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The War Nerd / April 17, 2011

Today I wanted to talk about the great nominations y’all provided last week when I asked for people’s favorite war books.

First of all, thanks. I wrote down every book you nominated, and there are 55 of them. I could spend a happy life or two just in an underground bunker with a nice recliner, a microwave and fridge full of frozen burritos, and that stack of books beside me, because you can read a good war memoir over and over and still enjoy it.

Before I go on to the list, one thing hit me when I was imagining this perfectly stocked bunker: would you need a DVD player, even? At first I thought, Hell yes, of course, you’d want movies as much as books. Then I tried to come up with some, and it really hit me: How come there are so many great books about war and so damn few good war movies? Or am I wrong about that? Because I can’t think of many. They’re mostly sentimental crap, one of two kinds, either patriotic crap “Uh! I’m hit! Go on…without me, Sarge!” or peacenik sentimental crap where it turns out war is violent and bad, which is a total surprise to the innocent kid who’s been lured into the army. Those are the ones I hate the most. “Innocent kid”! You ever know any? I never did, the little mean bastards. Try growing up fat, that’ll cure you of the whole “innocent kid” propaganda. Most of the kids I knew would be too sick for any army but Garda de fier.

Like the hymn says, “Precious mem’ries, how they linger.” And if they’re not the precious kind, they linger about ten times longer. So before I get off on one of those “If only I had a time machine and a Mac-10” sidetracks, my original point there was: Anybody know any decent war movies, and more generally, how come there aren’t as many of them as great war books? Something about books just make it easier to do war? Because they say movies are “visual” and god damn, you’d think war was visual enough for anybody. So what went wrong when war met movies?
Anyway, time for a withdrawal from Hollywood, which is strategically worthless, and back to the library, where our cups runneth over. The first thing about your nominees I noticed is: Whoa, Italians wrote a lot of great WW II books! Actually, that tallies with what I said about war books: the more mismanaged the war, the better the books. Italy had a flighty loon in command, and his little whims sent soldiers flying around from Libya to Ukraine with no rhyme or reason, and it sure looks like a lot of them got a great book out of their miseries, at least.

My original nominee was Rigoni Stern’s book The Sergeant in the Snow, a great first-person story of fleeing the Don Pocket with the Alpini. A reader going by “Furioso” had another book on the same story, supposedly even better: Few Returned by Eugenio Corti. He mentions some of the best parts, and one sounds so great I had to order the book:

4) A bizarre battle – when a joint Italian/German attempt to breakthrough the Soviet encirclement, consists of a single huge Panther Tank ,accompanied by several small French 1930s captured Hotchkiss tanks and “Battaglione M “Italian assault troops – they were able to knock out and force a withdraw of a force of over 15 T34/76 medium tanks.

A lot of other Italian memoirs from WW II came up, like La Strada del Davai by Nuto Revelli, about a kid raised under Mussolini who gets slapped awake by what they do to him on the Eastern Front and comes home to be a Partisan. Ames told me that “Davai” is a Russian word, an all-purpose thing that’s sort of like “C’mon, c’mon” in English, so it can stand in for the whole POW of the Soviets experience. including one POW story, My Secret Diary by Giovanni Guareschi—and by the way, do you Italians have to have so much spelling in your names? Oh well, I guess an English speaker isn’t in too good a position to complain, because they say our spelling is the worst of all. But still: “Guareschi”? You want a bestseller, change your name to something easy like “Stephen King.”

It seems natural to me to include prison memoirs with war memoirs. That prison camp memoir, Empire of the Sun, is a very warlike book, especially because the English interned kid who’s the hero worships the Japanese Imperial Army that’s busy starving him to death. And war stories just naturally segue into POW stories, like in the wonderful comic books “Notes of Japanese Soldier in USSR” by Kiuchi Nobuo.

Kiuchi: And you thought being a Soviet POW would be no fun!

Kiuchi was captured in the Manchurian offiensive of 1945, and spent years as a POW in Soviet camps. I wrote about it in an article on the Soviet Union’s big East Asian campaign at the end of WW II.

Kiuchi draws in that same Anime/Hentai style you see on dirty Japanese blogs, so you expect the next panel will be a multi-pronged squid-woman getting it on with a decapitated Doberman or something, but that never happens. Instead he makes life in a Soviet POW camp into a sweet, funny little adventure. His chapter headings—and keep in mind, he’s describing forced labor in the Gulag—are so cheery it’s embarrassing; one’s called “World Is Full of Friends.” I don’t believe it for a second, but it’s impressive somebody could even make up a lie that brave.

You’ll notice not too many books by Japanese or German vets of WW II came up in your nominees or my list either. To be honest, I don’t think those books were allowed, or not until the last few years. Not in my world, anyway. There could be whole bookstores full of memoirs by Japanese Imperial soldiers and Wehrmacht survivors, but you don’t hear much about them in California. Somebody suggested a writer called Sven Hassel, who did something called Legion of the Damned (can’t say I like that title much) about life in an SS regiment and then an internment camp, and I remember that this movie The Iron Cross was based on a German WW II memoir by somebody named Willi Herman—maybe I’ve got his name wrong? But in general, it’s like we didn’t allow the Germans or Japanese to tell their stories unless they were full of groveling and we-were-lied-to stuff. Especially the Germans. The rule seems to be: If they’re going to tell us Anglos anything, it better be full of what a pastor would call Sincere Repentance and Acceptance of Sin. That’s why the few German memoirs that were nominated have titles like Legion of the Damned, I suppose, so we’ll know the memoir isn’t going to be all cheerful about kicking ass in the Wehrmacht. Same, I’d guess, with this other title about a Saxon-Transylvanian SS recruit, Balkan Nightmare. It has to be a nightmare or we don’t want those Jerries talking at all. Though to be fair, another reader nominated a German memoir with the simple title “Soldat” by Siegfried Knappe, so maybe there are some around without all the grimy apologies.

WW II German: Not apologetic enough

Me, I’m a bad person, already admitted that, but I have to say I’d like to see a memoir by some 100-year old Panzergrenadier with a terminal prognosis and nothing to lose called something like: Dunkirk: You Ran from Us Like Rabbits! I can’t do it in German, of course, but you get the idea. I’d bet money there’s a manuscript or two, or 500, out there just like that but it’ll take another ten years or so to be published.

The Japanese didn’t kill as many white Europeans as the Nazis so they get off easier, at least in the Anglo world (though I hear it’s not healthy to be a Japanese tourist in some parts of China even now). We’re willing to hear from them as long as they suffered, like in that Soviet POW camp of Kiuchi’s, and don’t dwell on their saltier days when every regiment had its sword-master trying for the beheading record. In fact somebody in the US published an amazing memoir with the hilarious title I Was A Kamikaze, by Nagatsuka Ryuji, which I reviewed long ago when eXiled was just eXile—the Pre-D Era, we call it.

That leaves the Russians. Now that’s an interesting case, when you have to look at it from California. On the one hand, they’re the evil Soviets (or they used to be); on the other, they’re the ones who beat the totally-evil, gold-standard-of-evil Nazis. It’s a head scratcher for a simpleminded publisher, and there don’t seem to be any other kind.

My impression is that there’s a huge, huge number of WW II memoirs from Soviet vets, but damn few of them ever made it into English translation because most Anglo war nerds are just too conservative, too anti-commie, to want to know. I’d bet money I’ve been missing out on some of the best war books ever written thanks to that damn bias. Personally—and here again, I’m a bad person, I admit it—I’d rather skip the Hollywood moral crap, on account of…oh, a bunch of reasons, like the media people who push it are the scum of the earth themselves, not to mention ignorant as a leaky radiator, and the more you look hard at empires the less moral range they seem to have…so for me, I’d rather have the best war stories without a big moral entrance exam. And that means listening to the Germans, the Japanese, and the Russians.

Luckily, since nobody knows exactly where to put Russians on the evil scale, you can get some Soviet oral histories from WW II in English. And let’s face it, Americans won’t read anything that isn’t in English. Swear to God, after they’ve been here ten years the damn Mexicans put “English Only!” stickers on their F-150s. It’s something in the dirt, I don’t know, but we can’t learn languages so it has to be in English. And that’s why I’m as grateful as the last Harki on the last boat out of Algiers to a reader goin’ by “Arras” for pointing us all toward this site that has a whole treasure chest, a whole lifetime of bliss down in my imaginary burrito-stocked bunker, full of oral histories by WW II Soviet vets. It’s like Al Santoli with extra snow. If you go to the site you just see the first paragraph or so of each man’s memories of the war, and they’re all great. It’s one of the big mysteries of the universe, in fact: how come everybody who went through a war can come up with a great book, but pro writers who’ve been training since kid-hood can’t write anything worth reading?

I’m almost done now and realizing how much I’ve left out, so forgive my manners and believe me, I’m grateful to everybody who wrote in on that blog or any of mine. I haven’t even got around to talking about the books you mentioned that I’ve read, though I was pretty humbled to find I hadn’t read more than a half-dozen of your nominees, and most of them Nam books: Chickenhawk, We Were Soldiers Once…And Young, Charlie Company, and Dispatches. Of’em all, the best by my reckoning is Chickenhawk. Robert Mason is just some kind of natural genius, and his book has maybe the best last line in the history of literature. (I’ll let you read it for yourself.)

But thanks to all of you, I’m ready to shuck off the jungle boots, and books, and buy some felt boots for the Grand Tour of the Eastern Front. As long as it’s in American.

Read more:, Gary Brecher, The War Nerd

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172 Comments

Add your own

  • 1. Bork bork bork  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:51 am

    I think war movies suck because they cost so much to make. If someone writes a great book it might be published even if it doesn’t have a nice moral ending because a publisher realizes it’s hot but nobody is going to make a movie for millions of dollars and then hope people with money will notice it.

  • 2. Onarag Dickshit  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:33 am

    For an unexpurgated look at the Strutting Teuton type, I’ll recommend “The Diary of a German Soldier” by Wilhelm Pruller.

    BTW: ‘Hassel’ was apparently a German vet, but his books are novels.

  • 3. pharris  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:36 am

    Try “No Picnic on Mount Kenya” about some Italian POWs in WW2 who escape the camp where they’re being held to climb Mt Kenya. Then back to the camp to wait for the war to end.

  • 4. Mudhead  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:38 am

    “Come and See” is a great war film. “Patton” isn’t bad, all things considered.

  • 5. Chas  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    “My Just War: The Memoir of a Jewish Red Army Soldier in World War II” by Gabriel Temkin. Despite being written and originally published by a Jew, this book does not address the “Holyhoax” hue and cry that is part and parcel of most other jewish war memoirs. It is simply the personal chronicle of a polish jewish refugee joining the Red Army and serving in a reconnaissance unit on the front lines to the conclusion of the war three years later. Except for his Polish Jewish background this account chimes in with what I remember my father telling me; it is an invaluable insight into life of the ordinary Red Army soldier in the bloodiest war ever fought on the face of this planet.

  • 6. DarthMacho  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:42 am

    Add ‘Volokolamsk Highway’ by Aleksander Bek to the list. Fictional novel about an Operation Barbarossa battle written by one of the guys who was there. Here’s a review.

    http://www.sovlit.com/volokolamsk/

    How about a conscientious objector memoir? ‘We Will Not Cease,’ by Archibald Baxter. A New Zealand pacifist is conscripted and sent to the trenches of WWI but refuses to follow orders or even wear a uniform. Starts off funny as his officers try tricking him into soldiering, then tragic as the British flat-out torture him. Here’s an online copy.

    http://www.nzetc.org/tm/scholarly/tei-BaxWeWi.html

  • 7. The Dark Avenger  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    Battleground is a notable exception, from our friend the Wiki:

    The film is notable for portraying American soldiers as vulnerable and human, as opposed to just inspirational and gung-ho. While there is no question about their courage and steadfastness, each soldier has at least one moment in the film when he seriously considers running away, schemes to get sent away from the front line, slacks off, or complains about the situation he is in. Battleground is considered to be the first significant film about World War II to be made and released after the end of the war.[2]

    This was in 1949, BTW

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battleground_%28film%29

    But in general, it’s like we didn’t allow the Germans or Japanese to tell their stories unless they were full of groveling and we-were-lied-to stuff.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hans_Hellmut_Kirst

    Literary career

    Kirst’s first novel was published in 1950, translated into English as The Lieutenant Must Be Mad. The book told of a young German officer who sabotaged a Nazi garrison.[1]

    Kirst won an international reputation with the series Null-acht, fünfzehn (Zero-Eight, Fifteen), a satire on army life centered on Gunner Asch, a private who manages to buck the system.[1] Initially conceived as a trilogy — 08/15 in der Kaserne (1954), 08/15 im Krieg (1954), 08/15 bis zum Ende (1955) — the three book narrative was expanded to five with the publication of 08/15 Heute in 1963 and 08/15 in der Partei in 1978. The series follows the career of Asch, a common man in an impossible situation, from the years before World War II, to the Eastern Front, and finally into the world of post-war Germany.

    The Gunner Asch series was published in English as: The Revolt of Gunner Asch (1955), Forward, Gunner Asch! (1956),[2] The Return of Gunner Asch (1957), What Became of Gunner Asch (1964), and Party Games (1980).

