In 1963, in Europe (and especially Germany), WW II was still a relatively recent event. Less than 20 years had passed since V-E Day and parts of the country still showed signs of the war. There were still pillboxes and dragon's teeth in some of the fields in the vicinity of Ramstein; everytime we drove to visit my German relatives near Stuttgart I would marvel at these battered concrete structures and picture what battles must have raged near them. Heroic GIs who were never killed or wounded versus faceless, grayclad Germans. Of course, I had no sense of the true historical details or what I was actually seeing. And certainly no sense of death and destruction. I had no concept of the battlefield and its attendant horrors. My friends and I "played army" religiously, toting plastic Thompsons and M-1s around, recreating the war on the playground based on what we knew about it (we were the children of career military men, many of whom were WW II vets) and what we saw, of course, at the movies.
I really can't recall many movies before this (by title, anyway), but the movie that day was special to us. It was Walter Grauman's 633 Squadron, a minor Mirisch Corporation release in which the human stars were badly overshadowed by the surviving DeHavilland Mosquitos that were used in some of the most exhilirating aerial attack sequences ever committed to film (even after 34 years!). My friends and I sat in the dark cavern of the movie house that day and sat wide-eyed at the long shots of those wooden fighter-bombers racing up a Norweigan fjord to drop special "earthquake" bombs on a German factory that was supposedly bomb-proof. I could have not cared less that this B-movie was a rather half-baked amalgam of The Dam Busters, The Guns of Navarone, and the The Heroes of Telemark. I paid no attention to the cardboard love story between Cliff Robertson and Maria Perschy and didn't care about the boring speeches about war-weariness. The aerial scenes, especially the climactic bombing run that involved running a gauntlet of German flak guns, a bomb release that had to be as hyperaccurate as Luke Skywalker's delivery of the bomb into the heart of the Death Star in Star Wars, and an incredible climb to avoid slamming into a mountainside were truly the stuff of imagination. It was the first of many movies that we went back to see immediately (the next showing, after running out to a waiting car, asking permission, winning it, and getting another quarter!). Even the opening theme music stuck in our heads. I can still hum it today. A few months later, my parents took me to see The Great Escape. Then a rerelease of The Longest Day. I was hooked.
This page is an attempt to commemorate the war movie, especially those about WW II that I grew up with. They definitely have a special hold on my imagination. I hope some of those kids that I knew at Ramstein find this page and remember. I can still recall the afternoon a few of us recreated the final scene of "The War Lover." We made a B-17 out of three or four picnic tables arranged lengthwise in a row. We even had a tail gunner and two waist gunners. The .50s were plastic. I was Capt. Buzz Rickson trying desperately to lift "The Body," full of flak holes, leaking fuel, and losing altitude, over the famous white cliffs at Dover. I think we must have rewritten the ending of that movie that day!
The following movies are not presented in any particular order. My take is my opinion only. Various factoids are from a lifetime of reading and cannot be accurately credited. Contributions, clarifications, and corrections are welcome and can be sent to Larry Belmont. Some technical notes: The screen shots were done using Play Incorporated's amazing, affordable, and versatile "Video Snappy." Any image editing was done either in Adobe Photoshop or Micrografx Picture Publisher.
|Year||Title||Favorite Scene||Larry's Take|
|1963||633 Squadron||Attack!||The Best Aerial
Sequences of Its Time
|1968||The Devil's Brigade||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
|1962||The Great Escape||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
|1962||Hell is For Heroes||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
|1969||The Bridge at Remagen||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
|1962||The Longest Day||Pegasus Bridge||The Best "Big" WW II Movie Ever Made|
|1965||Operation Crossbow||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
|1942||They Were Expendable||Favorite Scene||In Preparation|
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