Tag Archives: world war 2

Text of “We Shall Fight Them on the Beaches” or “Finest Hour” Speech by Winston Churchill

WinstonChurchill

From the moment that the French defenses at Sedan and on the Meuse were broken at the end of the second week of May, only a rapid retreat to Amiens and the south could have saved the British and French Armies who had entered Belgium at the appeal of the Belgian King; but this strategic fact was not immediately realized. The French High Command hoped they would be able to close the gap, and the Armies of the north were under their orders. Moreover, a retirement of this kind would have involved almost certainly the destruction of the fine Belgian Army of over 20 divisions and the abandonment of the whole of Belgium. Therefore, when the force and scope of the German penetration were realized and when a new French Generalissimo, General Weygand, assumed command in place of General Gamelin, an effort was made by the French and British Armies in Belgium to keep on holding the right hand of the Belgians and to give their own right hand to a newly created French Army which was to have advanced across the Somme in great strength to grasp it.

However, the German eruption swept like a sharp scythe around the right and rear of the Armies of the north. Eight or nine armored divisions, each of about four hundred armored vehicles of different kinds, but carefully assorted to be complementary and divisible into small self-contained units, cut off all communications between us and the main French Armies. It severed our own communications for food and ammunition, which ran first to Amiens and afterwards through Abbeville, and it shore its way up the coast to Boulogne and Calais, and almost to Dunkirk. Behind this armored and mechanized onslaught came a number of German divisions in lorries, and behind them again there plodded comparatively slowly the dull brute mass of the ordinary German Army and German people, always so ready to be led to the trampling down in other lands of liberties and comforts which they have never known in their own.

I have said this armored scythe-stroke almost reached Dunkirk-almost but not quite. Boulogne and Calais were the scenes of desperate fighting. The Guards defended Boulogne for a while and were then withdrawn by orders from this country. The Rifle Brigade, the 60th Rifles, and the Queen Victoria’s Rifles, with a battalion of British tanks and 1,000 Frenchmen, in all about four thousand strong, defended Calais to the last. The British Brigadier was given an hour to surrender. He spurned the offer, and four days of intense street fighting passed before silence reigned over Calais, which marked the end of a memorable resistance. Only 30 unwounded survivors were brought off by the Navy, and we do not know the fate of their comrades. Their sacrifice, however, was not in vain. At least two armored divisions, which otherwise would have been turned against the British Expeditionary Force, had to be sent to overcome them. They have added another page to the glories of the light divisions, and the time gained enabled the Graveline water lines to be flooded and to be held by the French troops.

Thus it was that the port of Dunkirk was kept open. When it was found impossible for the Armies of the north to reopen their communications to Amiens with the main French Armies, only one choice remained. It seemed, indeed, forlorn. The Belgian, British and French Armies were almost surrounded. Their sole line of retreat was to a single port and to its neighboring beaches. They were pressed on every side by heavy attacks and far outnumbered in the air.

When, a week ago today, I asked the House to fix this afternoon as the occasion for a statement, I feared it would be my hard lot to announce the greatest military disaster in our long history. I thought-and some good judges agreed with me-that perhaps 20,000 or 30,000 men might be re-embarked. But it certainly seemed that the whole of the French First Army and the whole of the British Expeditionary Force north of the Amiens-Abbeville gap would be broken up in the open field or else would have to capitulate for lack of food and ammunition. These were the hard and heavy tidings for which I called upon the House and the nation to prepare themselves a week ago. The whole root and core and brain of the British Army, on which and around which we were to build, and are to build, the great British Armies in the later years of the war, seemed about to perish upon the field or to be led into an ignominious and starving captivity.

That was the prospect a week ago. But another blow which might well have proved final was yet to fall upon us. The King of the Belgians had called upon us to come to his aid. Had not this Ruler and his Government severed themselves from the Allies, who rescued their country from extinction in the late war, and had they not sought refuge in what was proved to be a fatal neutrality, the French and British Armies might well at the outset have saved not only Belgium but perhaps even Poland. Yet at the last moment, when Belgium was already invaded, King Leopold called upon us to come to his aid, and even at the last moment we came. He and his brave, efficient Army, nearly half a million strong, guarded our left flank and thus kept open our only line of retreat to the sea. Suddenly, without prior consultation, with the least possible notice, without the advice of his Ministers and upon his own personal act, he sent a plenipotentiary to the German Command, surrendered his Army, and exposed our whole flank and means of retreat.

I asked the House a week ago to suspend its judgment because the facts were not clear, but I do not feel that any reason now exists why we should not form our own opinions upon this pitiful episode. The surrender of the Belgian Army compelled the British at the shortest notice to cover a flank to the sea more than 30 miles in length. Otherwise all would have been cut off, and all would have shared the fate to which King Leopold had condemned the finest Army his country had ever formed. So in doing this and in exposing this flank, as anyone who followed the operations on the map will see, contact was lost between the British and two out of the three corps forming the First French Army, who were still farther from the coast than we were, and it seemed impossible that any large number of Allied troops could reach the coast.