    Other major novels by Kirst set during the Third Reich and World War II include Officer Factory, about the investigation into the death of a training officer in an Officer School near the end of World War II, Last Stop, Camp 7, the story of 48 hours in an internment camp for former Nazis, The Wolves,[3] a tale of crafty resistance in a German village, and The Nights of the Long Knives, about a fictitious 6-man squad of SS hit men. All of these novels featured Kirst’s unique blend of deadpan humor and devastating satire, with leading characters often shown positioning themselves as outspoken, ardent Nazis during the Third Reich era before effortlessly flipping to become equally ardent in their claims to have been anti-Nazi and 100% pro-democracy or pro-communist, whichever was to their advantage, after the tide turned

    A lot of his stuff was published in English translation in popular paperbacks, I highly recommend “The Night of The Generals”.

  • 8. Korman643  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:43 am

    “Actually, that tallies with what I said about war books: the more mismanaged the war, the better the books.”

    True. Actually the most mismanaged Italian war EVER was the Greek campaign (the aggreement among veterans was that it was 100% more fucked up than Russia) and there’s a lot of (untranslated) great Greek campaign book

    Guareschi = Goo-ah-re-ski

  • 9. techno  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:48 am

    Great stuff, WN!

    My list of war favorites includes one that isn’t a wartime memoir at all. “The Arms of Krupp” by William Manchester tells the story of how the most enlightened steelmakers on planet earth wound up opening a factory next to Auschwitz.

    The other is “A Bright Shining Lie” by Neil Sheehan–the first truly great book on the clusterfuck that was Vietnam.

  • 10. tam  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:51 am

    The most interesting ww2 films I’ve seen are the films which were actually made during the war. They’re heavy on the propaganda, but that’s what makes them interesting.

    These include ‘went the day well’, an English film made in 1942 during WW2 when it a land invasion by the Germans looked likely. it’s about a village being infiltrated and taken over by the ‘Jerrys’, (no one uses the word ‘nazi’ at all) and was designed to prepare the public for this.

    Another one is ‘Wake island’, a film about a doomed effort by American soldiers to hold an island against the Japanese yellow hordes, which was rushed out just after Pearl Harbour.

  • 11. kovacs  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    Good war movies? Gillo Pontecorvo’s The Battle of Algiers.

  • 12. jon  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:17 pm

    If you’re looking for books by former Wermacht then ‘the forgotten soldier’ by Guy Sajer is very good, although there is a bit of controversy over whether it’s all made up or not.

    Also ‘Iron Coffins’ by Herbert Werner is a great memoir by a U boat commander who somehow survived the entire war.

  • 13. Karel  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:26 pm

    Recall reading a memoir of Brits in Singapore. At some point they managed to smuggle a SW radio into POW camp for news.

    The part that stuck in my memory was when the Japanese discovered the clandestine circle and interrogated them one by one, this one Brits cut out his own tongue for fear of betraying his friends. The writer played mind games with Japs when he felt close to breaking he would insult their culture and they would forget the purpose of the interrogation and just assault him.

    He served in British foreign office and lived till age of 84.

    Please can someone remind me of the title?

  • 14. Welshy  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:42 pm

    “in fact: how come everybody who went through a war can come up with a great book, but pro writers who’ve been training since kid-hood can’t write anything worth reading?”

    Easy. You can’t write well unless you’ve experienced well, and a lot of ‘trained’ writers are yuppies who have never lived through any event worthwhile enough to write about.

    Anyway, here’s another recommendation that you should all get hold of: A.F.N. Clarke’s Contact, which follows the British campaign in Northern Ireland during the 1970s, focusing on Belfast in 1973 and South Armagh in 1976. Due to the memoir’s honesty, it was heavily criticised by the establishment, which as you all know, is the best recommendation that can be given to a war memoir.

    Read a great review of the book on the UK amazon page:

    http://www.amazon.co.uk/Contact-F-N-Clarke/dp/0330282247

    After you have read that, watch Alan Clarke’s adaptation of the memoir. It’s the best war film I have ever watched due to it’s truth, something that is set aside in Hollywood junk such as Saving Private Ryan.

  • 15. Nate  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    I think the reason you don’t like war movies is you expect reality. It’s a fair expectation, but Hollywood doesn’t buy into that shit. If you like drama and Napoleon, The Duelists is fucking great.

  • 16. Svealander  |  April 17th, 2011 at 12:56 pm

    Regarding Japanese war memoirs, there’s a couple of parts in Haruki Murakami’s The Windup Bird Chronicles which are supposed to be recollections of a Kwangtung Army soldier. They’re fiction, but they make me think that the real thing probably exists in Japanese culture – remember, there’s no national guilt about WW2 over there, like there is in Germanhy nowadays.

  • 17. Guderian  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    ‘Come and See’ by Elem Klimov, a good war movie

    ‘Cross of Iron’ – Peckinpah

    Junoon (1979) by Shyam Benegal – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0077783/

    ‘The Bridge at Remagen’ (1969)

  • 18. bene  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:13 pm

    I’d say, and a lotta people are certainly gonna agree here, that the best war film is probably Generation Kill.

    Yeah, it’s not really so much a “film” but rather a 7-hour “miniseries”, but then again, Apocalypse Now Redux is a 4-hour monster just as well, and Generation Kill is still better. Why? Well, for one thing…how many times do people shit in that movie? I bet Generation Kill tops that score. Best indicator on the quality of war films: Number of times the combatants are shown taking a dump.

    Other than that, I don’t know….I liked Three Kings, such a nice allegory on the do-gooder motivation of the otherwise really dumb American war ablunders…and documentary-wise, I really liked Armadillo. Danes commiting war crimes and lying about it? Hilarious!

    But as far as WW2 is concerned…naw, no idea. Maybe Come And See, that Soviet piece, but then again….naw, don’t know. Probably too much lying about the war going on everywhere and no director really happy to challenge all that.

  • 19. Sean Renaud  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:15 pm

    Have you read The Things They Carried by Tim O’brien? He mixes other peoples stories, fictional stories and his own personal experience as an infantryman in Vietnam into a true but fictional account of a soldiers personal perspective of the war. To put it more simply it’s basically the story about a guy and his buddies fighting an irregular war where all things are surreal and rules do not apply, a mans life is governed by the next millisecond and the things he carries. If you haven’t already read this book, I implore you go to the library and pick it up, it’s an absolute brilliant read.

  • 20. Grulf  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:17 pm

    Only one I can name is Apocalypse Now, I guess.

    Long time since I saw it last time, but it had some good lines and points. You can’t win a war if your soldiers care more about bikinis than the actual struggle, that killing and torture of innocents ain’t “madness” if it’s for the “greater good” (Brando had some good monologue about how you have to kill “without passion”), etc.

    People often talk about it as anti-war, but I’m not sure I agree, because I saw it as “anti” everything that was stupid with the American counter-insurgency in Vietnam. What Brandos character said was that the US needed stonehard, immoral killers and torturers to win, rather than lots and lots of drafted grunts who cared nothing about SE Asia and just wanted to go home instead.

    But maybe that’s just my perverted war nerdy-interpretation of the film and what Coppola really wanted was to show everyone how war is “evil” because it forces us to become “evil” if we want to win. Or whatever. Either way , I guess it’s a good flick simply because you can interpret it both ways, unless most of the propaganda bullshit the war movie-factory spits at us.

  • 21. Doug  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    If I had to pick any movies that you might like Gary I’d go with “Waltz with Bashir” and “Lebanon.” Both are Israeli movies about the Lebanese war in the early 80s. After that they are pretty dissimilar. Both are pretty ambiguous on any moral message about war and don’t really fit into your standard Hollywood mold. They’re more about the experience of young Israeli conscripts on the ground.

  • 22. Mike  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:34 pm

    I’d recommend Abel Paz on the Spanish Civil War and Alexander Berkman on the US class war and the counter-revolution in the Soviet Union.

  • 23. Goddamned Useless Bastard  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:37 pm

    I can tell you that Cross of Iron (I think that’s the moview you’re groping for?)is definitely worth watching.

    Real dirty nasty flick. It figures that Sam Peckinpah’s only WWII movie would centre on the German army on the Ostfront. Not a man to pull his punches, Sam.

    Just great stuff – I won’t spoil it, but hopefully the words “Sam Peckinpah” “WWII” and “Eastern Front” should be enough to get you looking for it.

    Another pretty good one featuring Germans is The Blue Max (what is it about German war movies named after medals?). It stars George Peppard as a German infantryman who jumps to the flying corps.

    It’s a bit more of the Hollywood stuff, but not a single person in that movie has any redeeming qualities and watching everyone of these despicable yet charismatic buggers bounce off of each other is all the fun. Innocence is nowhere to be found.

    It also has some pretty fair depictions of combat. The movie’s old enough that they used real WWI planes for all the flying shots (other than the cockpit closeups).

    Give ’em a look if you can. Easily worth at least one watch. Especially Cross of Iron.

  • 24. Korman643  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:43 pm

    The “I Remember” site – good to see it getting a little publicity. Ten year ago it was probably the only source of original Russian WWII memoirs translated on the Net, now there are others, but this one is still the best.

    Nagatsuka Ryuji: strange (but not surprising) reading the Exile review to have to admit that the WN was wrong about the Japanese having completely lost it in terms of ability to suffer, discipline and cohesion – see what’s happening in Tohoku after the tsunami.

    Another little know and underrated entry in the WWII memories logbook “The Simple Sounds of Freedom”, the story of Joe Beyrle, only US serviceman who fought for the US and for the Red Army. It’s not a great book per se, but the Red Army chapters are amazing.

  • 25. Calda  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    Regarding WWII books by Germans, there’s a wealth of them. I have not read any of them, but I would think that “Stuka Pilot” by Hans-Ulrich Rudel might be just what you wanted.

  • 26. Mario_Croatia  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:52 pm

    You have to read Hassel, there’s no way you can translate those characters in a movie. I agree, book titles sound stupid and I’d never have read them if a friend of mine didn’t recommend them. They are not SS regiment – they are penalty regiment that gets all the shit-jobs you can imagine – from firing squad to deep recon behind Soviet lines (basically, they were all sentenced to death, and given a second chance as a cannon fodder). Stories are about everyday soldier life – they are cold blooded killers, they are hungry and cold, they steal and rape, they pick golden tooth’s from the dead and will kill their commanders if they have the chance. You would appreciate the way they take revenge after Siberian troops crucify one of their friends and let him scream all night.

  • 27. Stephen Cook  |  April 17th, 2011 at 1:54 pm

    I love how the War Nerd isn’t even trying to hide the fact that it’s really John Dolan. Dolan wrote an article awhile back praising all the same ‘Nam memoirs that ‘Brecher’ mentions. And once the War Nerd got into Brit bashing (Britain is the country that Dolan loves to hate) I knew for sure it was Dolan.
    As far as a good war movie goes, check out Mongol. No moralizing there. There’s also a great Russian one from the 1980s called Come and See that I recommend.

  • 28. Mario_Croatia  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:04 pm

    btw, they even try out IR sights on tanks in one chapter. I taught he was making it up, and than i found out that nazis really had those. Check it out http://www.achtungpanzer.com/german-infrared-night-vision-devices-infrarot-scheinwerfer.htm

  • 29. chanman  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:13 pm

    There are supposed to have been a few good Korean war movies in recent years.

    Speaking of shitty war = good books, you’d figure there must be some good ones buried in China/Taiwan from the whole warlords/Japanese/civil war deal.

  • 30. SPLUTZ  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:27 pm

    “The forgotten Soldier” by Guy Sajer is a good memoir of time on the eastern front in Gross Deutscheland… but yeah, pitifully few AXIS memoirs have made it to the english speaking world.

    Shame our Western publishing bias stops so many fascinating stories.

  • 31. Just An Australian  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:30 pm

    Lord Of The Rings… Cause in a fantasy you can live in a responsibility free zone

  • 32. Grün  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    > mostly sentimental crap, one of two kinds, either patriotic crap “Uh! I’m hit! Go on…without me, Sarge!” or peacenik sentimental crap

    Agree totally. I don’t disapprove of the moral propaganda, but I want to steer extremely damn clear of it myself.

    I would say the movie to see is The Thin Red Line, probably one of the best ten movies on any subject. It’s about a good ol’ Yanks-Japs doubleheader down at Guadalcanal Stadium. Has just a few moral moments, but they’re not about inculcuation – just one in a series of passing impressions used for artistic purposes, with one brief exception.

    However, some may find it a little on the gay side overall, I don’t know. I mean, it’s very passionate and sincere, it aims very high as art. For me it works – it comes out honest and clean thanks to great skill, so its overt emotion is not embarrassing.

  • 33. Grün  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    Seen it about 6 times, by the way. Wears very well.

  • 34. Piper7865  |  April 17th, 2011 at 2:47 pm

    A great war movie I recently came upon is a movie about a Soviet unit in Afghanistan it’s in Russian but is dubbed in English and can be found on youtube but it’s pretty damn good.

    Check the trailer
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FVB9Xz2DyME

  • 35. Jesse the Scout  |  April 17th, 2011 at 3:13 pm

    War movies usually suck because the intended audience doesn’t know anything about war. If you actually understand something with any depth the garbage produced to appeal to the masses is borderline unwatchable. Never wear armor if you ever find yourself in a pre-gunpowder movie, a casual whack in the chest with a longsword is lethal no matter how much mail or plate you have on. The peons want to see totally radical one hit kills with slow-mo decapitation blood spray, not actual combat.

  • 36. butters  |  April 17th, 2011 at 3:31 pm

    for movies try “under the fluttering military flag” by kinji fukasaku ( thats right, the ‘battle royale’ fukasaku )

  • 37. aUPfinn  |  April 17th, 2011 at 4:20 pm

    “The Boat is Full” inspired the movie “Das Boot”, I remember the author as Paul Buchheim though I may be wrong. “The Iron Cross” is a definitive classic and I have to agree with the War Nerd that we could use more war stories written by the losers; “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” comes to mind.

