfits.

Aside from bombardments, the first newsreel, and a fight at a pillbox, most of the story isn’t about warfare, it is about the routines of the military. These routines are shown in self-contained vignettes. Usually, a soldier, from the same squad identified in the first newsreel becomes sexually involved with one of the local women. This casual, contractual sexual behavior is romanticized, but barely. The Victors shows that warfare makes rape and prostitution far more common. It’s quite an anti-war warning, showing just how desperate the war made the women of Italy, France, and Germany. These scenes of desperate sexual congress also offers insight into why the European Empires went bankrupt and collapsed so quickly after WWII.

Staff Sergeant Craig (Eli Wallach) portrays the tough, conscientious sergeant that leads the squad. His fate is to be blinded and his face disfigured. Peter Fonda plays a replacement troop who must watch the veterans shoot a dog that he adopted as the squad moves out by truck. In both stories the vignette ends with a close-up of an actor’s face as the cruelty of the conflict sinks in.

There is an execution by firing squad of a soldier in a snowy forest that is hauntingly done. Staff Sergeant Craig and his squad are ordered to be witnesses of the execution. The soundtrack during the scene is Christmas music. While today one can interpret this as a Jewish inspired “War on Christmas” metapolitical attack, audiences in the early 1960s would easily remember that the worst fighting for the Americans in Europe took place in the Ardennes Forest in the Christmas season of 1944. There would be many Americans in the 1960s still around with an all-too-fresh memory of a Christmas telegram from the War Department informing of the death of a loved one.

The final vignette takes place in Berlin. Staff Sergeant Trower (George Hamilton), jealous and enraged by the rape of his girlfriend by the Russians, gets into a knife fight with a drunken Russian. The two representatives of the eastern and western branches of European Christendom kill each other in the fight and fall together in the ruins of a great European city. The scene is profound. In 1963, audiences would have recognized the critique on Cold War tensions surrounding Berlin, but today the Cold War is over. This scene shows that World War II was not sacred. Its soldiers were not holy warrior-monks bringing good to all. Indeed the evil that swept across Europe because of the war still lives on – setting the progress of European civilization, from North America to Siberia, back centuries.

Notes

[1] [8] https://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PPP-2001-book1/html/PPP-2001-book1-doc-pg84.htm [9]

[2] [10] Brian McAllister Linn, Elvis’s Army: Cold War GIs and the Atomic Battlefield (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2016), p. 57.

[3] [11] The lack of understanding and arrogant conceit is evident in the following passage by Churchill that deserves to be fully quoted, “When at length [Hitler] was released from hospital, what scenes met his newly unscaled eyes: Fearful are the convulsions of defeat. Around him in the atmosphere of despair and frenzy glared the lineaments of Red Revolution. Armoured cars dashed through the streets of Munich scattering leaflets or bullets. His own comrades, with defiant red arm bands on their uniform, were shouting slogans of fury against all that he cared for on earth. As in a dream everything suddenly became clear. German had been stabbed in the back and clawed down by the Jews, the profiteers and intriguers behind the Front, by the accursed Bolsheviks in their international conspiracy of Jewish intellectuals. Shining before him he saw his duty, to save Germany from these plagues, to avenge her wrongs, and lead the master race to its long-decreed destiny.” From Winston S. Churchill and The Editors of Life, The Second World War Special Edition for Young Readers (New York: Golden Press), 1960, p. 19.

Nowhere does Winston S. Churchill mention the Communist Jew in Hungary Béla Kun, the Communist Jew Leon Trotsky, or even his 1920 article, “Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People.” https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Zionism_versus_Bolshevism [12] Churchill doesn’t even mention the sharp political dilemma of Germans living under Czech, Polish, and other rule following the breakup of the German and Austro-Hungarian Empires.

[4] [13] http://www.theoccidentalobserver.net/2017/07/14/review-how-the-jews-defeated-hitler-exploding-the-myth-of-passivity-in-the-face-of-nazism-part-one-of-two/ [14]

[5] [15] Regarding France, historian Alfred Cobban writes: “The real puzzle of 1939 is how the weak government of Daladier, with a country behind it torn by bitter feuds, a right-wing – represented in the highest places – that sympathized with Hitler and Mussolini, widespread pacifist views on both left and right, and a massive Communist Party committed as a result of the Hitler-Stalin pact, to a policy of alliance with the Nazis, came to follow Great Britain into war with Germany, as after the Nazis invaded Poland it did on 3 September 1939. Alfred A. Cobban, History of Modern France, Volume 2: 1799–1945 (Baltimore: Penguin Books, 1961), p. 297.