The enemy attacked on all sides with great strength and fierceness, and their main power, the power of their far more numerous Air Force, was thrown into the battle or else concentrated upon Dunkirk and the beaches. Pressing in upon the narrow exit, both from the east and from the west, the enemy began to fire with cannon upon the beaches by which alone the shipping could approach or depart. They sowed magnetic mines in the channels and seas; they sent repeated waves of hostile aircraft, sometimes more than a hundred strong in one formation, to cast their bombs upon the single pier that remained, and upon the sand dunes upon which the troops had their eyes for shelter. Their U-boats, one of which was sunk, and their motor launches took their toll of the vast traffic which now began. For four or five days an intense struggle reigned. All their armored divisions-or what Was left of them-together with great masses of infantry and artillery, hurled themselves in vain upon the ever-narrowing, ever-contracting appendix within which the British and French Armies fought.

Meanwhile, the Royal Navy, with the willing help of countless merchant seamen, strained every nerve to embark the British and Allied troops; 220 light warships and 650 other vessels were engaged. They had to operate upon the difficult coast, often in adverse weather, under an almost ceaseless hail of bombs and an increasing concentration of artillery fire. Nor were the seas, as I have said, themselves free from mines and torpedoes. It was in conditions such as these that our men carried on, with little or no rest, for days and nights on end, making trip after trip across the dangerous waters, bringing with them always men whom they had rescued. The numbers they have brought back are the measure of their devotion and their courage. The hospital ships, which brought off many thousands of British and French wounded, being so plainly marked were a special target for Nazi bombs; but the men and women on board them never faltered in their duty.

Meanwhile, the Royal Air Force, which had already been intervening in the battle, so far as its range would allow, from home bases, now used part of its main metropolitan fighter strength, and struck at the German bombers and at the fighters which in large numbers protected them. This struggle was protracted and fierce. Suddenly the scene has cleared, the crash and thunder has for the moment-but only for the moment-died away. A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valor, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity, is manifest to us all. The enemy was hurled back by the retreating British and French troops. He was so roughly handled that he did not hurry their departure seriously. The Royal Air Force engaged the main strength of the German Air Force, and inflicted upon them losses of at least four to one; and the Navy, using nearly 1,000 ships of all kinds, carried over 335,000 men, French and British, out of the jaws of death and shame, to their native land and to the tasks which lie immediately ahead. We must be very careful not to assign to this deliverance the attributes of a victory. Wars are not won by evacuations. But there was a victory inside this deliverance, which should be noted. It was gained by the Air Force. Many of our soldiers coming back have not seen the Air Force at work; they saw only the bombers which escaped its protective attack. They underrate its achievements. I have heard much talk of this; that is why I go out of my way to say this. I will tell you about it.

This was a great trial of strength between the British and German Air Forces. Can you conceive a greater objective for the Germans in the air than to make evacuation from these beaches impossible, and to sink all these ships which were displayed, almost to the extent of thousands? Could there have been an objective of greater military importance and significance for the whole purpose of the war than this? They tried hard, and they were beaten back; they were frustrated in their task. We got the Army away; and they have paid fourfold for any losses which they have inflicted. Very large formations of German aeroplanes-and we know that they are a very brave race-have turned on several occasions from the attack of one-quarter of their number of the Royal Air Force, and have dispersed in different directions. Twelve aeroplanes have been hunted by two. One aeroplane was driven into the water and cast away by the mere charge of a British aeroplane, which had no more ammunition. All of our types-the Hurricane, the Spitfire and the new Defiant-and all our pilots have been vindicated as superior to what they have at present to face.

When we consider how much greater would be our advantage in defending the air above this Island against an overseas attack, I must say that I find in these facts a sure basis upon which practical and reassuring thoughts may rest. I will pay my tribute to these young airmen. The great French Army was very largely, for the time being, cast back and disturbed by the onrush of a few thousands of armored vehicles. May it not also be that the cause of civilization itself will be defended by the skill and devotion of a few thousand airmen? There never has been, I suppose, in all the world, in all the history of war, such an opportunity for youth. The Knights of the Round Table, the Crusaders, all fall back into the past-not only distant but prosaic; these young men, going forth every morn to guard their native land and all that we stand for, holding in their hands these instruments of colossal and shattering power, of whom it may be said that:

Every morn brought forth a noble chance
And every chance brought forth a noble knight,
deserve our gratitude, as do all the brave men who, in so many ways and on so many occasions, are ready, and continue ready to give life and all for their native land.

I return to the Army. In the long series of very fierce battles, now on this front, now on that, fighting on three fronts at once, battles fought by two or three divisions against an equal or somewhat larger number of the enemy, and fought fiercely on some of the old grounds that so many of us knew so well-in these battles our losses in men have exceeded 30,000 killed, wounded and missing. I take occasion to express the sympathy of the House to all who have suffered bereavement or who are still anxious. The President of the Board of Trade [Sir Andrew Duncan] is not here today. His son has been killed, and many in the House have felt the pangs of affliction in the sharpest form. But I will say this about the missing: We have had a large number of wounded come home safely to this country, but I would say about the missing that there may be very many reported missing who will come back home, some day, in one way or another. In the confusion of this fight it is inevitable that many have been left in positions where honor required no further resistance from them.

Against this loss of over 30,000 men, we can set a far heavier loss certainly inflicted upon the enemy. But our losses in material are enormous. We have perhaps lost one-third of the men we lost in the opening days of the battle of 21st March, 1918, but we have lost nearly as many guns — nearly one thousand-and all our transport, all the armored vehicles that were with the Army in the north. This loss will impose a further delay on the expansion of our military strength. That expansion had not been proceeding as far as we had hoped. The best of all we had to give had gone to the British Expeditionary Force, and although they had not the numbers of tanks and some articles of equipment which were desirable, they were a very well and finely equipped Army. They had the first-fruits of all that our industry had to give, and that is gone. And now here is this further delay. How long it will be, how long it will last, depends upon the exertions which we make in this Island. An effort the like of which has never been seen in our records is now being made. Work is proceeding everywhere, night and day, Sundays and week days. Capital and Labor have cast aside their interests, rights, and customs and put them into the common stock. Already the flow of munitions has leaped forward. There is no reason why we should not in a few months overtake the sudden and serious loss that has come upon us, without retarding the development of our general program.