  • 38. Adam  |  April 17th, 2011 at 4:26 pm

    Red Cliff!

  • 39. ExOttoyuhr  |  April 17th, 2011 at 4:27 pm

    On the subject of German memoirs: no one seems to have mentioned Rudel (_Stuka Pilot_) or Guderian (_Panzer Leader_) in the Day 21 comments.

    Their memoirs are mercifully free of grovelling. Rudel, who you might have heard of as the Stuka pilot who sunk a battleship, was on the front lines for the whole war and never heard a peep about the Holocaust; Guderian, the inventor of blitzkrieg, was an old-style Prussian who gave Germany his best despite the fact that he was surrounded by idiots. If only _he_ could have been Fuehrer instead of that amoral maniac…

  • 40. J  |  April 17th, 2011 at 4:59 pm

    Take a look at “Heroes Fight Like Greeks, The Greek Resistance Against the Axis Powers in WWII”

  • 41. Michal  |  April 17th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    “Soldat” by Siegfried Knappe is a really good recommendation, I read it a bunch of times and it’s really well written, and clean of any needless moralising. I’d like to recommend it as well.

  • 42. Bradford C.  |  April 17th, 2011 at 5:20 pm

    If anybody wants to make a war movie with the right kind of hardware they have to clear the script with the Pentagon so they can have the hardware leased for free. So of course the Film Department won’t greenlight any production that isn’t patriotic war porn.

    The Soviets on the other hand produced great war films. Idi I Smotri still haunts my daydreams.

  • 43. J  |  April 17th, 2011 at 5:33 pm

    I think with movies, you are better off with documentaries that are sort of memoirs. Here is a clip of a British officer that was in Greece:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NrZWH9e1Xm0

    Some quotes:

    On parachuting into their location:
    All three of us dropped in different places. There was no way we could coordinate the place where we were going to drop. It actually took 10 days for Eddy Myers and myself to find each other.

    Figuring out how to get around:
    You simply didn’t realize, that in Greece, you don’t drive along motor roads, you walk over mountains.

    On relying on locals to assist the operation to blow up the bridge:
    The man in this case, to whom we owed that everything went right, was a delightful old Greek peasant called Barba Niko, and he had a genius for managing mules.

    On witnessing the bridge blow up:
    He wanted us to lie flat on the ground for the flying fragments. I couldn’t lie flat on the ground, cause I couldn’t bear to miss the scene.

    I don’t know which documentary this is from, but the clip is amazing.

  • 44. arras  |  April 17th, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    You’r wellcome.
    As for film, try this one: Kukushka (Cuckoo)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dow9SRj9A0g

    It’s Russian made about final days of WWII at Finish front. It’s about 3 people who do not understand language of one another. Finish sniper, Russian soldier and Lapp woman. Makes for lot of funny situations.

    It’s not really about fighting however. Which is probably why it is good. Once filmakers starts showing me “Tigers” made out of some old T-34 and carton, it tends to somehow spoil all the fun for me.

  • 45. required  |  April 17th, 2011 at 6:08 pm

    I suggest that war movies suck for the same reasons you blame for the preposterous puritanism in looking at our former enemies; there are tremendous political and ideological stakes at risk. Even pre- or sub- political, since war is the gold standard definition of masculinity and, it defines everybody for the rest of that generation, like a recovering soldier says in Regeneration (not a war movie properly speaking, but about Siegfried Sassoon’s time sorting himself out in the Scottish countryside, briefly depicts his sterling trench record that proves he wasn’t just a flake as well as various period trauma therapies like electroshock). Nobody can just shut up and show thins as they were, which is the dust-clouded conceit of the pornographic, racist, illiterate and inaccurate monstrosities Spielberg loosed upon the world with his shaky little camera: lots of people see the pseudo-newsreel thing going on and imagine this is nearly “it.”

  • 46. wengler  |  April 17th, 2011 at 6:16 pm

    The Lord of the Rings trilogy were pretty good war movies.

    War movies based on actual wars tend to suck because the narrative format is almost always the same: At home, Go to Basic, Go to War, Die or Come Back “changed”. The actual getting to the war is almost always the most aggravating part.

    They can be good if they focus more on one battle or certain aspects of warfare. ‘Enemy at the Gates’ was pretty good, though I heard ‘The War of the Rats’ that it was based on was better and they are both fiction.

  • 47. Ian  |  April 17th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I think that for a war movie to be good it has to have a realistic feeling to it. And realistic war is, I would imagine, disturbing, expensive, and technically difficult to put into film – easier for a vet to cast back into their own memories (verbatim or embellished) and set battle to the written word, to be enjoyed by the limited audience who has a stomach for such things, than for movie studios to set up a bunch of shots that more-or-less realistically show men sh_tting their pants and getting their limbs blown off.

    My favorite was movies: well, to be honest, my favorites are the Steven Spielberg/Hanks/Ambrose triumvirate, BOB/SPR/The Pacific. I got totally swept up in the stories and the characters, the production was impeccable (there was almost nothing I could point to and say: “that’s not accurate”), the morality was nuanced, and the battle scenes were (to my civilian eyes) gripping and realistic. I don’t care what the haters say, I will stand behind my love for all three of those productions.

    I loved “Master and Commander” – I used to wonder, was war on a sailing ship even something we could call combat, sounds more like a vacation to me. Well, after the adrenaline fear and violence of the battle scenes in that movie: now I know.

    I remember liking “Glory” and “Das Boot” when I saw them, all those years ago. Again, f the haterz, I loved, and still do love, George C Scott in “Patton”.

    I thought “Enemy At The Gates” (Soviet vs Nazi snipers at Stalingrad) was a little bit hollywood, but gripping, well-done, and well-researched/realistic. “Downfall” (Der Untergang) has I think deservedly become a classic for it’s intense and, again, well-done, portrayal of Hitler’s last days.

    I thought that the 2001 movie “No Man’s Land” (Ničija Zemlja – set in a trench during the recent Bosnian war) was great, thought-provoking, and a adrenaline rush. It explored moral issues (especially the ethics of do-gooder peacekeeping) without being preachy.

    Every single Vietnam movies I’ve seen was OK. Didn’t love any of em, didn’t hate any of em.

    Like Brechter loves the American Civil War, my thing has always been WW2 Pacific Theater. And, until “The Pacific”, I was bummed at how awful the movies were. “Windtalkers” was OK, but Clint Eastwood’s Iwo Jima movies were unrealistic white-guilt crap, pre-1985 movies are all annoyingly rah-rah and look dated, and I think I’d rather have my fingernails pulled out than watch “Thin Red Line” or “Pearl Harbor” again.

  • 48. Dave  |  April 17th, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    Waterloo by Sergei Bondarchuk is a great movie. Especially when you figure that there were something like 20,000 Soviet infantry serving as extras.

  • 49. Dejo  |  April 17th, 2011 at 6:50 pm

    http://www.amazon.com/I-Was-There-Puffin-Books/dp/014032206X
    http://www.amazon.com/Time-Young-Soldiers-Peter-Richter/dp/0006935214

    These are very engaging books I read when I was in school.

    http://www.amazon.com/Pretty-Village-Flame-Dragan-Bjelogrlic/dp/1572523026

    A rare film which has sentimental crap (because the director is an anti-warrior) and patriotic crap (because of the censors) that morphs into one of my all time favourite films.

    As far as finding good war film is concerned, have you tried playing war videogames? I could list all the good ones but I don’t wish to flood the comments section. I’ll list a few I’ve played recently.

    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Faction-Guerrilla-Pc/dp/B0014UGK4U
    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Faction-Guerrilla-Playstation-3/dp/B0014UGK8G
    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Faction-Guerrilla-Xbox-360/dp/B0014ULQB2

    I like this one a lot but not a lot of others do. It’s a very decent war game, as far as I’m concerned. Especially if you disregard the missions and decide to wage war against the EDF. Then it truly lives up to its title.

    http://www.amazon.com/Bladestorm-Hundred-Years-War-playstation-3/dp/B000HCJ6QU
    http://www.amazon.com/Bladestorm-Hundred-Years-War-Xbox-360/dp/B000Q7TGL6

    KOEI has made many good war/strategy games. This is one of its most recent ones. It’s a fictionalized (and, frankly, Japanified) version of the 100 Years’ War. You play as a mercenary.

    http://www.amazon.com/Metal-Gear-Solid-Patriots-Playstation-3/dp/B000FQ2D5E

    This is written by a guy who used to be a writer and (despite making a whole lot of other games) still hasn’t grasped the idea that a picture is worth a thousand words. This game, like most of his others, gets really surreal and melodramatic at times. Regardless, it’s definitely worth a play.

    http://www.amazon.com/Battlefield-2-Complete-Collection-DVD-Pc/dp/B000MRB8LQ

    This is a game without a campaign. It’s meant for multiplayer use but it has a decent singleplayer and bots. You can also go into the multiplayer menu then create a co-op game (a session with bots) and basically customize how you want to play. Also, if you do play find out all the abilities and correct controls of the commander.

    All in all, throughout two decades more good war games have been made than bad. Just try not to play any mainstream trash. (Those made by American companies that don’t realise that the Second World War and the Cold War are over. Though they usually still have amazing gameplay, regardless.)

  • 50. Warren Peterson  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:00 pm

    Must Read for Eastern Front: The Forgotten Solider by Guy Sajer and Deathride by John Moiser.

  • 51. Dejo  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:11 pm

    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BL281W
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000U850P2
    http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B001E27KTM

    (I forgot to add these. You need the first to play the last two.)

  • 52. JN  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:26 pm

    Since nobody seems to have mentioned it:

    Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger

  • 53. allen  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:39 pm

    The “Balkan Nightmare” guy had a hard time at the end of the War, and he did some pretty crazy and resourceful things to stay alive in the middle part, but I think the title owes mostly to this woman who “helped” him write it. She also wrote a kind of “Nazis bad” apologetic preface.

    In the actual book, it doesn’t seem like Umbrich regretted his war time experience at all. His daughter told me as well that he is actually almost insufferably proud of his the time he spent in the war to this day. Some Nazi creeps pres-ganged him into the service sure, but after that it was pretty much an adventure, and he came out alive.

    As to War Movies —

    My favorite is Full Metal Jacket. It was Kubrick’s attempt to “just make a war movie” not an anti-war movie or something like that. (That was Paths of Glory …)

    Very memorable, great perspective choices with the shots (like every Kubrick film.) It’s also told in a sort of abridged “war memoir” like style. In fact it was based off of a semi-biographical memoir called The Short-Timers.

    In general, I think books are a lot better at capturing War because they can get at that narrative/perspective aspect so much better. Most War movies are just a series of battles depicted on film interspersed with filler dialouge, meant to convince us that “hey, these are like ‘real’ people like you and me!”, which usually achieves the exact opposite.

  • 54. Zhlobko Yebic  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:58 pm

    This might be the kind of thing you’re looking for:

    A new German book that describes first person accounts by ww2 soldiers on the German side.

    http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,755385,00.html

    “The myth that the Nazi-era German armed forces, the Wehrmacht, was not involved in war crimes persisted for decades after the war. Now two German researchers have destroyed it once and for all. Newly published conversations between German prisoners of war, secretly recorded by the Allies, reveal horrifying details of violence against civilians, rape and genocide.”

    “The material that historian Sönke Neitzel uncovered in British and American archives is nothing short of sensational. While researching the submarine war in the Atlantic in 2001, he discovered the transcripts of covertly recorded conversations between German officers in which they talked about their wartime experiences with an unprecedented degree of openness. The deeper Neitzel dug into the archives, the more material he found. In the end, he and social psychologist Harald Welzer analyzed a total of 150,000 pages of source material. The result is a newly published book with the simple title of “Soldaten” (“Soldiers”), published by S. Fischer Verlag. The volume has the potential to change our view of the war.?

    It is March 6, 1943, and two German soldiers are talking about the war. Fighter pilot Budde and Corporal Bartels were captured by the British a few weeks earlier. The war is over for them, and it’s time to share memories.

    Budde: “I flew two spoiling attacks. In other words, we shelled buildings.”

    Bartels: “But not destructive attacks with a specific target, like what we did?”

    Budde: “No, just spoiling attacks. We encountered some of the nicest targets, like mansions on a mountain. When you flew at them from below and fired into them, you could see the windows rattling and then the roof going up in the air. There was the time we hit Ashford. There was an event on the market square, crowds of people, speeches being given. We really sprayed them! That was fun!”

    Two other pilots, Bäumer and Greim, also had their share of amusing experiences, which they described in a conversation with other soldiers.
    Bäumer: “We had a 2-centimeter gun installed on the front (of the aircraft). Then we flew down low over the streets, and when we saw cars coming from the other direction, we put on our headlights so that they would think another car was approaching them. Then we shot them with the gun. We had a lot of successes that way. It was great, and it was a lot of fun. We attacked trains and other stuff the same way.”

    Greim: “We once flew a low-altitude attack near Eastbourne . When we got there we saw a big castle where there was apparently a ball or something like that being held. In any case, there were lots of women in nice clothes and a band. We flew past the first time, but then we attacked and really stuck it to them. Now that, my dear friend, was a lot of fun.”

    Not unlike all of the cut-their-ears-off fun that the freedom fighters get up to in Afghanistan now, I suspect.

  • 55. KSR  |  April 17th, 2011 at 7:59 pm

    Stalingrad and Das Boot are excellent war films. Both are better in German with subtitles. I see someone already suggested The Battle of Algiers.

  • 56. Soj  |  April 17th, 2011 at 8:08 pm

    #1 Bork, Bork, Bork is right.

