scan0009I’m not much on war movies, but I guess with the Oscars coming up, I finally caught up with Bradley Cooper in American Sniper, Brad Pitt in Fury, and by mistake while looking for Fury, a 2014 film called Ardennes Fury starring no one ever heard of. I had some basis for “expertise,” in that I was commissioned an Armor officer, after graduating from the Armor School at Fort Knox through OCS in 1967, nearing the height of the Vietnam War. I earned my Tank Driver’s License in the M48 and M60 main battle tanks in service at the time, though I never entered the hatch of a tank after Armor School.

Back to the movies, I was struck at how in Fury, depicting Sherman tank action in Germany near war’s end in WWII, that the lieutenant in charge of the tank platoon was depicted as a timid guy in a crisp green uniform (who was blown up early in the film), while Brad Pitt was the seasoned non-com (with a 2015 hairdo) who was the real leader and father-figure of the unit, which was staffed by rumpled ner-do-well’s of low pedigree. The Germans were portrayed as ruthless, which justified the same behavior by the Americans. All were savages, and it was a clear anti-war film, grisly and disgusting, even when desperation and bravery prevailed. The other tank film,Ardennes Fury, was a cheaply produced film with almost no plot, wherin an isolated tank crew at the edge of oblivion in the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium’s beautiful Ardennes forest (which we visited last year), break out to try to save an orphanage staffed by nuns. I don’t know how it came out, though I suspect they succeeded.

And then there is American Sniper, where Bradley Cooper transforms into the most famous sniper of our recent set of wars. He suffers from PTSD, yet returns for multiple tours of duty voluntarily. He does as told, because he believes he is saving American lives. He personifies the perils of today’s professional soldiers — estranged from the comforts and safety of civilian lives, and in a final irony, just as he is re-assimilating, a veteran with PTSD he is trying to help, shoots him on a firing range. This too, to me, is an anti-war film, though it appears that to many Americans, it is all about heroism. I just don’t get that. I got nothing out of any of these films, other than a harsh reminder of the rationalized, institutionalized, insane violence called war.

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