Nevertheless, our thankfulness at the escape of our Army and so many men, whose loved ones have passed through an agonizing week, must not blind us to the fact that what has happened in France and Belgium is a colossal military disaster. The French Army has been weakened, the Belgian Army has been lost, a large part of those fortified lines upon which so much faith had been reposed is gone, many valuable mining districts and factories have passed into the enemy’s possession, the whole of the Channel ports are in his hands, with all the tragic consequences that follow from that, and we must expect another blow to be struck almost immediately at us or at France. We are told that Herr Hitler has a plan for invading the British Isles. This has often been thought of before. When Napoleon lay at Boulogne for a year with his flat-bottomed boats and his Grand Army, he was told by someone. “There are bitter weeds in England.” There are certainly a great many more of them since the British Expeditionary Force returned.

The whole question of home defense against invasion is, of course, powerfully affected by the fact that we have for the time being in this Island incomparably more powerful military forces than we have ever had at any moment in this war or the last. But this will not continue. We shall not be content with a defensive war. We have our duty to our Ally. We have to reconstitute and build up the British Expeditionary Force once again, under its gallant Commander-in-Chief, Lord Gort. All this is in train; but in the interval we must put our defenses in this Island into such a high state of organization that the fewest possible numbers will be required to give effective security and that the largest possible potential of offensive effort may be realized. On this we are now engaged. It will be very convenient, if it be the desire of the House, to enter upon this subject in a secret Session. Not that the government would necessarily be able to reveal in very great detail military secrets, but we like to have our discussions free, without the restraint imposed by the fact that they will be read the next day by the enemy; and the Government would benefit by views freely expressed in all parts of the House by Members with their knowledge of so many different parts of the country. I understand that some request is to be made upon this subject, which will be readily acceded to by His Majesty’s Government.

We have found it necessary to take measures of increasing stringency, not only against enemy aliens and suspicious characters of other nationalities, but also against British subjects who may become a danger or a nuisance should the war be transported to the United Kingdom. I know there are a great many people affected by the orders which we have made who are the passionate enemies of Nazi Germany. I am very sorry for them, but we cannot, at the present time and under the present stress, draw all the distinctions which we should like to do. If parachute landings were attempted and fierce fighting attendant upon them followed, these unfortunate people would be far better out of the way, for their own sakes as well as for ours. There is, however, another class, for which I feel not the slightest sympathy. Parliament has given us the powers to put down Fifth Column activities with a strong hand, and we shall use those powers subject to the supervision and correction of the House, without the slightest hesitation until we are satisfied, and more than satisfied, that this malignancy in our midst has been effectively stamped out.

Turning once again, and this time more generally, to the question of invasion, I would observe that there has never been a period in all these long centuries of which we boast when an absolute guarantee against invasion, still less against serious raids, could have been given to our people. In the days of Napoleon the same wind which would have carried his transports across the Channel might have driven away the blockading fleet. There was always the chance, and it is that chance which has excited and befooled the imaginations of many Continental tyrants. Many are the tales that are told. We are assured that novel methods will be adopted, and when we see the originality of malice, the ingenuity of aggression, which our enemy displays, we may certainly prepare ourselves for every kind of novel stratagem and every kind of brutal and treacherous maneuver. I think that no idea is so outlandish that it should not be considered and viewed with a searching, but at the same time, I hope, with a steady eye. We must never forget the solid assurances of sea power and those which belong to air power if it can be locally exercised.

I have, myself, full confidence that if all do their duty, if nothing is neglected, and if the best arrangements are made, as they are being made, we shall prove ourselves once again able to defend our Island home, to ride out the storm of war, and to outlive the menace of tyranny, if necessary for years, if necessary alone. At any rate, that is what we are going to try to do. That is the resolve of His Majesty’s Government-every man of them. That is the will of Parliament and the nation. The British Empire and the French Republic, linked together in their cause and in their need, will defend to the death their native soil, aiding each other like good comrades to the utmost of their strength. Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and even if, which I do not for a moment believe, this Island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old.

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BQB’s Classic Movie Reviews – The Dirty Dozen (1967)

They’re dirty.  There’s twelve of them!

BQB here with a review of the WW2 classic, “The Dirty Dozen.”

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Killing Nazis is a tough job, but someone has to do it, 3.5 readers.

And when it comes to a suicide mission deep in the heart of Nazi-dom, only men with nothing left to lose will do.

Enter Major Reisman (Lee Marvin), the surly soldier who gets results, but instead of the accolades he deserves, gets nothing but disdain from the brass who wax chairs with their asses but don’t know the first thing about actual combat in the field.

There’s a mansion in Germany where Hitler’s top men meet, and General Worden (Ernest Borgnine) wants them dead.  The plan?  Twelve men will parachute into the territory and kill as many Nazis as they can, by any means necessary.