    If you want to write a book, literally all you need is paper and a pen or a typewriter (computer these days). The end.

    A movie requires a metric ton of money and the cooperation of hundreds if not thousands of individuals.

    Furthermore, the Pentagon has been running a grift since the 1940’s which goes like this – you can film scenes of jet fighters taking off from aircraft carriers (and other hardware) for “free” if they get the right to make sure your script portrays the military in a positive light.

    Therefore it’s nearly impossible to show any military hardware (and thus make a war film) without getting the Pentagon’s cooperation and you won’t get that unless you make it Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone aka Top Gun style rah-rah war ain’t it awesome and noble and Greatest Generation (TM) etc. You can build a few mock tanks for a set but that shit is expensive so most studios go for the “free” footage from the DOD.

  • 57. DocAmazing  |  April 17th, 2011 at 8:31 pm

    It’s a First World War memoir, and you undoubtedly have already read it twice, but Storm of Steel by Ernst Junger is a powerful pro-war book.

  • 58. rick  |  April 17th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    Mencken pointed out “idiots” can be charming, interesting and articulate talking about things they really know well–“idiot” in quotations since it redefines what “idiot” means (“stupid is as stupid ‘thinks'”). A professional writer might be talking about nothing–they have no thoughts or perspective on life to give voice to.

    It doesn’t win any War Nerd hipster points, but the “Downfall” movie is amazing, and accurate, and Hitler is the German De Niro:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7PmzdINGZk

  • 59. furioso  |  April 17th, 2011 at 8:50 pm

    hey thanks for adding my book rec ive been reading exile since the 90s

    once again ill add come and see-like a movie version of the painted bird (great historical fiction book)

    for german memoirs im guessing youve already read stuka pilot-if not its amazing

    marching into captivity-frenchg zuoave pow of the germans-some nice 1940 battles as well

    sea devils-borghese memoirs of creating the decima mass

    strategikon of maurice-byzantine mil manual that survived

  • 60. Ichi  |  April 17th, 2011 at 9:12 pm

    “In the name of concious” written by a Soviet defector. It’s got plenty of war in it.

    “Fighting in hell” a Soviet perspective on going at the Afgans.

  • 61. Tropicalcancer  |  April 17th, 2011 at 9:13 pm

    Another WW2 German memoir;
    “The First and the Last” by Adolf Galland(second to Goering, if I recall correctly).
    Was the first german account I read. Still haven’t found a better one.

  • 62. Destro  |  April 17th, 2011 at 9:21 pm

    No love for “Full Metal Jacket”? I also think “Pork Chop Hill” is a forgotten gem of a war movie. I don’t think “Apocalypse Now” is actually a war movie. I do think “Apocalypse Now” sort of predicted the wars in Africa that started in the 80s and 90s from Liberia to the Congo which makes sense because it was based on “Heart of Darkness” which was a work of fiction based around the real Belgian Congo horrors.

  • 63. Tall Saul  |  April 17th, 2011 at 9:22 pm

    Soldat is worth checking out. Yes, it is full of the “We were lied to” But you could tear out the beginning, and tear out everything after 1942, and you would have a pretty cheerful account of the invasion of Czechoslovakia and France, if that is your preference.

    I read this one a long time ago, but it has stuck with me as the one piece of ww2 fiction from the german point of view that was positively giddy during moments of the war. But hey, how could any german soldier get away with writing a memoir that didn’t bow and scrape, unless he was getting published by national aryan alliance off a printing press in arkansas?

    I think you got to take what you can get, and make like Jefferson by razoring out the parts of the german memoirs that fulfill the mandatory bowing and scraping.

  • 64. WN reader  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:01 pm

    Does “Lord of War” pass as a war movie?

  • 65. Benito Blanco  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    The Wind that Shakes the Barley by Ken Loach.
    A great movie about the Irish rebellion/civil war but its themes are universal to irregular warfare. But since it’s a Loach film, it’s a bit too sentimental about the commies.

    Book: The Underdogs (Los De Abajo)by Mariano Azuela. A great (and short) read about the Mexican Revolution. A doctor full of revolutionary ideals hooks up with rebels and figures out they’re really just banditos.

  • 66. furioso  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:29 pm

    also im sure you have seen bbc “the world at war” (over 20 pts)

    this docs got lots of interviews with ww2 politicians and commanders who were still alive in the 1970s-who are gone now-its quite ghostly

    bbc also made similar ones “great war ans “spanish civil war”

    some other good books

    -ww1- storm of steel

    -the last 100 days about soviets advance

  • 67. Guderian  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:34 pm

    War nerd is somewhat off when he says that there are not many books written by german eastern front veterans available. A cursory search found these four at Amazon –

    The Forgotten Soldier [Paperback]
    Guy Sajer

    In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front (Modern War Studies (Paper)) [Paperback]
    Gottlob Herbert Bidermann

    Blood Red Snow: The Memoirs of a German Soldier on the Eastern Front [Paperback]
    Gunther K Koschorrek (Author)

    Panzer Commander: The Memoirs of Colonel Hans von Luck

  • 68. Judah Maccabee  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    Come and See (as mentioned several previous times) is very good. As is the Liberation series which chronicles a group of Russian soldiers fighting Nazis from 1942-1945 in three seperate films ending in a brutal movie about the Battle of Berlin.

  • 69. subzero  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    It’s been mentioned above but I have to nominate Stalingrad, the German version.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108211/

  • 70. Grün  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:48 pm

    Personally I didn’t appreciate:

    Das Boot
    Come and See
    Untergang/Downfall
    Letters from Iwo Jima
    Flags of our Fathers

    …wouldn’t see them again. Definitely like Saving Private Ryan, and again Thin Red Line. That miniseries Band of Brothers was pretty good, so was Generation Kill. Apocalypse Now, fantastic.

    As for documentaries, why Ken Burns US Civil War of course. You’ll find a six-hour docu free on google about the Spanish Civil War, very competant, not enthralling (might sink in better the second time), but I appreciate a long docu – lot of detail.

  • 71. Grün  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:50 pm

    What’s that other Kubrick one, Paths of Glory? Didn’t like it.

  • 72. Guderian  |  April 17th, 2011 at 10:56 pm

    an amazing story is that of an eastern front german pow named cornelius rost. this guy escaped from a gulag in the north-eastern part of siberia near the bering straits. his escape lasted three years before he finally reached iran. i saw a movie on that ‘as far as my feet will carry me’.
    but the story of such an escape is so amazing (think trudging through vast siberian wastelands), i still find it hard to believe
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornelius_Rost

  • 73. Tall Saul  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:05 pm

    Whoa, did not mean to call ‘Soldat’ fiction. This guy’s stuff has been backed up by others. I meant ‘memoir’. And no, I am not trying to be a jerk.

  • 74. Kozmund  |  April 17th, 2011 at 11:58 pm

    For fun, I’m going to throw out there Emir Kusturica’s “Underground” as a brilliant war film, though probably not exactly in the sense you’re looking for.

  • 75. burp  |  April 18th, 2011 at 12:14 am

    Strange that no one mentioned “A Bridge too far” yet. It has no propaganda and no bullshit heroics. In my opinion one of the best WW2 movies.
    “The Longest Day” is also very good.

  • 76. BOHICA  |  April 18th, 2011 at 12:20 am

    איזו חבורה של המזוין דרעק. את הסדרה כולה היא פאפ ילדותי מילדה שמנה מי נשאר ילד שמן. מזל טוב שמוק

  • 77. NIB  |  April 18th, 2011 at 2:22 am

    Did anyone nominate Devil’s Guard, by George Robert Elford? Both a WWI and a Vietnam (or French Indochina) memoir in one. Its debatable whether its a true account or not, but the ex-French foreign legionnaires I’ve spoken to about it certainly acknowledged that there were a LOT of old guys with German accents in the legion, especially the paratroops.

  • 78. gc  |  April 18th, 2011 at 2:35 am

    It’s not exactly a war movie, but you’d probably like the way The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly depicts war, if you haven’t already seen it. (Also by Italians!)

    It’s obviously not a patriotic movie, but it’s not anti-war either; the main characters don’t really have an opinion on the Civil War, except that it’s annoyingly complicating their treasure hunt, and that they occasionally feel sorry for the soldiers.

    And there are at least two scenes that fit in well with the points you usually make in these articles.

    1. The scene where Union and Confederate soldiers are fighting for control of a bridge, and the Union commander explains that the one thing they agree about is that nobody’s allowed to hurt the bridge.

    2. “God’s on our side because he hates the Yankees!” “God’s not on our side because he hates idiots too.”

  • 79. Lysyi  |  April 18th, 2011 at 2:41 am

    There are few good WW2 books even in Russia and in Russian. In Soviet times only books with ‘good ideology’ could be released. Unfortunately all of them portray unnatural black-and-white world and full omission and simply lies. This attitude continues to date to some extent. Personally I find only one war book to be good, recently released memoires of Golitsyn, scion of aristocratic family who served in some auxilliary bridge-building unit. He didn’t carry weapons himself but described very realistically what was it all about

    http://www.ozon.ru/context/detail/id/4944371/

  • 80. Korman643  |  April 18th, 2011 at 3:21 am

    “No Picnic On mt. Kenya” +1
    Gabriel Temkin “My Just War” +1
    “Soldat” +1 but the most honest German war memoir I’ve ever read is “In Deadly Combat: A German Soldier’s Memoir of the Eastern Front” by Gottlob Biedermann. If you ever want to read a German soldier view of the EF, read this one.

    And while I’m here, if you’re into the Eastern Front as I am/was, make sure you read everything published by Modern War Studies, David Glantz’s publishing company, and of course all Glantz’s books on the subject. I know, the prose of the earliest stuff is pretty much a slog, but he got far better on editing the later stuff, and the so called Stalingrad Trilogy is positively great. Well, any Glantz is great actually, but the Stalingrad books are outstanding.

    War Movies (there are a lot of interesting ones, if you look away from Hollywood) here’s few of my favourites, but there are dozens of others:

    Idi I Smotri: already mentioned in the other thread and I agree with anyone thinking is an absolute masterpiece.

    War & Peace (1968): I known JD doesn’t like the book, but the movie is just great, most expensive movie ever made and every ruble is on screen. The Borodino re-enactment is 1:1 scale, original battlefield and (reportedly) live ammunitions! Just great

    7 Samurai: greatest movie ever about the essence of making war, Sun Tzu meets Steinbeck. And the battle scenes are fabulous.

    Italiani Brava Gente: you may see few sequence in Youtube if you look for it – it’s a oddball Italian-Soviet co production of 1965, that was distributed at one point in the US with the title “Attack And Retreat”. I believe is the only east-west movie on the Eastern Front that was shot in the original battlefields and with most of the original hardware. There’s even Peter Falk in it, doing a cameo. Is not a masterpiece, and not totally accurate, but is a good movie.

    Fires on Plain: It’s a Japanese movie about the total moral/physical collapse of an infantry unit in the Philippines. Very gruesome and sick for its age.

    Profession of Arms (Il Mestiere Delle Armi): the best movie EVER on Renaissance warfare, accurate in every bit, shot in winter Bulgaria, about the last 10 days of life of Giovanni Delle Bande Nere, the last “capitano di ventura” (mercenary warlord) in its futile attempt to stop the Imperial Landschrekt forces hell bent on attacking and sacking Rome. Beautiful and haunting, you’ve to watch this one.

    I see someone quoting Kinji Fukusasku, one of my favourite director ever (almost everyone of his movies are worth watching), “Under The Flag Of the Raising Sun” is AWESOME.

    And back to books – why no one is quoting my favourite war novel (semi autobiographical) ever, the great “Short Timers” by Gus Hasford? The follow up “Phantom Blooper” is even better (you may read it for free in Gus memorial website)

  • 81. T.B.  |  April 18th, 2011 at 3:43 am

    The Rape of Nanking is a good war documentary, providing the hideous details of Japanese atrocities comitted against the Chinses during WWII.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YoW2WYdOsvg

  • 82. FOARP  |  April 18th, 2011 at 4:13 am

    “I Flew For The Fuhrer” by Heinz Knoke – Luftwaffe pilot with 50+ confirmed kills who does the expected job of denying any knowledge of the Holocaust, good read though.

    “Panzer Battles” by Friedrich von Mellenthin – awesome account of the war on the eastern front by a general of panzers published during the 50’s. Basically unapologetic, and spends a good chapter telling the readers how we need to gear up for war with Russia and exactly how such a war should be fought.

    “Inside Third Reich” by Albert Speer. Interesting account of how this man single handedly turned around the Nazi war industry whilst having little/nothing to do with war crimes. Some of it may even be true.

    In fact, if I had to say what the common thread of German wartime biographies was, it is not contrition, but apologism and denial. But then perhaps I have been reading different memoirs.

    “Eastern Approaches” by Fitzroy Maclean. An account of pre-and-during WWII spy exploits by an SOE agent who spent much of the war in Yugoslavia. Great tale that just rips along.

    “The Good Soldier Svejk” by Jaroslav Jacek. I can’t believe that no-one has mentioned this book yet.

    As for films, “Pork Chop Hill” is about as good a film as Hollywood will ever make about the Korean war, but “Taegukgi: The Brotherhood of War”, a South Korean film, is much better.

    As far as Chinese films go, there a few which are awesomely propaganda-tastic. “Landmine Warfare”, the story of a group of Communist insurgents fighting an IED war against the Japanese, is brilliant because not only is it exactly how a 10-year-old would imagine such a conflict, but it also does a fair job of teaching the viewer everything you need to know about conducting guerilla warfare. “Assembly” is a latter film, but actually not that bad.

