Issue :   
July 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.    Wishing You All a Happy New Year.       July 2019 Edition of Power Politics is updated.
Issue:June' 2019


All That Hell !

Gautam Kaul

The RAF's Red Arrows fly over the beach at Arromanches, in Normandy, northern France, during a ceremony to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the D-Day landings For many around the world the date of 6th of June is well remembered. It was on this day, 75 years ago, that modern history took a turn to restore democracy and defeat Fascism and dictatorship in Europe. The final outcome of the events of 6th June also affected India, where an advance to invade by Japan, into our territory received a ripple effect.
Last month, private veterans and high dignitaries from about 40 nations assembled at Omaha Beach in Normandy and at also a desolate place in Ireland for no good reason, to stare in silence at the horizon, and recall the day of 6th June 1944 in Normandy . The veterans also met some of their soul mates who returned safe surviving the day and the time to follow, to live many more decades. In Ireland, many recalled the making of the same day’s events in films which in some cases, will be remembered along with the real things.

After his speech US President Donald Trump and the First Lady visited graves of the 2,000 Americans killed there on D-Day But for me the events of 6th of June as a memory, and some incidents lie in a series of war films made decades ago, which need to be recalled for their worth. These films are essential viewing to indicate how sometimes stories need to be told not for entertainment, but to realize that we still live in an imperfect world.
These films were made by storytellers to let the world know that War can be beautiful for some to witness, but those that come out of it unhurt, is a trauma which ambitious nations must experience, to stay calm. Often to achieve true greatness societies must be subject to great hurt. Unfortunately India is not one of those nations which has suffered the great hurt for centuries to jel into one nation. The struggle for Indian independence was in some case sectarian. A sizable population had remained loyal to the Crown of England.

Therefore let us recall some of the great cinema which paid its tribute to the gallant unsung soldiers who sacrificed their lives so their generations that followed could be born in more safe times. The story of the Second World War must begin from the middle of the times of War as no one recalls the first part when Germany overran Europe. It was left to Polish and Russian cinema to tell us what happened then.

We start our tale from 1944.
India received “Saving Private Ryan” in 1998. It was late in coming and the film had already been premiered in Europe and USA. Directed by Steven Spielberg , it featured the American hulk Tom Hank in the principle role of Captain John H Miller tasked to save paratrooper Private James Francis Ryan whose three brothers were already killed in action, and James Ryan was reported caught up in the war of Omaha Beach on the coast line of Normandy . US Army had decided that James Francis required to be kept alive. No family in USA had sacrificed so much for a cause on record.
The film opened with a scene of the landing of the Allied Forces early in the morning of 6th June. The track is open and there is no dialogue going on as the landing progresses. The first bullet hits from somewhere and then mayhem follows.

The first 27 minutes of the edited version of battle scenes are the stuff that are considered by experts of all departments of filmcraft as the finest recreation of war. The visual horror stays in the mind of viewers long after the film concludes. War veterans who went to the theatres led by their grandchildren in the year 1998, seeing the first sequence of the film, ran out of the theatres weeping copiously and dare not return to their seats. The war scenes were photographed by the famous Polish cinematographer James Kampinski who won his ‘Oscar’ for this work.

The three hours film is considered essential viewing when there is little time available for the Middle Class of today to read the dozens of thick books written on the landing in Normandy on 6th June 1944.

The second film of my interest, came much ahead of Steven Spielberg’s date with history. It was “The Longest Day”. Made in 1962 in Black and White, it ought to have been dumped in the dust bins as the great bore movie of the year, but the first opening shot of the film running into about 14 minutes saved the film for posterity and cinematographic history.

Produced by Daryl Zanuck, the film remains remarkable for at least two counts for me. It was directed not by one film director but five of them. It included in the cast just about everyone important in the film industry of USA, England, France and Germany, and all 42 leading men. All of them were paid a fixed same amount for appearance, save John Wayne who insisted a steep pay hike from the Studio simply because he had been insulted in an earlier film by the same company.

This film also running more than three hours duration, had also one more unique factor to its credit. The story narrated not only what happened to the Allied Forces on Normandy Beach on 6th June 1944, but also narrated how the day went for the Germans and the French under occupation. Because of the narrative for both side of the events, film The Longest Day remained an excellent document of historical storytelling.

The subject in recall of the events of the landing at Normandy was in fact first introduced like a cake with a lot of icing, in a film D-Day , the 6th of June.

The film was made in 1956 starring Robert Taylor, and Richard Todd a veteran of the original Normandy landing of 1944. The film did not narrate the events of the Landing of the day, but went into the minds of two officers drawn from the British and the US armies who discover they loved the same woman and now they were finding themselves fighting a German enemy together. For historical reasons, the film was lacking in the details of war. It was a romance with the Normandy landing in the background.

George S. Patton and Dwight D. Eisenhower The War was not only fought in France but also in Italy, North Africa, in the Scandinavian nations and on many fronts in Soviet lands. In Italy in Battle for Anzio and To Hell and Back, an Indian participation was shown in the battles fought in Italy.

Two spy films also dot our recall of the Great War. They are “The Man Who Never Was”, and Five Fingers . Historian all agree that the day long events of 6th June 1944 turned the course of world history; recreated cinema did not match the brutality, the loss of lives, the destruction of historical assets as it happened in reality.
To conclude our feature let me remind, we are not talking of some of the leaders who led the big Allied Forces to a successful landing that changed the course of the Second World War from 6th June,1944, onwards. They were General ‘ Ike’ Eisenhower and Gen Patton. Both men of honour who later found themselves as movie heroes in films, with Patton (1970) gathering more film honours and film ‘Ike’ lost in television archives. Both the leaders were at Normandy Beach on 6th June 1944, 75 years ago.

In later life, Eisenhower came to be the President of the United States, and Genl Patton ended his innings in disgrace and a lost career, for having slapped his orderly for not polishing his army boots properly!