Only the worst of the worst will be willing.  Men beyond redemption facing either life in prison or a date with the noose.  Reisman is ordered to recruit his men from a military prison filled with lowlives, degenerates, killers, rapists, thieves and con men – ex-soldiers who have been drummed out of the service for betraying the trust once placed in them.

Most of them are, indeed, scum without question.  Perhaps one or two were just in the wrong place at the wrong time or have an understandable excuse.  By and large though, these are men who would just as soon stab their new commanding officer in the back as opposed to work with him.

Eventually, they come around.  The majority of the film (and it’s way too long) is spent on the training.  Slowly but surely, Reisman wins the respect of these dirtballs and eventually, convinces them that he’s offering them the one and only shot they’ll ever have at redemption so they’d better take it and not screw it up.  Resiman is a better man than these men, but as his superiors often remind him, it’s a miracle he hasn’t been court martialed himself, as his methods are extreme and on the battlefield, he walks right up to the “line” and occasionally, crosses it when no one is looking.

SPOILER ALERT (though you’ve had a really long time to watch it) – 3/4th of the film is spent on the training that when it finally comes time for the big battle royale with the Nazis, you’re like, “Finally!”

Oddly enough, this film makes me feel bad for the Nazis.  I know.  I know.  They were orchestrating the downfall of humanity.  But at this particular moment, they were at a party and something about all those defenseless Nazis, cowering in a bunker as Reisman’s goon squad pours in gas and grenades and blows them all to smithereens.  I don’t know.  Yes, OK.  They were Nazis but like…their wives and mistresses were there and they’re all crying and trying to claw their way out of what will become their tomb…look I’m glad we won the war but all I’m saying is that you have to be a real bastard to kill all those people (good or evil) in one sitting and not flinch and I suppose that’s where the Dirty Dozen comes in.

Is there a point to all this?  Maybe we need to take the bastards of the world and direct their skills at lying and cheating and so on and put them to work on saving the world instead of ruining it for once?

Maybe.

And maybe today, we’re all like those generals with their fancy brass, criticizing the military from our easy chairs while we don’t have one iota of what the hell of war is really like.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.

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Movie Review – Operation Finale (2018)

Hey 3.5 readers.

Just a quick review here.

World War II may have ended in 1945, but for many Jewish people, “closure” (if that was even possible) didn’t come until the trial of Adolph Eichmann, the architect of the Third Reich’s “Final Solution” i.e. the Nazi official who devised the Holocaust.

In the early 1960s, an ex-patriot community of Germans still carrying a torch for Hitler has formed in Argentina.  Hiding out among them is Eichmann, having found a new life as an auto factory foreman.

Enter Peter Malkin (Oscar Isaac) who leads a team of Israeli spies on a mission to identify and kidnap the Nazi and bring him back to Israel for trial.  Unsurprisingly, it’s a high stress situation, as Malkin faces flack from all sides, from his backseat driving bosses in Israel, to the Argentine government who don’t take kindly to foreign espionage missions being carried out on their home turf, to the local pro-Nazi community who want to protect Eichmann at all costs.

The worst enemy of all is Eichmann himself, who, as a captive, goes out of his way to get into Malkin’s mind.  To Malkin’s disgust, Eichmann argues they aren’t that dissimilar.  Eichmann was “just following orders” and it’s not like there was much opportunity for a Nazi to voice dissent.  Worse, he argues the Holocaust was “humane,” i.e. his instruments of death, ovens and gas chambers, though vile, were better than putting Jews in ditches, shooting them, then burying them, which as we see in a flashback, happened before Eichmann got his efficient system of death up and running.

Malkin, on the other hand, was a young boy during World War II, but he saw the death and destruction first hand, having lost family in the most gruesome of ways.  He knows there’s no excuse for the atrocities. It’s up to Malkin to stay strong against the mind games and get Eichmann to break before he does.

This is another Oscar worthy role for Isaac, allowing him to prove he’s got the acting chops the Academy likes to see.  The film will probably come and go quickly out of theaters, but just as he did in 2016’s The Promise, he’s out to prove that he’s more than his swaggering, trigger happy fly boy character in the latest Star Wars films.

It was odd to see Nick Kroll, a comedian and master of gross out humor, as Malkin’s fellow Israeli operative.  It’s a serious role in a serious film yet somehow, you expect Kroll to break out in fart noises any minute.  He does well with the character, but if he’s transitioning to drama, he might need to get a few more roles under his belt before I stop seeing him as his character in The League.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Worth a rental.  Obviously, due to the subject matter, it’s not exactly the feel good movie of the year, but it provides some history of a dark time and how the Israelis worked to locate Nazis all over the world and bring them to trial.

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Darkest Hour – Why People Need to Watch It, Why Politicians Need to Make Decisions and Accept Consequences

Hey 3.5 readers.

I reviewed it last year, but Darkest Hour has been on HBO, so I’ve been watching it constantly, leaving it on in the background whenever it is on while I do other stuff.

I don’t think people really understand the bind England was in at the height of World War II.

First, and I don’t mean to dump on the French, but France screwed the pooch.  Part of me doesn’t blame them.  It’s easy for backseat drivers almost eighty years later to say, “I would have fought those Nazis!” but for the people who actually had the Nazis coming for them, I get why they surrendered.

The problem is the Brits had sent their army to France on the idea that it would be better to back the French up and stop the Nazis in France before they reached the French coast, thus gaining access to the English Channel.

So…with 300,000 British troops in Dunkirk, on the coast of France, the Brits had to make a decision.  Negotiate a surrender or lose the Dunkirk troops and lose the United Kingdom.