  • 83. RRB  |  April 18th, 2011 at 4:18 am

    Hey War Nerd,

    you may want to check out Antony Beevor’s “A Writer at War. Vasili Grossmann with the Red Army 1941-1945”.
    It’s not a conventional war book, Beevor has just put in order the notes Grossmann took while visiting the battle zones.
    Grossmann was an embedded journalist following some of the most important battles of the Eastern Front and wrote down some interesting thought.

  • 84. Jim Dawes  |  April 18th, 2011 at 4:35 am

    Viet Nam: Go Tell the Spartans 1964 era.

  • 85. Ivan  |  April 18th, 2011 at 5:05 am

    Good war movies.

    Here’s where the Euros come to the rescue, Brecher. If you’re prepared to step outside the comfort of US cinema and even face a barrage of subtitles, there’s a good handful of European war movies.

    Here’s a list, off the top of my head:

    Two Men Went to War (British, and a true story)

    Alatriste (Spanish. The only film showing the glorious battle of Rocroi, and historically very accurate)

    Uomini Contro (Italian, World War I. brilliant, and ends with an execution in a quarry. Haunting scene)

    Sluga Gosudarev (The Sovereign’ Servant – Russian. Excellent, in that original Russian cinema way. Poltava and all that)

    The Duellists (Ridley Scott’s last good film before he started producing nonsense. Not a “war movie” per se, but shows something rare in cinema: an accurate reconstruction of conditions during Napoleon’s retreat from Moscow.)

    Il Mestiere delle Armi (Italian. Shows the last five days of the last great condottiero, Giovanni de’ Medici. This film deserves to be worshipped. What more can I say?)

    Le Capitaine Conan (French. And the ONLY French film with the message: Some men actually LIKE war. World War I and the period immediately following it, when a French expeditionary corps was sent to fight the communists in Bulgaria)

    The rest you probably know (Stalingrad, Master and Commander, Waterloo, The Charge of the Light Brigade….)

  • 86. Ilona  |  April 18th, 2011 at 5:23 am

    No fukken apologies!

    Lauri Törni aka Larry Thorne is known as the soldier who fought under three flags: Finnish, German (when he fought the Soviets in World War II) and American (where he was known as Larry Thorne) when he served in U.S. Army Special Forces in the Vietnam War.

    Cleverley, J. Michael: Born a Soldier, The Times and Life of Larry Thorne
    2008, Booksurge,ISBN 9781439214374
    Gill III, H. A: The Soldier Under Three Flags
    1998, Pathfinder publishing, ISBN 0-934793-65-4
    Kallonen, Kari – Sarjanen, Petri: Legenda – Lauri Törni, Larry Thorne
    2004, Revontuli Publishing Co., ISBN 952-5170-38-1

  • 87. Stefano  |  April 18th, 2011 at 5:23 am

    Obviously, the best WWII movie is “Das Boot”: wins hands down over any amount of Hollywood tripe à la Spielberg.
    So the Nerd should be happy as it also deals with the baddies.
    The script is fictional but the original book by Buchheim is largely based on personal experience; and the movie makes it clear that a WWII submarine became a death trap if, after the torpedo attack, the opponent had the time to stop and hunt him. so it was really a shitty situation even at the zenit of U-boot fortunes..

    “Come and see” is really terrific but not really a war movie. Combat sequences of “The thin red line” are very good too, especially when they show what happens when a) you let them sneak on your bunker and, b) what surprise really means, especially when your opponents have overwhelming firepower.
    And speaking of Japs, “Letters from Iwo Jima” is also a good, if at time sentimental movie. So those movies collectively rank a deserved 2nd place.

    And of course, aside of WWII, the second half of “Full Metal Jacket” is also very good and annihilates the Spielberg/Ambrose stuff. You don’t see your enemy, don’t see his bullets and don’t hear the one expressly reserved for you.

  • 88. chicken_no_name  |  April 18th, 2011 at 5:40 am

    Most of the posts here are about WW2 books, but one of the best war books or any type of books for that matter I’ve ever read was “All quiet on the western front” (Im Westen Nichts Neues) by Erich Maria Remarque, a fictionalized account of the author’s experiences (limited, because he was wounded soon after he mobilized) in the trenches of WW1.

    Keep away from the original translation by Wheen, it is really crappy, as if the translator didn’t properly understand either German or English. The new translation (Murdoch) is a lot better. This book is usually touted as an anti-war book, notably by the Nazis, who banned, burned and did other unspeakable things to it (like Guilliotining the author’s sister, out of spite). I did not experience it as anti-war at all. What is described is just not that pleasant, that’s all. If that’s anti-war, well, so be it.
    In a similar vein, from the other side of the conflict, Robert Graves’ autobiography “Goodbye to all that” is also a brilliant war book, although only a part of the book is about his time in the war.

    Thanks everyone for all the posts, this will keep me busy reading for a while!

  • 89. cog  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:17 am

    I would recommend, seems weird maybe, Gulag by Soljenitsine. Especially the first half you get a glimpse of WWII from the Russian side and an extensive description of those russians who fought from the german side.

  • 90. cog  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:18 am

    ..and I would also recommend the comic book “White death”, WWI from the Italian perspective in the Alps…

  • 91. bvir  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:21 am

    Most war movies — are actually battle movies:
    Go tell the Spartans, The battle of the Neretva, Stalingrad, Tora tora tora, the 317th section, etc.

    For one movie that really explores all aspects of war, including rationing, black markets, hunger, propaganda, martial law, counter-guerilla, prisoners camps, bullying in military barracks, endless marches through hostile territory, harrowing retreats of defeated armies, and, yes, monumental battle scenes, have a look at “The human condition” by Masaki Kobayashi, depicting the situation on the Chinese front under Japanese occupation.

    In the same vein, “Ballad of a soldier” by Grigori Chukhrai, for the Russian front.

    In both cases, battle scenes occupy a relatively small part of the movie — which is actually realistic. Most of the action deals with the apparently mundane, but so fundamental tasks: finding food, moving around, flying from bombardments, trying to escape the general chaos, etc.

  • 92. Nolan  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:35 am

    I agree with “Come and See” as probably the best World War II movie; it figures that the Soviets would fund a much more honest film than anything Hollywood would ever consider throwing money at.

    On an unrelated note one of my all time favourite war biographies is “Fire From the Mountain” (La montana es algo mas que una inmensa estepa verde) by Omar Cabezas, about his experience as a Sandinista guerilla in Nicaragua. It gives a great view of just how tedious guerilla warfare can be – much more walking around and dealing with infections than fighting here, and while the author may be idealistic, he has a sense of humour.

  • 93. Till  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:43 am

    If you include POW experience, and other wars than WW2, I hereby nominate Ernst von Salomon.
    He was born in 1902. After WW1, in which he was too young to participate, he joined a Freikorps, the closest thing that Germany had to “insurgents”, due to his ire about the terms of the Versailles treaty and the events preceding it. The stories he tells are fascinating, because they shed some light on what motivates an 18-year-old kid to move out and go killing people. They are also well written and – sometimes – hilariously funny.
    In 1923, von Salomon participated in the assassination of then German foreign minister Rathenau; not because he was a Jew, but because he admired him as the best man in the Weimar Republic, which he and his co-conspirors hated. As far as I remember, he dedicated a book to Rathenau.
    He had some problems in the Third Reich, basically because he considered Hitler not to be National Socialist enough. Long story.
    After WW2, he was interned in a prison camp and wrote an enormously pissed off and indignant novel about his experiences.

    Von Salomon is definitely not groveling.

  • 94. independentmuff  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:46 am

    There was a book called I think “I flew for the Fuhrer” that from memory was remarkably
    free of “Oh yeah sorry about that little mess” and much more “Shot down 8 Lancasters in a single night mission and proudly watched them burn”
    Came out in the 60s I think

  • 95. Tommo  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:31 am

    Gary, look up a website called Porta’s Kitchen for more info on Hassel

  • 96. Slammer  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:57 am

    Try this one for size Gary.
    Die Brücke, the bridge.
    It was compulsory watching at school and has been giving school-kids the shits since 1956, very watchable even today.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0052654/

    or “der Untergang”
    Just found out it is called downfall in English.
    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0363163/

  • 97. Tomioka  |  April 18th, 2011 at 8:13 am

    I know it is fiction and I know it is not about infantry and bloody hand-to-hand fighting, but Len Deighton’s “Bomber” is my favorite WW2 book. Excellently researched, it paints a very detailed and realistic portrait of 24 hours around a raid of British strategic bombers against a small German town and the night fighters (and their superiors) tasked defending the Reich. The first half is a bit slow, but once the planes take off you have protagonists dying off left and right.

    The BEST book _about_ warfare is “War Before Civilization” by Lawrence H. Keeley. Man, it’s pure scripture! It provides background into that irregular warfare thing we all love so much. And the ongoing “pacification of the past”/”war is abnormal” in today’s mindset.

  • 98. raegan butcher  |  April 18th, 2011 at 8:30 am

    Robert Mason is a great writer. He will be pleased that you chose his book over those others! He is the real deal.

  • 99. MJ  |  April 18th, 2011 at 8:32 am

    The Beast is a pretty good war movie.

  • 100. Steve  |  April 18th, 2011 at 8:32 am

    Have you seen “The Winter War (Talvisota)”. War against the Soviets from the view of the Finns. It was so hopeless but it does a good view of life as a small village grunt tossed into it.

    When I was a teen I read a book supposedly by a German who’d spent the war in a Penal Battalion. I don’t remember the title and it might have been all made up. It did contribute to my decision not to be drafted back when the US had it. The hero side is cool but the dead/maimed side sucks.

  • 101. Ivan  |  April 18th, 2011 at 10:00 am

    Totally forgot “La 317e Section”! Thanks for the reminder.

    Brilliant movie in every way:
    The young good-looking lieutenant dies in the end. We don’t even see him die.

    The tough sergeant, veteran of the Wehrmacht, dies in the end credits (we learn that he died in the Algerian war in 1960).

    The Vietnamese are shown like the detached, couldn’t-give-a-fuck-who-wins people that they are.

    And then there’s the famous quote (my translation): “So what? Yes I was in the German army, and it annoyed me. But still….Smolensk, Voronezh, Kursk, Karkhov….god damn.”

  • 102. Ganryu  |  April 18th, 2011 at 10:34 am

    I myself enjoyed Full Metal Jacket. Of course, I got war movies for free, so to speak, since my entire family had survived the war. PTSD was the norm, and you just drank and knew that you and your friends survived it. No big whoop. Walking 800+ miles to leave the old soviet empire and end up in a Displaced Persons camp for 6 yrs. In the meantime, both grandfathers getting “volunteered” for the German army, and subsequently captured by the Americans and British, who starved them by the way. Should a guy who’s 5’8″ really be 110 lbs? Anyway, they survived, kept smoking and drinking and ended off OK. After hearing all this stuff, I’m actually surprised they weren’t more fucked up than they were. Anyway, the truths of that experience could never be made into a movie.

  • 103. Korman643  |  April 18th, 2011 at 11:21 am

    @Ivan: “Il Mestiere delle Armi This film deserves to be worshipped. What more can I say?”

    He he, well said – sounds like we’re members of the same tribe, dear Ivan. It’s an absolutely awesome movie. Puts so many thing into a well constructed but finite space. Including showing the same war both in the human, military and political level, and showing how politics and economy always decide the outcome of wars. And the De Medici outburst of rage against the lieutenant of the Mantova gate, when he discovers he’s been cheated, is a great scene.

    Another great war movie – actually a Japanese anime: Hotaru No Haka (The Grave of the Fireflies), about the slow death for starvation of two children after the Kobe firebombing. Unbelievably depressing but great.

  • 104. Iain Coleman  |  April 18th, 2011 at 11:47 am

    Attack! (1956), starring Jack Palance, is a fine little movie. Not so much “War is Hell” as “officers are assholes”, and made without DoD assistance as the story was too unflattering to the military.

    Stalingrad, definitely. Apocalypse Now is a fine film, but I’m not sure it’s really a war movie.

    Two British TV series are worth hunting down: Tenko and Wish Me Luck. Tenko deals with the experiences of women in Singapore who are captured and spend years in a Japanese prison camp. Grim stuff, well observed. Wish Me Luck primarily follows the female civilians recruited into SOE and parachuted into France to fight for the Resistance. It doesn’t pull its punches.

  • 105. my talkative ringpiece  |  April 18th, 2011 at 12:16 pm

    #37 “Das Boot” was a book before it was a movie, I’ve read it.

    Has anyone mentioned Full Metal Jacket? The 2nd, Vietnam, half is great but where it really shines is the depiction of Basic – anyone who’s been through it won’t be able to suppress a smile (and want to slap Fatbody around a bit themselves).

  • 106. seebee  |  April 18th, 2011 at 1:01 pm

    Most of my favourite war movies have been mentioned but I can think of one more that’s been left out: Sergio Leone’s “Duck, You Sucker!”

    I also like Len Deighton’s other WWII book “Winter”.

  • 107. Karel  |  April 18th, 2011 at 1:08 pm

    book: At thy call we did not falter

    http://www.defenceweb.co.za/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=578&Itemid=397

    Contemporary

  • 108. Ivan  |  April 18th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    We all forgot “Guns at Batasi” and RSM Lauderdale’s EPIC thirty-second summary of African decolonisation.

