I believe American Sniper fits in with many of Clint Eastwoods’s earlier films. Whether he acted in them or directed them. The Lone Heroic Individual. Which fits perfectly with the dominant mythos in this country right now. The hyper individualist who “makes it on their own” “doesn’t need the help of anyone else.” Yadda, yadda, yadda.
I had the unmitigated gall to point out a few years ago on a story about the hoo ha over, was it the president or another politician I don’t remember off hand, the statement “you didn’t do it on your own.” Silly me, I pointed out that unless you single handedly reinvented western technology from agriculture on up you were standing on some pretty broad shoulders. You’d have thought I was advocating the sacrifice of all first born children from some of the reactions I got.
WWII was supposedly the last “good war” so let’s take a look at the heroic individual from that perspective. My dad didn’t serve. Not from lack of trying. The doctor at the induction center got one look at his legs and said no way. So he ended up working in the woods. Ironically, if the army had decided down the road that being seriously bow legged wasn’t a bar to working behind a desk, logging was a reserved occupation. Somebody had to get out the cut to make those packing crates, build the army bases, deck the ships.
And speaking of ships. Out side of the series Victory at Sea screened in the early fifties the
Battle of the Atlantic is one of the great untold stories of the war.
East to west. West to east the convoys sailed. Month in month out, oddly enough
praying for bad weather because it cut the danger from the German U boats. It
wasn’t until mid 1943 that the tide was turned and more ships made it through
than were lost. And the allies couldn’t start the great build up for the
invasion of Europe until the troops and
supplies could make the voyage with some guarantee of success.
And D Day couldn’t have happened without
, the eastern front where the
Russians kept whole divisions tied down and then destroyed them. Again, when
the stories get told you’d think sometimes that we went from Pearl Harbor to
the invasion of / North Africa, Sicily, Italy Europe.
North Africa wasn’t glamorous. In fact we got
our asses kicked but good. Talk about your learning curve. What worked and what
didn’t. Who could get the job done and who needed to be shipped back to the US to occupy a
desk instead of a command post. Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, Cassino. It was a muddy,
bloody, meat grinder.
We had a neighbor who was in the Oklahoma National Guard when the
entered the war. The 45th AKA the Thunderbird Division started their
service in Sicily and ended it in Germany. With
all the battles including Cassino
in between. George never really talked about his time overseas. He did borrow a
copy of Ernie Pyle’s dispatches, Brave Men, and returned it almost immediately.
Nearly forty years later and it still hit him too hard. He was a sergeant by
the end of the war. By the time he got back home to Oklahoma he was a private. Seems he and his
buddies were told they’d have to wait their turn to be officially demobilized. They
demobilized themselves and went AWOL. I don’t think he ever regretted the loss
of those stripes.
I guess what I’m trying to say is that while there’s a place for the heroic individual, that isn’t what helped win that war. The loggers, the farmers, the men and women in the factories forged the tools and grew the food. The convoys and their escorts ran the gauntlet to get the men, the weapons, the fuel, the food to
people that loaded and unloaded the ships and made sure those supplies ended up
where they were supposed to, armed with no more than paper, pencils and if they
were lucky a clip board didn’t make headlines but that army couldn’t have
succeeded without them. Take out one of those links and the whole pyramid was
in danger of collapse.
This seems like an odd place to end but this is getting kind of long, perhaps more later.