Amidst this backdrop, Sir Winston Churchill has been recently named Prime Minister.  Churchill is wise and experienced, having served in war himself, but also intelligent, having written a number of books.

Unfortunately, personality wise, he’s boorish and considered a buffoon.  He drinks non-stop, he’s chubby, overeats, smokes too much, and doesn’t have much of a filter to hold back from offending people.

Here’s why people need to watch it.  It really illustrates why politics suck.  They really do. Essentially, it’s all just a big game played by scheming scoundrels, all trying to get something done, everyone prepared to take the credit for a job well done but also trying like hell to avoid any blame.

The problem is that anything worth doing comes with good and bad consequences.  No matter what you do, there’s always room for celebration and blame.  You’ll never avoid a bad consequence unless you hide in a closet for the rest of your life.

Churchill understands this.  As a former military man, he understands war is hell and victory can’t be wrapped up in a nice little package.  He has been haunted by the failure of Gallipoli, where under his command, Brits died in World War I.  Throughout his life, his political rivals hold it over his head.

At any rate, while Churchill maintains that surrender to the Nazis is not an option, he is henpecked by politics all the way.  Parliamentarians Neville Chamberlain (the previous prime minister) and Viscount Halifax, constantly try to browbeat Churchill into negotiating “peace” with Hitler, though Churchill knows “peace” is code for surrender and a UK under Nazi rule is an unbearable idea.

Sorry to be longwinded.  Halifax and Churchill want to surrender.  They have a point.  Why risk so many British lives?  Defeat looks inevitable.  To save 300,000 army men in Dunkirk, Churchill must sacrifice 3,000 to draw the Nazis attention and buy some time for civilian ships to reach Dunkirk and pick the Army up.  Halifax argues why sacrifice 3,000 when defeat is inevitable?

So, here’s the thing.  At any time, parliament had the ability to boot Churchill and name a new prime minister.  Halifax and Chamberlain know this.  Churchill knows this.  Not in so many words, but he basically tells his detractors, “Come at me, bro.”

If Halifax and Chamberlain want to surrender to the Nazis, they can make it happen.  They can go to parliament and make the case.  Tell them that Churchill is a dick who is going to get us all killed and it would be better to be a Nazi subject than to be dead.  Halifax and Chamberlain can say they’d be willing to become the prime minister and do the surrendering.

By that they don’t want to do it.  They believe strongly in surrender but they do not want the blame for it.  They feel Churchill is a dummy that they can push and bully into surrendering, make him be the fall guy, harass him into giving in and then when all the Brits are in leiderhosen, staring at a swastika flag flying over Buckingham palace, then Halifax and Chambelian can stand around and be like, “Well, Churchill’s the one who surrendered!”

Churchill suffers a great deal of internal anguish until….SPOILER ALERT…he gets out of the office and gets around London, talking to common folk.  Do they want surrender?  No.  Would they rather die in an invasion than let Hitler win? Yes.

LESSONS:

  1. If you’re a politician and you think you are right, you MUST be willing to stand up and push your idea yourself.  It’s understandable that Halifax and Chamberlain fear Britain will lose, but if they felt that way, they should have stood up and been willing to wear the, proverbial “I support surrender” badge.
  2. If you’re a politician under pressure to do what you think is wrong, you must seek out what the people think and hopefully, they’ll support you even if what is right might lead to a bad result.
  3. The people have to be willing to support leaders in doing the right thing even if it results in a bad end.

BOTTOMLINE: Politics is the game of how decisions are made and unfortunately, making a decision is like a hot potato.  A decision, and the ensuing responsibility, is passed around and around.  No one wants the potato when it’s burning hot.  They only want it when it is warm and smothered in sour cream and bacon bits.

Politicians push each other to decide how they want, but they won’t make the decisions themselves for fear of backlash if the decision goes wrong.  If it goes right, they can say they supported it.  If it goes bad, they can say they avoided it.  Meanwhile, the people are schizophrenic.  They’ll shout to do this or that and if it works out, great and if not they complain.

Churchill made a decision.  He said we’re going to fight the Nazis.  He knew it could lead to certain doom.  He decided it would be better to risk seeing the UK bombed into the ground and conquered, its citizens dead,  if there was a chance the island could be saved and Hitler beaten back.

In a stirring scene, he shouts, “I will take full responsibility!”  No one else around him was willing to.  That’s what politicians need to do.

Deciding to fight the Nazis could have easily lead to the total destruction of Great Britain, just as deciding to not fight them could have lead to thousands of years of subjugation to Nazi rule.

All decisions have consequences.  I can tell you in my personal life, my biggest failing has been putting off decisions, avoiding that role of the dice and letting life pass me by rather than to just get in the fight and find out what happens at the end.

Bottomline is Halifax and Chamberlain weren’t willing to accept the consequences of the decision they wanted to be made.  They wanted a surrender, but they didn’t want to go down as the dorks who surrendered.  Meanwhile, Churchill wanted victory, but had that led to ruin, he most likely would have stood up and said, “Well, hey I tried.  Sorry fighting the Nazis didn’t work out.”

OK I’ll stop ranting.  I just see this a lot even today.  Politicians fight and demonize each other but when it comes to, you know, actually writing and passing a law that backs up their vitriol, they rarely do it.  “You should do what I want!” but few, if any, are actually just willing to step up and make it happen, put their name on a decision and accept the credit if it goes well and the blame if it goes bad.