  • 109. warnerdfan  |  April 18th, 2011 at 1:44 pm

    I know great German books about WWI. Very famous is “In Stahlgewittern” (Storm of Steel) by Ernst Jünger and “Im Westen nichts Neues” (All Quiet on the Western Front) by Erich Maria Remarque. The first one is considered to be more pro-war while the later (a novel) is considered anti-war. That’s why “Im Westen nichts Neues” was banned by the Nazis. But I think the contrast pro-/anti-war is a great illustration of the between-war situation in Germany.

  • 110. CensusLouie  |  April 18th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    It’s really hard to think up a good war movie that doesn’t fall into one of the two categories you listed. You already mentioned Iron Cross, which was good because it focused mainly on the asshole weasel officers out to climb the ladder (war or peace, middle management never changes).

    Everyone’s mentioned Winter War, which threw thousands of actual Russian conscripts into the production.

    I assume you already know about the Zulu movies (Zulu and Zulu Dawn), which fit right in with your recent British Empire article. Both movies make the (native) Zulus out to be upstart savages meanly picking on the poor (invader) Brits who are just out for a Sunday stroll.

  • 111. Ganryu  |  April 18th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    @103 “Another great war movie – actually a Japanese anime: Hotaru No Haka (The Grave of the Fireflies)”

    Oh yes!! Shit, I still cry at even the thought of that movie. It was based on the director’s own experiences during WWII.

  • 112. j j  |  April 18th, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    Diary of a U-boat commander – a 1st world war German memoir as e-book:

    http://www.gutenberg.org/ebooks/7947

  • 113. ANZAC  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:09 pm

    My book preference is the one about the Russian Tank Rider who documented his 3 years of operations up until he was wounded in the Battle for Berlin. Considering tank riders had a life expectancy of 3 weeks, it makes good reading.

    Another good book for the more hardware junkies is the unit diaries of Heavy Anti-Tank Unit # 634 (from flaky memory) that used the Ferdinand/Elefant SP guns. It shows that they were far more effective than Allied propaganda made them out to be and skillfully used 3 vehicles would wipe out entire Russian T-34 Tank Regiments. Later the unit was re-equipped with Jagd-Tigers.

    For movies, since ANZAC day is approaching (April 25), how about the entire mini-series of ANZACS. I don’t mean the half-assed movie length version but the full 10+ hour mini-series. For a 1980s series, it has very high production values, and has the historical accuracy we normally associate with Band Of Brothers and The Pacific. The only notable use of stand-ins are German Mausers used by the Turks (close enough that only real detail spotters would notice), and the Mark IV tanks is a mock-up, but a damned good external look-alike.

  • 114. Zorg  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:21 pm

    I’d recommend reading “Charley’s War”, an awesome comic about a British soldier during WWI. Charley’s a working-class kid who signs up and ends up in some of the most interesting happenings on the western front, including becoming a sniper and getting off a few potshots at Cpl. Hitler, and taking part in a mutiny at a training camp. The only real bad guys in the story are the incompetents in command, and the nearest thing to a villain in the whole story is a degenerate officer in the British officer corps.

    As for movies, I’d recommend “Fixed Bayonets!”, directed by Sam Fuller. It’s about an American company during the Korean War, right about when they were getting their teeth knocked out by the Chinese. The company is chosen to be sacrificed to cover the retreat of several divisions (or brigades or whatever, I can’t remember exactly). It came out in 1951, when the war was still happening, and some of the cast and crew had actually served over there so it comes off pretty realistically. The ending is pretty grim too (SPOILERS follow) as the survivors just cross a river at night time and stumble into an Allied patrol. They just lived through some pretty harrowing shit, and they’re probably in for a lot more. No “Saving Private Ryan” hooray-we-can-go-home-now bullshit here.

  • 115. Zorg  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:25 pm

    I’d recommend reading “Charley’s War”, an awesome comic about a British soldier during WWI. Charley’s a working-class kid who signs up and ends up in some of the most interesting happenings on the western front, including becoming a sniper and getting off a few potshots at Cpl. Hitler, and taking part in a mutiny at a training camp. The only real bad guys in the story are the incompetents in command, and the nearest thing to a villain in the whole story is a degenerate officer in the British officer corps. Pat Mills, the writer, interviewed a lot of veterans, so even thought it’s fiction there’s a lot of true stuff that comes through.

    As for movies, I’d recommend “Fixed Bayonets!”, directed by Sam Fuller. It’s about an American company during the Korean War, right about when they were getting their teeth knocked out by the Chinese. The company is chosen to be sacrificed to cover the retreat of several divisions (or brigades or whatever, I can’t remember exactly). It came out in 1951, when the war was still happening, and some of the cast and crew had actually served over there so it comes off pretty realistically. The ending is pretty grim too (SPOILERS follow) as the survivors just cross a river at night time and stumble into an Allied patrol. They just lived through some pretty harrowing shit, and they’re probably in for a lot more. No “Saving Private Ryan” hooray-we-can-go-home-now bullshit here.

  • 116. Cleverpseudonym  |  April 18th, 2011 at 6:36 pm

    If you’re looking for a good soviet quasi-memoir, I can’t recommend Red Cavalry enough. It’s slightly fictionalized due to the fact that it was originally written during the war and ol’ Isaac Babel didn’t want to violate opsec, but it was close enough to the real deal to get its author sent to Siberia later in his life:
    http://www.amazon.com/Red-Cavalry-Isaac-Babel/dp/0393324230/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303176577&sr=1-1
    Isaac Babel was a war correspondent during the Polish-Soviet War, and the set of vignettes that the book presents are apparently based on his dispatches from the front, where he was embedded with the First Cavalry army. He goes into detail about Red and White atrocities and doesn’t appear to pull punches.

    It’s more a literary work than genuine autobiography, but worthy of a read anyway. The translation I linked is particularly good.

  • 117. ANZAC  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:01 pm

    And another book: WAR UNDERGROUND The Tunnellers Of The Great War by Alexander Barrie. Imagine the move “Beneath Hill 60” as a large book. The book details the war of the miners as they sought to break the trench warfare by tunneling under the enemy’s fortifications and blowing them up with 50-100 tons of explosives. It culminates with Battle for Messines Ridge (June 1917) where 19 huge mines were detonated under the German Positions, an effort that was nearly 2 years in the making.

  • 118. Pilot MKN  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:05 pm

    If you’re looking to light the patriotic fires I suggest the A&E movie “The Crossing” starring Jeff Daniels as George Washington. In my opinion it’s far better than “The Patriot” and sticks relatively close to the facts.

    I have not read “Stuka Pilot” but I have read an excerpt from it that appeared in a collection of WWII pilot stories. Hans Rudel landed his Stuka behind enemy lines to rescue one of his wingmen but his own Stuka got stuck in the mud and he and the other pilot had to evade squads of Soviet troops and swim across a river and somehow Rudel made it back alive.

  • 119. Esn  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:21 pm

    There were a LOT of great war movies made in the Soviet Union, and they’re a hell of a lot more honest than anything Hollywood has made. Some have been already mentioned. I’ll just make a list of the best ones again:

    Come and See (1985)
    Ballad of a Soldier (1959)
    The Cranes Are Flying (1957)
    Ivan’s Childhood (1962)

    There’s also one really great one I know of made recently in Russia, about the Chechen war:
    Alexandra (2007)

    Also, here’s something you might appreciate. An unusually brutal and bloodthirsty animated film from Estonia about how war was done in the old days (made during the Soviet era, astonishingly):

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1XVaLiC_mM
    Toell the Great (1980)

  • 120. Esn  |  April 18th, 2011 at 7:35 pm

    I also second the recommendation of Emir Kusturica’s “Underground” – a really good film for understanding Yugoslavia. It’s really long and a large section of it is about war.

    About some other films people have mentioned:

    “Enemy at the Gates” is well-directed, but it’s dishonest Hollywood nonsense. Never watch a foreign film about another country’s war.

    “Waltz with Bashir” is a pretty good film about the Israeli war.

    The British “Zulu” films aren’t really very good films, but they do have some interesting scenes in them.

    “The Lord of the Rings” as a war movie? You people are living in fantasy land…

  • 121. Graham J.  |  April 18th, 2011 at 8:49 pm

    RRB, not only is that book about Grossman very good, but even better is Grossman’s own book, “Life and Fate.”

    Seriously, it’s “War and Peace” for the 20th century. An enormous cast of characters in frontline units at Stalingrad and in fighter squadrons by the Don River and on the home front in Kazan, etc. etc. Really a magisterial book (I don’t know if it was mentioned in the last post, but it’s worth repeating even so).

  • 122. Q30  |  April 18th, 2011 at 9:00 pm

    Gary, you don’t remember Tae Guk Gi? The English translation is “The Brotherhood of War” and it’s a movie that pretty much everyone in South Korea has seen and cried at the end of.

    In fact, I think you mentioned it in an earlier entry somewhere.

  • 123. Q30  |  April 18th, 2011 at 9:04 pm

    Also, there’s the 2008 Russian film Admiral, about Alexander Kolchak.

    And how about the 2005 Russian film 9th Company (Russian: 9 Рота)? It’s like Full Metal Jacket for Afghanistan. The dialogue is VERY heavy-hitting at times.

  • 124. Martin Finnucane  |  April 18th, 2011 at 9:32 pm

    The fellow @80 stated my favorite: 7 Samurai. Is that a war movie? The greatest film ever, IMO,WIC.

  • 125. ANZAC  |  April 18th, 2011 at 10:16 pm

    #114/115 Zorg, ++1 from me for Charley’s War. I read a lot of it via 2000AD reprints. Never got to the end however.

    A good WW2 book is “With British Snipers to the Reich” by Captain C. Shore.

    Bonus points for the artillery officer who “sniped” a German artillery spotter with one round fired from a 25-pdr field gun. The snipers showed him the target (a tree just out of effective sniper distance). He works out the fall of shot and calls the battery quoting a string of numbers.

    The one round hits the tree dead center. How do they know they got the spotter? They found his helmet with part of his head still inside.!

  • 126. furioso  |  April 18th, 2011 at 10:38 pm

    i concur on the estonian pagan animation http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l1XVaLiC_mM

    really sad stuff

  • 127. furioso  |  April 18th, 2011 at 10:45 pm

    Russian: 9 Рота was terrible in my opinion – i wanted it to be good (ordered an original copy at high cost back in the day) but it looked like it was apeing rambo style films

    finlands got about 4 or 5 recent continuation wars and win war that have been made using real stugs and wotnot from their great armour mueseum,…ah here is a good list enjoy suomi fans

    http://www.listal.com/list/finnish-war-movies

  • 128. Hasso von Manteuffel  |  April 18th, 2011 at 11:33 pm

    @96 / Slammer – Die Brucke made the rounds of American bases in Germany in the early 1960’s. Seem to recall the Wehrmacht leads were young teenage kids. Even with a dirt-cheap budget (fake Panzer tanks running on 4 rubber tires), that movie scared everyone shitless.

  • 129. coldequation  |  April 18th, 2011 at 11:54 pm

    I’d second Come and See, The Forgotten Soldier, Guderian’s memoir (titled “Panzer Leader” in English).

    For books, I’d add Manstein’s memoirs (“Lost Victories”), von Sanger und Etterlin’s memoirs (“Neither Fear nor Hope”), which are critical of the Nazis but in a haughty aristocratic way that no longer exists, and, last but not least, the memoirs of Otto Skorzeny, who was an unrepentant Nazi until his death in the 1970s. “Death Dealer” by Rudolf Hoess, the commandant of Auschwitz, was interesting, but there wasn’t a lot of war in it, except for his WWI experiences.

    For movies, forget about Hollywood bullshit, look at Russian movies. Several people have mentioned Come and See, but I don’t think anybody mentioned Our Own (svoi), about a Red Army officer and a Jew Commissar who become partisans, and who are the good guys despite being total assholes. Or Attack on Leningrad, which is at least as horrifying as Come and See.

    But my favorite WWII movie is Army of Shadows, a French-made movie about resistance fighters, which actually made WWII look much bleaker than it really was, and not in a peacenik sort of way. I know, the French Resistance was overrated, but trust me on this one.

  • 130. Yehezkel  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:15 am

    Arkady Babchenko – One Soldier’s War

    A Russian soldier’s memoir from the front lines of the two Chechen wars of the 90s.

    Best post-Vietnam war memoir that I’ve ever read.

  • 131. The Last Fenian  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:38 am

    “4) A bizarre battle – when a joint Italian/German attempt to breakthrough the Soviet encirclement, consists of a single huge Panther Tank ” […]

    By the time the PzV Panther arrived on the Eastern front, the Italians had all gone home.

    That said, an eye-witness getting details wrong doesn’t necessarily invalidate their whole testimony.

  • 132. The Last Fenian  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:45 am

    “Sven Hassel” was (is?) the pen name of a Danish fantasist who was never within an ass’s roar of any battlefield. And his books are total and utter shite.

    The Peckinpah film “Cross of Iron” was based on a Willi Heinrich novel — that’s where all the sentimental crap comes from.

    You might try Henry Metelmann’s “Through Hell for Hitler”. Not great, but a refreshing change from “Ra Ra Panzers! Go go go!”. To give you some idea, comrade Metelmann, if he still lives, is a member of a curious English body called “The Stalin Society”.

    Aside from that, German books on the war tended to be heavily biased towards officers’ memoirs, which I gather is not the kind of thing you are looking for. (Guderian’s Panzer Leader is the best known in the English-speaking world; there are many, many others)

  • 133. The Last Fenian  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:52 am

    @26: In point of fact, they made a film loosely based on “Wheels of Terror” which was WAY better than the book. Great performance from Oliver Reed.

  • 134. AKAGoldfish  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:56 am

    You want a great war movie that doesn’t fall neatly into either of the two war movie formulas? Check out “When Triumphs Fade”.

