The World War II Movie Page

My love for war movies started on a Saturday aftenoon in 1963. I was six years old and some of my friends and I had been dropped off at the base theatre at Ramstein Air Force Base, Germany. (Back then, dropping off a gaggle of unchaperoned six-year-olds to see a movie was common practice; in fact, for me and my friends it was a weekly ritual.) The show cost a quarter and we usually had about 75 cents or a dollar on us. Candy bars were a nickel or a dime. We always tried to have enough left over to buy a 12-cent comic book (DC's "Sgt. Rock" and "Detective Comics." featuring Batman, were my faves). On this particular Saturday, all we knew about the movie (from the title in the base newsletter, since there were no saturation marketing campaigns for movies back then) we were going to see was that it was about airplanes during World War II. Perfect! And, we'd get a cartoon or two on top of it, usually Looney Tunes, but some Pink Panthers.

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.

Coming in Spring 1999
  • 13 Rue Madeleine
  • Above Suspicion
  • Action in the North Atlantic
  • All Through the Night
  • Anzio
  • Away All Boats!
  • Back to Bataan
  • Battle Cry
  • Battle of Britain
  • The Bunker
  • The Big Red One
  • The Colditz Story
  • Command Decision
  • Commandos Strike at Dawn
  • Cross of Iron
  • The Counterfeit Traitor
  • D-Day, The Sixth of June
  • Dangerous Moonlight
  • The Desert Fox
  • The Desert Rats
  • Desperate Journey
  • Empire of the Sun
  • Ensign Pulver
  • Europa, Europa
  • Eye of the Needle
  • Father Goose
  • The Fighting Seabees
  • The Fighting Sullivans
  • Five Graves to Cairo
  • The Last Days of Patton
  • Mr. Roberts
  • One of Our Aircraft is Missing
  • Operation Pacific
  • Operation Petticoat
  • O.S.S.
  • Patton
  • Saving Private Ryan
  • The Seventh Cross
  • Stalingrad
  • The Tanks Are Coming!
  • The Thin Red Line (1964)
  • The Thin Red Line (1998)
  • When Trumpets Fade

Title Screen
or Poster
Year Title Favorite Scene Larry's Take
633 SQUADRON 1963 633 Squadron Attack! The Best Aerial Combat
Sequences of Its Time
THE DEVIL'S BRIGADE 1968 The Devil's Brigade Favorite Scene In Preparation
THE GREAT ESCAPE 1962 The Great Escape Favorite Scene In Preparation
HELL IS FOR HEROES 1962 Hell is For Heroes Favorite Scene In Preparation
THE BRIDGE AT REMAGEN 1969 The Bridge at Remagen Favorite Scene In Preparation
THE LONGEST DAY 1962 The Longest Day Pegasus Bridge The Best "Big" WW II Movie Ever Made
OPERATION CROSSBOW 1965 Operation Crossbow Favorite Scene In Preparation
THEY WERE EXPENDABLE 1942 They Were Expendable Favorite Scene In Preparation


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