 

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Movie Review – Darkest Hour (2017)

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”

BQB here with a review of “Darkest Hour.”

You know 3.5 readers, modern politics suck.  They’re messy and brutish, a blood sport on all sides.  Amidst all this kerfluffle, where is the man who is willing to stand up, not for what is popular, but for what is right?  Where is the man who is willing to slap his balls down on the table and be prepared to lose them to the naysayers if they’re proven right?

Sigh.  That man (or woman) is working the drive-thru at Arby’s or some such bullshit, because let’s face it, people without polish and pizzazz (or money) can’t get a foot through the political door these days.

Luckily, such wasn’t the case for Sir Winston Churchill.  An old mumbler who looked like a bald bull dog, he drank to excess, took most meetings in his bathrobe, and chain smoked cigars and drank bottles upon bottles of booze all day long.  Moody, unpolished, rude, but he had balls.  Oh, how he had balls.

Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) sought peace with Hitler.  The result?  At the start of the film, Hitler’s armies stand ready to overrun Belgium and take over France, where, without intervention, they’ll push British forces into the sea at Dunkirk, effectively ending the UK’s ability to defend itself.

It’s a hopeless situation and the political types in parliament are more interested in saving their careers than the nation.  No one even wants the position of Prime Minister now, as defeat seems imminent and no one wants to go down as the leader who handed England over to Germany.

Thus, Churchill, who had long been the lonely canary in the coal mine, warning England and the rest of the Europe that Hitler was up to some serious shit and he should met not with appeasement but early attacks before he gets too far, is placed in charge.

Chamberlain and Viscount Halifax (Stephen Dillane or Roose Bolton to “Game of Thrones” fans) want to double down on a new attempt to appease Hitler, oblivious to the fact that earlier attempts to satiate the Nazis just made them that much stronger.

Together, they make moves to force Churchill into peace talks, putting the bulldog into a grave position.  The 25,000 lives he lost under his military command years earlier weigh heavily on him, and the prospects of victory against a war machine that has conquered the rest of the continent seem grim.

Ultimately, it’s up to Churchill to make some tough choices and outfox the foxes in his hen house at their own game.

SPOILER ALERT – because, I mean, it’s history, so you should know already, but Churchill chooses to fight Hitler rather than make a peace.  He’s certain it would be a lame ass peace, one that would leave the swastika flying over Buckingham Palace and a Nazi controlled puppet government running the show.

But it was definitely an unsavory roll of the dice.  Had Germany prevailed, the puppet government would have looked better than a defeated, decimated Britain…and thus Gary Oldman as Churchill gives us a front row seat to how the proverbial sausage is made, how leadership requires the bold to make a tough decision and to stay the course, no matter how far away the light at the end of the tunnel may seem.

Will there be more Churchills in the future?  Honestly, I feel television really screwed our collective political pooch.  As long as elections are decided based on who has the most polish and pizzazz, perfect looks and fabulous hair, the ornery old bald foul mouthed drunk who’s willing to put his balls on the line and to tell the enemy to eat a dick doesn’t stand a chance at election.

Hell, even Churchill didn’t.  Once his big balls one the war, his reward was to be thrown out of office.  But, he was able to walk away knowing he and his balls had stood up for what was right.

Worthy of Oscars all around but will probably lose to the movie about the fish fucker.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  Rent it today.  Props to the women behind the man, i.e. his wife Clemmie (Kristin Scott Thomas) who reigned him in and got him to focus on shit.  Meanwhile, scenes with his personal secretary, Elizabeth Layton (Lilly James) who has to undergo the stress of taking Churchill’s cigar smoke cough laden, booze fueled, mumbling rants and putting them into actual words to be typed and dispatched are particularly touching.

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Hitler Reacts to BQB

Hey 3.5 readers.

Did you know that Hitler used to read this blog?  I’m not bragging…I mean, you can’t control who your 3.5 readers are.  I’m just surprised that at the close of World War II, when the allies were closing in on Berlin, he didn’t have anything to do other than to bitch about how shitty my blog was…is?

I don’t know how he read it in 1945.  Time traveling web browser, maybe.

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Hitler Video

I was surprised Hitler had that much time to worry about me:

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Movie Review – Dunkirk (2017)

Bombs!  Explosions!  The fate of the free world!

BQB here with a review of Christopher Nolan’s World War II flick, “Dunkirk.”

It’s May of 1940. The Nazis have swept into France and pushed allied British and French troops to the sea.  400,000 troops await evacuation while being pinned down by Nazi fighter/bomber warplanes.

The stakes are high.  The loss of 400,000 troops would be a terrible loss for the allies, hindering their chances of victory.  However, Churchill has surmised that to send in Navy warships to pick up the men would be a suicide mission, essentially sinking the much needed ships.

Thus, it’s a death defying escape mission.  The film switches back and forth between various parties.  British Fighter Pilot Farrier (Tom Hardy) patrols the scene, shooting down German fighters and watching the backs of those on the ground below.  Meanwhile, Mark Rylance plays Mr. Dawson, one of the many private citizens who volunteered to take their commercial/fishing boats into the war zone to help rescue the troops.  He dukes it out with Cillian Murphy, a battle weary soldier he’s picked up who, for obvious reasons, is scared to return to Dunkirk.