    It came out the same years as Saving Private Ryan and probably only got made so the studio piggyback on Ryan’s success. It’s about one solider at the Battle of the Bugle, who’s basically a coward and keeps getting field promotions because he’s the only member of his unit left alive every time they make contact with the Germans. It’s absolutely brutal, no rah-rah bullshit, but there’s also no big message about “oh, war is so bad, isn’t this awful”. It also does a great job deconstruction that Greatest Generation malarkey.

    For a classic war movie that also manages to steer clear of those two formulas, A Walk in the Sun is definitely worth checking out. It’s a great piece of golden age of Hollywood cinema this isn’t rah-rah and also doesn’t pander to peaceniks. It’s got some of the tropes we now see as war movie cliches, but you have to allow for the fact that back then many of those tropes hadn’t been driven into the ground yet.

  • 135. The Last Fenian  |  April 19th, 2011 at 12:59 am

    @54: That’s called “propaganda”, especially given the twist der Spiegel puts on it. The wonders of selective editing. And those recordings have been known about for decades, by the way.

  • 136. The Last Fenian  |  April 19th, 2011 at 1:26 am

    @82:
    Why the FUCK would you expect a German fighter pilot at the time to know about the “Holocaust”? Just because seventy years later Amis seem unable to thing of anything else? Get a grip, man.

    On “Panzer Battles” by Friedrich von Mellenthin. His account of German operations is not bad, although the Western Desert sections are better than those about Russia, but Mellenthin’s ignorance of “the bigger picture” is frustrating: e.g. the battles of the 48th Pz K on the Chir river were a *victory* alright — for the Soviets! Their strategic goal was to tie this force down so that it couldn’t interfere in their major attacks elsewhere, and they suceeded. But that’s as good as it gets for the Eastern front. In particular, the chapter on Kursk is just laughable. The Germans got the shit kicked out of them on the Eastern front, and Mellenthin doesn’t have a clue why.

    Jim Dunnigan, I think, tells a funny story about Balck & Mellenthin participating in a NATO computer simulation in which the NATO forces responded to a Soviet attack in the approved “Panzer Battles” way — and got squashed like bugs. Only a computer simulation, of course…

  • 137. Korman643  |  April 19th, 2011 at 1:27 am

    @129 coldequation: +100 for the Army of Shadows. Saw it in theatre during the original Italian release, and it took me a lot to get rid of the sense of depression and fear it induced me.

    I think it’s a wonderful movie for many reasons, but also because it clearly states two forgotten truths – the first, that by 1942 (the year the movie is supposed to happen) no one, I mean ABSOLUTELY NO ONE in Westren Europe thought seriously the Nazi were going to lose, and thus “resistance” was made a tiny tiny tiny minority of patriots and communists (or hardore catholics) who were fighting just to keep alive, a bit like the people stuck in the mall in the original “Dawn of the Dead”.

    Second – fighting an urban resistance war means 90% of the time killing your fellow countrymen, may them be informers, traitors or people simply being the wrong place at the wrong time. The execution of the young informer is a scene that deserves to be watched just to get rid of a lot of notions on “freedom fighting”

  • 138. Yaroslav  |  April 19th, 2011 at 1:55 am

    I recommend Hans von Luck Panzer Commander (it is a good book and has both war part and prison part). It is much more readable than Rudel’s |Stuka Pilot (Rudel used to bomb my home town so I keep it, but you really sould read between the lines

  • 139. arendt  |  April 19th, 2011 at 2:17 am

    there’s j’ accuse which has its charms. mostly the dead coming back to ask what the living were busy doing while they were being killed.
    and the awesomeness that is paths of glory. just a fantastic movie.

  • 140. furioso  |  April 19th, 2011 at 8:53 am

    it probably was a tiger 1 or a pz 4 misidentified….regardless its the french H39s combating t34s due to desperation (prob used for towing duties prior) that really intrigue me :)

  • 141. Korman643  |  April 19th, 2011 at 11:58 am

    @The Last Fenian

    David Glantz gives a very complete answer on this in many of his books, particularly in the masterful “The military strategy of the Soviet Union” (2001). The basics are this – the whole “blitzkrieg as a Nazi Germany invention” was a fraud perpetuated by the Nazi general and by their British groupies – the whole thing was actually called Deep Battle and was a joint venture between Germans (the Weihmar era Army Staff) and the Soviets (the Frunze Academy dudes) who had developed a lot of interesting clues about how to break enemy lines and maintain mobility during WWI (Brusilov offensive) and the Polish war. German and Soviet staffs actually worked on joint war games / exercises, but while the whole thing lingered in Germany, it thrived in Russia, until Stalin got nervous about the top Army brass being politically unreliable (which they were!) and purged them. Then came the Spanish war and everyone stated saying “Oh no, massed armor fists are too vulnerable, we must create mixed infantry-armor units”. EVERYONE includes the Germans! Then WWI starts, Poland falls because is attacked on two sides and the Germans have numerical superiority and have a massive aerial support. Then Norway falls because the Brits fuck up bit time… but almost doesn’t and the German Navy makes a very poor show of itself. The France is attacked, the German plan is a last minute patch up that works because of a massive amount of luck and a very low French morale… but almost fails, as Charles De Gaulle (who is crazy as a monkey and doesn’t believe for one second that armour shouldn’t be used as a massed “fist” almost kill the entire German offensive at Arras, sending waves of panic among the German troops, and the only thing that keeps him from doing so is the lack of support (and another British fuck up). Then Greece falls because the Greeks are worn doing from a futile campaign against the Italian, the Crete ALMOST doesn’t fall because the German paratroopers are slaughtered by a bunch of crazy Kiwis and a horde of bloodthirsty Creatans (and the only reason why “Merkur” succeed is yet another British fuck up).

    So far, the German have won because of luck, aerial superiority and a string of crass mistakes by their enemies and more luck. But no blitzkrieg. NO FUCKING BLITZKRIEG! By that time the Soviets have however noticed two things – that the Germans are winning, and that their own performance in Finland has been pitiful. So they’re, in very much hurry, taken out of the gulags few of the surviving pre 1938 generals/officers, and given a shout to the bunch of new faces who have won big against the Japanese in Manchuria. But they’re in the middle of a big re-construction of the Red Army, and not yet ready (despite Suvorov fantasies)

    Then “Barbarossa” starts. It’s three different operation actually. Heeresgruppe North goes well as the Soviets are not terribly keen of defending the Baltic states and their only aim is to give Leningrad time to build the defenses. Heeresgruppe Centre is wildly successful because of surprise and because the Soviet Army Group Center is deployed in a idiotic fashion on a newly acquired border. Here, the Germans win BIG – for three weeks – and then suddenly… they are stopped. Later they will tell to the US Army that they “regrouped”, but this is a big lie – they got STOPPED in front of Smolensk. Stopped, halted, grinded down to halt. And they remains like this for two months.

    Heeresgroup South is the one who gets it tough. Because Kriponos, the Soviet commander, knows his trade. And they get thrashed, and thrashed, and thrashed again. The Soviet cannot stop them, but they can really wear them down. Because the Germans are not using any “blitzkrieg”, but classic combined arms tactics, along with aerial superiority – while the Soviets have T34 and they can use it. Again, it’s sheer luck and a lot of idiotic choices made by Stalin that insure the German “victory” for the 1941 season (and the almost back-breaking Kiev encirclement). But the situation becomes SO BAD that the Japanese Navy high command (who’s getting a lot of intelligence from their networks of agents in Germany and Sweden, who in turns is giving a lot of information to the Sorge network in Tokyo) becomes incredibly nervous and start sending messages to their embassy in Berlin to “talk sense” into the German, and the Japanese analysis is that at this rate, German will never win (and they’re right of course!)

    To make a long story short – after the war the German generals tell their version of this story to their US captors, and they tell what the US wants to hear – West is best, might is right, the Russians are primitive baboons who couldn’t win a battle even if they try hard (and the fact they won is due to mere size of the Soviet Union), it was all Hitler’s fault, etc etc. So for 20 years the US Army is fed on this kind of nonsense, until Vietnam and the Kippur War starts ringing an ominous bell into some Pentagon head. Ok, you probably know the rest.

  • 142. Zorg  |  April 19th, 2011 at 1:47 pm

    @125 ANZAC
    If you want me to ruin the ending for you, the crazy British officer finally snaps and sent to the loony bin, then he escapes and goes after Charley and Charley kills him. The story goes on and Charley fights on in WW2, but the company took Pat Mills off the title and the story quickly turned to shit.

    Mills said if had to choose an end point it would be the story about Charley in the ’30s, out of money and looking for any kind of job and being cautiously optimistic about the future. The last panel shows him passing a newspaper stand proclaiming that Hitler has just been elected – how ironic, etc., etc.

    By the way, War Nerd, don’t listen to those people talking up Taegukgi. The war scenes are entertaining enough, but everything else is treacly melodrama. You find this in a lot of mainstream Asian movies; absolutely no subtlety at all.

  • 143. gary  |  April 19th, 2011 at 2:28 pm

    let me get in my two cents….”europa,europa””seven beauties””lacombe lucien” great european war movies…if you want old school america check out “guadalcanal diary” where the japs are referred to as “yellow monkeys” and my favorite “a walk in the sun” where one of the drafted gi’s says “i’d like to be in the german army” and his buddy replies “they wouldn’t have you” great stuff

  • 144. Jfaka  |  April 19th, 2011 at 3:07 pm

    Kaputt about WWII
    Storms of Steel
    Vassili Grossman
    Thucidyde
    Troy
    The face of battle (Keegan)
    The pursuit of power (McNeill)
    Comics by Tardi on WWI
    Voyage au bout de la nuit (Céline)

    Battle of Algiers
    Ran
    Barry Lyndon
    Full Metal Jacket

    Kipour
    Waltz With Bashir
    Les centurions ? French colonial wars.

  • 145. Stephen  |  April 19th, 2011 at 5:09 pm

    Check out Commando by Deneys Reitz, the memoirs of an Afrikaner who fought in the Boer War. If I’m not mistaken, it was that war that introduced the term ‘concentration camp’ to the English language.

  • 146. Loki  |  April 19th, 2011 at 5:10 pm

    If you look for that technical WWII landser stuff, you will have to learn German and go for the pulp fiction series “Der Landser”, an all-time favorite of Gemany’s Federal Department for Media Harmful to Young Persons. Call it the German shadow revenge to Hollywood’s US war movie industries.

    Or you just try to live a little longer and wait for the next adjustment of history (see e.g. Hagen Fleischer’s “The Past Beneath the Present: The Resurgence of World War II Public History After the Collapse of Communism: A Stroll Through the International Press”, it’s somewhere in the I-net for free).

    One of the major reasons why war movies are mostly unrealistic nonsense may be the difficulty to get the effects of long boring periods of waiting (i.e. bloody reality) into pictures without leaving a snoring audience. The only movies that did well in this regard are probably “Das Boot” and “Jarheads”.

  • 147. ANZAC  |  April 19th, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    #142 Zorg, I had read up to where he was on leave in England and helped a French deserter get back to France.

    The whole story is available online so I’ll pick up the story from there.

    I did wonder if he had survived the war.

    #143, I have seen “Europa, Europa”. Good film. I’ve been surprised about how many films mentioned here I have seen, or at least heard about.

    +1 on Skorzeny’s memoirs. A very interesting read. Talk about balls of steel! They need specialist equipment, so they get it from the British via compromised Dutch Resistance. The rescue of Mussolini was done without firing a shot. And the taking of the castle in Budapest by just driving in and arresting the commanding officer. Finally in the Nuremburg war crimes trials, he has David Stirling, founder of the SAS, speak on his defense!

    There was a book on the memoirs of a German Paratrooper. I was amazed at how much captured equipment they used. Especially in the year after D-Day. They have photos of some in the unit using BREN guns in Normandy, and later using M1919 MGs captured from the Americans.

  • 148. Pilgrim  |  April 20th, 2011 at 4:01 am

    Sven Hassel? Come on, his books are little more than self-insertion fan fiction. Their historical accuracity is null. I tried “Wheels of Terror” and I gived up after the first few chapters as the level of unvelieable fantasy displayed had mopped the floor with my suspension of disbelief.

    I had a friend who read them all in his chilhood, he is one of those Whermacht fanboys, and despite it, he happened to read again the books 20 years later, and throw them to the bin.

    His advice was “If you read Hassel when you were young, don’t try to read it again. This way you can keep the nice memories of the fun you got reading them when you where young, without feeling embarassed for having read such crap”.

  • 149. RRB  |  April 20th, 2011 at 4:16 am

    @121
    You are totally right!
    Believe me, I would not have raccomended it if I had not read those books!
    Life and Fate, Everything flows (Todo fluye, in the Spanish translation I have read) and Years of War (again, in Spanish, Años de Guerra)are worth mentioning as war books (tough in Years of War there are tons of propaganda, since it was written when Grossmann was a fierce stalinist).

  • 150. FOARP  |  April 20th, 2011 at 5:17 am

    @The Last Fenian – RE: Knocke. It’s the fact that he felt the need to deny it.

    RE: Mellenthin – You may be right. I read it some time ago. Still, the pure unapologetic tone of the novel is quite something. He as good as says that he wishes they had won.

  • 151. Technomad  |  April 20th, 2011 at 12:38 pm

    For WWII memoirs, try George MacDonald Fraser’s Quartered Safe Out Here, his memories of his time in the CBI theater of WWII.

    I haven’t seen the whole movie, but Talvisota looks pretty good…and with Soviets as bad guys, how can they go wrong?