Soldiers trapped in the hold of a ship hunker down to avoid the constant gunfire piercing the ship’s hull.  Kenneth Branagh, the highest ranking officer on the scene, makes a lot of sullen facial expressions every time one of his subordinates delivers bad news, essentially capturing the fear that death might be certain and imminent.

If you’re looking for a plot driven film, you might be disappointed.  There isn’t much intrigue.  There aren’t any twists.  There isn’t much in the way of getting to know the characters or their backstory.  It’s basically a battle reenactment caught on film.

It’s a pretty intense ride.  Nolan makes ample use of ominous music, making you feel as though a Nazi fighter pilot might drop a bomb on your head at any minute.  He also works wonders with sound, the explosions are so loud and jarring you can feel them rattle you, probably the closest experience to war that can be provided through a film.

History flicks are always a risk.  The general public does not want to be educated.  They want to be entertained.  However, Nolan earned his bones through Batman, giving him the ability to preserve this heroic tale on film, one where the military and private citizens came together in a swift, massive effort to avoid a defeat that could have been staggering.

STATUS:  Shelf-worthy.  Worth a trip to the theater.

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BQB’s Time Travel Adventures #2 – BQB vs. Hitler

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So, after I visited the 1970s and busted up a gang of ninjas in a disco, thus making all bushes in the future 25% bushier, I then went back in time to the early 1900s with one goal in mind – I would stop World War II from happening.

I arrived in Austria, where a dopey looking young man named Adolf Hitler was sitting on a park bench, trying to draw a picture of his bratwurst (not the one in his pants but the one he was intending to have for lunch later.)

“That’s a fine piece of art, Herr….”

“Hitler,” Hitler said.  “And nein!  I have applied to every art school around and they all tell me my work is nothing but goosenpoopen.”

“Really?”  I said.  “That’s terrible.  Everyone with creative talent should be able to pursue it.”

“That’s what I said,” Hitler said.  “But if I don’t get into art school I will have to go to my fall back plan.”

“What’s your fall back plan?”  I asked.

“To scheme my way into the German Chancellorship, declare war on the entire world and gas six million Jews to death,” Hitler said.

I was shocked.  I mean, I knew the history but still, to hear him say it out loud.  It was disturbing, to say the least.

“That’s your back up plan?”  I asked.

“Ja,” Hitler said.  “Also I might bang my niece.”

“Bang your…dude!”

“What?”  Hitler asked.

“Well,” I said.  “Is there no happy medium with you dude?  Most people who don’t get into art school say, ‘Well, I guess I’ll go be a janitor’ or ‘I guess I’ll go be a plumber’ or some other noble occupation.  I have literally never heard someone say, ‘Well, if I don’t get to do what I want then I’m just going to become the leader of a country and use my power to gas all the people I don’t like.”

“Undt bang my niece,” Hitler said.

“Yeah,” I said.  “I’ve never heard anyone say they want to do that either.”

“Undt I won’t gas all of them,” Hitler said.

“You won’t?”  I asked.

“Nein,”  Hitler said.  “Some of them I’ll push into ovens, or I might line them up against a wall and have them shot, or send them off to camps where they starve to death, or use them as forced labor and work them until they die of malnutrition and exhaustion.”

“Dude!” I said.

“It’ll be a mixed bag, really,” Hitler said. “I mean, ja, most of them will get the gas chamber or the oven but I’ll play it by ear and see how it goes.”

“Hitler,” I said.  “Not for nothing, but why do you hate Jewish people so much?”

Hitler sat back on the bench and closed his eyes.  “One time, when I was but a little kiddenheimer, I vent to lunch at mein school and a Jewish boy he…”

“Beat you?”  I asked.  “Tortured you?”

“Nein!”  Hitler said.  “He ate mein lunch!”

“Umm…”

“Mein sausage!  It was all gone!”  Hitler said.  “He said it was an accident.  He mixed up his bag with mine.  He apologized profusely but at that very moment I said to myself, ‘Adolf, you must really gas all these people and push them into ovens and only then will you get your revenge for your lost sausage!'”

“Hitler,” I said.  “Honestly, it sounds like the kid just made a mistake.  It happens to the best of us.  Sometimes we accidentally offend someone and all we can do is apologize and move on.  Even if he did it on purpose, it’s one kid.  You can’t denounce an entire group just because one member of the group did something you like.  One member of a group doing something wrong doesn’t mean the entire group is bad.  Seriously, what group in the entire world doesn’t have at least bad apple in it?”

“You sound like undt pussenstein,” Hitler said.

“No, really Hitler,” I said.  “You’ve got to listen and maybe I can help you screw your head on straight here.  If you’re just going to start killing groups of people just because one of them did something you didn’t like then you’re going to have to just kill the entire world.”

“Das est mein intention,” Hitler said.  “First the Jews, then the world.  Mein armies vill spread out across the globe.  All vill either obey me or vill be shoved in the oven.”

“Where are you even going to get a people oven?”  I asked.  “It’s not like there’s a people oven store.”

“I’m going to make a people oven,” Hitler said.  “I have some rudimentary designs.  You want to see?”

“Not really,” I said.  “But Hitler, have you considered the fact that on the whole, Jewish people are good eggs?”

“Nein!” Hitler said.

“Good food, good culture, music, arts, inventions, industry, hard work ethic,” I said.  “Historically, the Jewish people bring a lot to the table.”

Hitler began scribbling something on a piece of paper.

“What are you writing?”  I asked.

“A note to myself to have you pushed in an oven when I’m the chancellor,” Hitler said.

I sighed.  “You’re hopeless, Hitler.  Come on, let’s get you into art school.”

At that point, I found Hitler’s favorite art school.  “Das Skoolen Fer Peepzen What Wantzen to Drawzen Not Like Scheizen.”

I brought a thousand bucks back with me, a lot for me even in 2017 but it was like a small fortune in the 1930s.  I handed it off to the Dean and made him promise that he wouldn’t just accept Hitler, but that he’d also heap massive amounts of false praise on anything Hitler made, no matter how shitty it was.  Further, I made the Dean promise to really promote Hitler’s work, get all his friends in the art community to become Hitler’s patrons.  Set the guy up with a good living off of his art so he wouldn’t have to resort to his fall back plan of world domination and ethnic cleansing.

I arrived back in 2017, only to, you guessed it, learn that I had really cocked things up.

“Heil Hitler!  Video Game Rack Fighter said to me upon my arrival to BQB HQ.

“What the hell?”  I asked.  “Video Game Rack Fighter, my beloved nerdy girlfriend!  Why are you in a Nazi uniform?  I’ve never known you to be anything but sweet and kind to all people!  Are you a Nazi now?”

“Ja!” VGRF said.  “Everyone is a Nazi now, thanks to the leadership of Steve Hitler!”

“Steve Hitler?”  I asked.

“Ja!” VGRF said.  “Heil Steve Hitler!”

“Something’s amiss,” I said.  I turned on the TV and found a documentary.  The announcer summed up what happened:

“All hail our beloved World Chancellor, Steve Hitler, who is alive and well over 140 years old thanks to creepy and disturbing Nazi scientific methods!  Steve was but a modest little boy from Austria who used to sit back and dream of becoming a pig farmer.  He would overhear his brother Adolf talk about his fall back plans of world domination and ethnic cleansing and think that sounded like a real neat-o way to make a living. However, he had doubts about Adolf.  He thought Adolf would probably just cock the whole thing up and eventually lose the impending war.  However, when Adolf was accepted to study at an acclaimed art school, Adolf gave Steve his blessing to pursue his goals of world domination and ethnic cleansing.  In fact, Steve was so good at world domination and ethnic cleansing that Nazi historians are assured that Steve was the best choice to run the Nazi party whereas Adolf was better off behind the scenes.  Also, the art school helped Hitler become such a great artist that Hitler drew all kinds of propaganda posters that inspired the masses to become super racist and evil!  All hail the Nazi party and hail that random asshole that helped Adolf Hitler get into art school.  Because of that guy, everyone in the world is either dead or a super racist evil Nazi now!”

“Aww crap sandwich,” I said.  “I guess I know what I have to do.”

I returned to early 1900s Austria and found the version of myself that had time traveled to that time.  I kicked him in the nuts and instantly felt the pain myself.  I told him how his plan to stop World War II works out and he gasped.

After that, we scrapped the whole plan to stop Hitler and went to get some strudel instead.

The moral of the story?  If you try to fix something, you’ll just make it worse, so just shut up and go get a strudel.

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Movie Review – The Zookeeper’s Wife (2017)

War!  Intrigue!  Nazis vs. Zoo animals!

BQB here with a review of The Zookeeper’s Wife.

Based on a true story, this film tells the tale of Jan and Antonina Zabinski, owners/operators of the Warsaw Zoo who used their property to save persecuted Jews during World War II.

Before the war, Jan (Johan Heldenburgh) and Atonina (Jessica Chastain), live an idyllic life.  They love animals and they take care of zebras, elephants, lions, tigers, all sorts of exotic animals on their sprawling property.  They even do a good business, charging admission.

Alas, all this changes because of the Nazis.  Oh you dirty Nazis, you’re always the turd in history’s punch bowl, aren’t you?

The Zabinskis’ zoo is partially destroyed by Nazi bombs dropped all over the city.  What’s left is confiscated.  The animals are shot and turned into meat and soap for the Nazi war effort.

Sidenote:  Whether it’s during World War II or more recently in Venezuela, once the government resorts to shooting zoo animals for food, shit is not good.

Back to the review.  Long story short, what’s left of the zoo is turned over to Lutz Heck (Daniel Bruhl), a German zoologist who had once been a friend of the Zabinskis in happier times.  Sadly, once Lutz puts on a Nazi uniform and becomes Hitler’s official zoologist, he gets a little too drunk on power and becomes an insufferable douchen-dorfer.

You know you want to see this movie just because the villain is a Nazi zoologist, don’t you?

Anyway, being the good people that they are, the Zabinskis begin rescuing and hiding their close Jewish friends.  Pretty soon, they realize that with underground tunnels once used to house tigers, buildings and trucks, they have all the means necessary to run a Jewish rescue/hiding/smuggling to safety operation.

The danger comes from the fact that they must do all this right under the nose of their ex-friend turned Nazi.

Will the Zabinskis be successful?  Will they be caught?

You’ve got to watch to find out.

Overall, it’s a touching story.  So many stories came out of WWII and they continue even today.

Much credit is due to the Zabinskis.  They probably could have relied on their friendship with a Nazi to ride out World War II by just keeping their heads down and going about their business.  Instead, they put themselves into great danger and in doing so, saved the lives of hundreds of people.

STATUS: Shelf-worthy.  A good movie, sort of an Oscar-bait film designed to show off Jessica Chastain’s acting chops.  Not necessary to rush out to the theater but it’s worth a rental.

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