  • 152. Korman643  |  April 20th, 2011 at 1:14 pm

    Two WWII novels, strictly autobiographical in tone, by the great novelist Beppe Fenoglio:

    Johnny the Partisan
    http://www.amazon.com/Johnny-Partisan-Beppe-Fenoglio/dp/0704370786/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1303328899&sr=1-1

    The story of “Johnny”, the nameless member of a doomed “blue” (non communist) partisan unit fighting in the Italian north west in fall 1944. Very sad and sombre, but beautiful. Fenoglio was a very fluent in English, and wrote it originally in this language, before re-translating in Italian in a second edition. It was made in a visually stunning movie in 2000 by Guido Chiesa
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i1blNyHVj78

    The Twenty-three Days of the City of Alba
    http://www.amazon.com/Twenty-three-Days-City-Alba/dp/1586420402/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1303329462&sr=1-1

    Ten short stories set in 1944. The first is a quasi journalist retelling of the siege of Alba (to whom Fenoglio partecipated), when one “blue” and one “red” (communist) battalion held the city of Alba, south of Turin, for 23 days before it was retaken by nazi-fascists forces. The other are fiction, short and nasty, featuring all the ugly details about guerrilla people normally doesn’t want to know. “Nine moons” is particularly memorable.

    In 1963, shortly before dying of cancer, Fenoglio wrote also “Un Giorno di Fuoco” (a day of fire), a short story about an ex-partisan who “goes postal” and start killing everyone in a sleepy Piemontese village. It’s interesting because if show the “going postal” phenomenon in a setting that many people may consider unlikely.

  • 153. Kire  |  April 20th, 2011 at 6:29 pm

    War Nerd (hope you read these comments)

    My grandfather was a panzergrenadier and a living wehrmacht veteran. He has never and will never put to letters what he experienced, but he has told me a lot about his time on the eastern front. His impression of the soviets, what it was like from late 43 till the end, living outside for months, small unit tactics when the lines collapsed and they’d undertake fighting retreats. Totally pointless counterattacks, the persistent attrition, everything.

    I would talk about some of these things if anyone was interested, but you are right – The vast majority of Americans simply aren’t. I’ve told more than one person about my Opa, only to hear from them about him some months later with a totally twisted recollection. More than one person has said to me “oh yeah, your grandpa, he was one of those ss camp guards right?”. I kid you not, more than one person has believed that exact caricature despite everything I’d explained.

    It’s a cultural phenomenon thats strong throughout the anglo world I believe. Nazi German history is very taboo and makes most people uncomfortable. To most Americans, and I imagine to most people in general, Nazi era Germans in the service were all more or less SS camp guards. Why would you pay attention to something a character from Wolfenstein 3D did?

    It’s sad really because from a strictly war nerd point of view those guys as a lot went through some of the craziest, most insane military and political experiences as anyone in modern times.

    Imagine being born into a socio-political system that brought your national self-identity to such an absolute high only to participate with blood in its complete and utter annihilation. One things for sure, they had a deeply empowering belief in their national identity, one that transcended nazism and inevitable defeat. As a lower middleclass American in a funk like most of my generation, exploring that mentality alone warrants a few good books. Even if they weren’t fanatical nazis, they were fanatical germans.

    They were animal soldiers and mostly loyal to the end even when the death mask that nazism represented was obvious and the war already totally lost. These were people that in a great many cases fought like warriors through defeat after defeat in the end only so that they could live long enough to surrender to the right side. As a war nerd you can only be impressed by their absolute temerity.

  • 154. tom  |  April 20th, 2011 at 8:01 pm

    Any body seen Stalingrad? It focuses on the germans who start out all psyched because they are going to get farms in Ukraine after they win, and it ends with lots of crunching through the snow and searching for food.

    Another good movie for war nerds is Dien Bien Phu. The French guy who made it was in the actual battle and filmed the whole thing. When the French surrendered, he had to give up his film which was then lost.

    In the 1990’s, the french guy goes back to Vietnam to make a fictional version of his original footage. The Vietnamese are psyched about the project and volunteer live ammo for the film project. The tracer rounds look like tracer rounds because they are tracer rounds.

    Check it out Gary. Just google Dien Bien Phu movie.

  • 155. Roland  |  April 20th, 2011 at 9:46 pm

    The old B & W movie version of “All Quiet on the Western Front,” one of the early “talkies,” is actually a pretty good war film, although it’s only loosely based on the book. The movie was made before there was a mould for Hollywood war movies.

    btw it’s true that Remarque’s book isn’t particularly anti-war, although it has no shortage of other ideas which would anger a Nazi. Junger’s book is more ambiguous, too, than many people think, although that might depend on which edition you read.

    One of the most interesting WWI memoirs of trench warfare, if you can find a copy, is F.C. Hitchcock’s “Stand To.” He spent a lot of time in the Ypres Salient, and didn’t turn into a pacifist.

    iremember.ru is a superb resource. My favourite quote from an infantryman: “The problem is that the tank is made of steel, and you are not!”

    Another vote here for Hans von Luck’s “Panzer Commander.” Yeah. sure, it’s anti-war, but after all von Luck was a cosmopolitan of aristocratic origin who never nourished much animus towards the enemy in the first place. The chapters dealing with his years in Gulag are particularly good.

    Is it surprising that many war memoirs tend to get philosophical about war? The people who are writers tend to be reflective, and war can bring out the existentialist in anybody.

    Dmitri Loza’s “Fighting for the Soviet Motherland” and “With the Red Army’s Sherman Tanks” make an interesting contrast with von Luck. Both men were colonels in armoured units, but the backgrounds are very different.

    James Clavell’s novel “King Rat” is based on Clavell’s own time spent in Japanese captivity, and it’s not namby-pamby by any means.

    “Three Came Home” by Agnes Newton Keith is written by a civilian interned during the war, just a few miles away from Clavell.

    It is very interesting to compare von Luck, Clavell, Keith, and Kiuchi for various perspectives on harsh captivity. Worth further comparison with some chapters from Solzhenitsyn’s second and third volumes.

  • 156. furioso  |  April 20th, 2011 at 11:24 pm

    another excellent diary-although im sure you have read it already is Count Galeazzo Cianos diaries from the late 1930s-to his death-it reads in a very gossipy way (except about cavallero and rippentrop,lol),which is quite nice since their was no chance to edit it later since he was executed -and im sure you know the james bond insanity that went about to get those diaries smuggled out of italy

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Galeazzo_Ciano

  • 157. Dr. X  |  April 21st, 2011 at 2:35 am

    I don’t know if this thread is still live, but here goes anyway. . .

    Someone further up mentioned the fall of Crete. Evelyn Waugh, he served in that campaign left behind a good fictional account of it in the second volume of his ‘Sword of Honour’ trilogy. Waugh was an absolute shit of a human being (perhaps one day Prof. Dolan can give his us take on the man) but he knew how to write, there’s no question of that.

    As for war movies, look for Ken Loach’s _Land and Freedom_, and especially _The Wind that Shakes the Barley_. The former is about the POUM in Spain, and the latter about the Tan war in Cork, and the green-on-green violence of the civil war that followed.

    Which reminds me, Frank O’Connor had some good short stories about the Irish revolution, in particular ‘Guests of the Nation’ and ‘Machine Gun Corps in Action’ – both worth checking out.

  • 158. ShiningPath  |  April 21st, 2011 at 6:42 am

    Great comment thread. Nice to see J.G.Ballard’s Empire of the Sun get mentioned. I am a teacher at the international school in Shanghai that occupies the site of the Lunghwa Internment Camp. Four big buildings that housed the internees are still used today as classrooms and offices and I get to give tours to interested visitors. I like to remind my Japanese students about this fact, which isn’t on our promo brochure.

  • 159. Karel  |  April 21st, 2011 at 8:02 am

    Was Iran/Iraq not a replay of Germany/USSR?

    Basically orchestrated by same hands with same ends in mind – to waste two great nations?

  • 160. J.T. Patton  |  April 21st, 2011 at 9:02 pm

    I’m surprised no one has mentioned the old “Red Badge of Courage”. Haven’t watched it in over a decade, but I remember it as being pretty good, with some good lines and memorable scenes. It stands out because for once, Audie Murphy played kind of a cowardly character, instead of the fearless hero. It also had my very favorite war cartoonist, Bill Mauldin, who didn’t do a bad job of acting at all.

  • 161. J.T  |  April 22nd, 2011 at 2:18 pm

    Some Swedish SS volunteers, Erik Wallin(pen name? Wiking Jerka) and Thorolf Hillblad wrote a book about the final stages of the second world war called “Twilight of the Gods” in english.

  • 162. London John  |  April 27th, 2011 at 7:53 am

    Yes Red Badge of Courage is a great film and a great novel, IMO. Audie Murphy of course was a genuine hero of WWII; I thought he was more convincing in RBoC than as himself in To Hell and Back. Another great novel/film pair about the Civil War is Cold Mountain.
    An excellent novel that’s just come back into print is From the City from the Plough by Alexander Baron, about a British battalion preparing for and taking part in D-Day and subsequent fighting. The film of the same name seems to have used only the title. An interesting RN memoir is Very Ordinary Seaman by JPW Mallalieu – probably out of print.

  • 163. Karel  |  April 27th, 2011 at 9:30 am

    @Korman643

    You deserve your own column. You know your stuff! But you don’t need me telling you I am sure.

  • 164. max  |  May 6th, 2011 at 12:09 pm

    http://english.iremember.ru/infantrymen/52-dmitrii-krutskikh.html
    This memoir is pretty damn good, the ruskie goes into a lot of detail about the winter war.

  • 165. Boom  |  May 7th, 2011 at 3:33 am

    definitely try “the story of a real man” by boris polevoi.
    based on this guy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alexey_Maresyev

    He had shot down four German aircraft by March 1942, but on 4 April 1942 his Polikarpov I-16 was shot down near Staraya Russa, then occupied by Nazi Germany.

    Despite being badly injured, Alexey managed to return to the Soviet-controlled territory on his own. During his 18-day long journey (for most of which he had to crawl because his feet were in terrible condition. did I mention he had no food for most of those 18 dayss ?), his injuries deteriorated so badly that both of his legs had to be amputated below the knee. Desperate to return to his fighter pilot career, he subjected himself to near a year of exercise to master the control of his prosthetic devices, and succeeded at that, returning to flying in June 1943.
    During a dog fight in August 1943, he shot down three German FW-190 fighters. In total, he completed 86 combat flights and shot down 11 German warplanes. He was awarded the Golden Star of the Hero of the Soviet Union (August 24, 1943), the highest military decoration of the USSR.

  • 166. nataka  |  May 8th, 2011 at 6:14 am

    “War’s Unwomanly Face” (S. Alexiyevich): personal accounts of WW2 (East front), by Russian female-soldiers.

  • 167. Torus2112  |  May 11th, 2011 at 8:44 am

    It was mentioned here (literally), but The Beast is a very good movie.

    It’s about a Soviet tank crew in Afghanistan who massacres a village then gets lost in the hills, getting shadowed by some mujahadeen. There are conflicts in the crew, the commander is a psycho, etc., all the good stuff. Not *really* a war movie, but I don’t know what else you’d call it.

    Besides, you do get a lot of exposition about that moral grey area between ‘murica and the Nazis the Soviets always occupied (no pun intended), as well as some great fan wank for the Mujahadeen (it was made in ’94 I think, so they’re still totally cool dudes in this).

  • 168. Robert S  |  June 24th, 2011 at 11:08 am

    Sympathy for the Devil by Kent Anderson. Novel. Special Forces in Vietnam. Truly excellent and not a rehash.

  • 169. Michael  |  July 12th, 2011 at 7:56 pm

    I love books and movies too. But I suspect it is impossible to make a good war movie from a war book that contains an anti-war message. What I mean is, the medium of movies somehow glorifies and romanticizes war. If a book doesn’t wish to glorify or romanticize war, then it is odds with the medium of film.

    I know a lot of folks might get upset at me -please don’t flame me. But here are some facets of my opinion: movies are at least 70% audio. When you see a movie, the sound you hear is a HUGE part of your experience. No one has yet been able to quantify wether it is 70% of your experience or more or less then 70%- but no one disagrees with the general idea either. Audio is a huge part of movies! It is almost always under appreciated. Books exist in your head and you supply whatever audio suits you.

    Another facet, some of my favorite war books are not character driven. Name some great war movies that were not character driven. Hollywood requires a narrative arc that, to me, seems more confined then some books. Non fiction war documentaries are another bailiwick. but still they often seem insufficient and constrained by the conventions of documentary film making.

    An outlier, if you will, is “generation kill”. I disliked it over all and don’t really want to be seen as promoting it. But i did enjoy the character sketches and the way it was dialogue driven. I felt like I had a little closer understanding of what it may have been like for the soldiers. In the end, the cons outweighed the pros for me.

    So, in final analysis, if I was in a bunker, I could certainly be content without a DVD player. But if I had one, it wouldn’t be bc I wanted to see war movies!

  • 170. chireeo  |  July 14th, 2011 at 10:22 pm

    Kiss the Boys Goodbye, 1990 by Monika Jensen-Stevenson
    ripsaloongnoicely

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bobby_Garwood

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Stevenson_(Canadian_writer)
    …boo!(sssssssssssssssssss)….!spin site under ‘references’ on this page!: not until ye HAVE read the book

  • 171. .  |  March 29th, 2012 at 6:12 am

    devils guard is fun

  • 172. Pertinax  |  January 16th, 2013 at 4:22 am

    _La strada del davai_ is available in English (title: _Mussolini’s Death March_) as of April.


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