S. Martin Shelton

Retired U.S.Navy Captain, Novelist

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Book Review – Triumph at Imphal-Kohima: How the Indian Army Finally Stopped the Japanese Juggernaut

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Rating – Two Stars

Callahan reports on the little known yet profoundly important British India/Japan campaign in 1944. The Imperial Japanese Army launched an invasion of India’s eastern frontier. Streaming out of occupied Burma, the former British crown colony, they achieved initial success and threatened the capture of the key Indian city of Imphal in Manipur State. The Fourteenth Indian Army, under the command of British Lieutenant General William Slim, crushed the invading Japanese and began the conquest of Burma. This Indian Army was composed of revitalized Indian divisions, Gurkha Rifles battalions, and British elements.

Of note is the several-hundred-word account of the Bengal radical Subhas Chandra Bose and his Indian National Army, allied with the Japanese.

Unfortunately, Callahan’s account is inept. His narrative is far too detailed for the lay reader, and it’s too befuddling for the military cognoscenti. His failure to include large- and small-scale maps that depict the geography and military movements is an egregious blunder that negates, in large measure, the value of this book. His narrative lacks chronological coherence—the narrative wanders back and forth in time and we do not get a clear understanding of what is happening with who, where, and why. It is repetitive to a crippling fault. It is seriously overwritten—there’s far too much detail that’s irrelevant to the primary story and beclouds the essential points.

The author’s failure to split frequently his text into paragraphs hinders comprehension. Some paragraphs are a page long and others longer. And, frequently, Army element numbers (XIV, for example) suffuse through the pages to an inordinate extent, to the point that they become noise in our reading process. Well-planned tables would have helped clarify this printed din. Images of the key persons would augur well for engendering reader empathy.

I wonder why the editor at the University of Kansas Press did not exercise more control over this narrative. It had the potential to be a much-needed and valuable account of this crucial battle that threatened the East India Company Raj.

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Book Review – Unbroken

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Rating – Five Stars

Unbroken is an intensely gripping book. I read page after page after page until my roiling mind demanded that I quit. I could not. Unbroken is a dismaying book. I wanted to toss it into the trash to relieve my emotional distress. I could not. My empathy was too intense.

I continued reading and reading about the horrifying images Hillenbrand penned of the dehumanizing tortures and starvation diets the Japanese guards inflicted on our Allied prisoners of war during World War II. (The war in the Pacific raged from 7 December 1941 to 2 September 1945.)

Her storytelling skills engender intense and disturbing emotions. Perhaps I should note that I am a retired naval intelligence officer and one of my specialties was Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape (SERE). I had some experience in Operation Homecoming in early 1970—the repatriation of our prisoners of war from the Hanoi Hilton in Vietnam.

Hillenbrand’s gripping narrative of Louis Zamperini (1917 to 2014) is adroitly compelling. Zamperini was a distance runner who ran the 5,000 meter race in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. He finished 8th. As the Pacific War loomed, he enlisted in the Army Air Corps and became a bombardier in a Consolidated B24 Liberator squadron. In a search and rescue operation in May 1943, his B24 crashed into the ocean.

Zamperini, Russel Allen Philip, the pilot, and Francis McNamara, waist gunner, survived and drifted in the Pacific in lashed-together rafts for 47 days. I’ll not detail their struggle for survival in this review—suffice to say, their schemes to garner food and portable water were exceptionally innovative. On the 33rdday, McNamara died. After 47 days, Zamperini and Philip were gaunt and covered with saltwater sores. Their raft drifted onto a small island in the Marshall Islands and Japanese naval personnel captured them. The pair had drifted about 2,000 nautical miles.

I’ll not detail more of Hillenbrand’s narrative. It’s up to you, dear reader. In summary, I do not recommend this book for the “weak of heart.”

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Review – The Romanov Ransom

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Two Stars

Clive Cussler wrote an excellent book once. Unfortunately, The Romanov Ransom is not it. This pseudo-roman à clef tome is tedious, formulaic, and outlandish. The plot is so absurdly improbable that it negates any semblance of believability. It fails to engender empathy.

Briefly: in 1918, the Dowager Empress Maria Feodorovna (Dagmar of Denmark), the mother of Czar Nicholas II, assembles a cache of jewels to ransom her son, the Empress Alexandra, and their five children from the Bolsheviks’ captivity. Unfortunately, the cache is stolen and disappears. Around midnight on 18 July 1918, the Bolsheviks execute the royal family and their retainers—regicide. The plot focuses on the searchers competing to find the missing cache.

I’ve read six or seven Cussler books, and with minor modifications all have the same basic plot. The brave, indefatigable, and infinitely resourceful protagonist pursues, through locations worldwide, outwits, and defeats the eeevil antagonist—in this tome, it’s resurgent Nazis and an unscrupulous international jewel thief. Supporting the protagonist is the loyal, capable, and archetypal sidekick. In The Romanov Ransom, the sidekick is the protagonist’s wife—a dead shot killing the bad guys a bunch. Buttressing the good guy, back at headquarters (or wherever), are folks with in-depth knowledge of what’s needed or access to electronic or mechanical devices that advance the protagonist’s agenda. (In the Cussler books I’ve read, I’ve not found a lead female protagonist.)

Other factors that degrade the credibility of the narrative are that the good guy has a passport that lets him and his cadre travel wherever they want, unencumbered; he has unlimited fiscal resources; can pass weapons of most any caliber through airport screenings, and has associates who always have just the skill needed at the moment. (“Sam invited Sergei, who happened to be fluent in Polish, to come along with them.”) Also, no matter the dire life-or-death situation in which our good guy and his sidekick and/or associates are enmeshed, a deus ex machina, at the last instant, resolves the danger.

What’s unfortunate is that Cussler posits an intriguing plot that could have been developed into a compelling narrative.

FIN

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Review – The Siege of Tsingtau

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Four Stars

The Siege of Tsingtau is a professional read. Stephenson threads the narrative with insightful analysis and precise detail that oftentimes are primarily apt for the military historian. Nonetheless, he develops with absolute clarity this little known, yet critically important, battle of World War One with long-range repercussions on the Pacific War of the 1940s.

In the early twentieth century, the Empire of Japan had no pressing quarrel with Imperial Germany. As World War One erupted in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa, the quasi-military government of the Land of the Rising Sun seized a golden opportunity and on 14 August 1914 declared war on Deutschland. Japan’s goals were twofold: to counter Germany’s imperialist expansion in the Orient and to capture Germany’s vast central-Pacific empire stretching some 2,300 nautical miles across the ocean. Included were the Caroline Islands, Marshalls, Marianas, Pelews, Maloelap, and others—an area that encompassed all of Micronesia.

Within 86 days, the Imperial Japanese Army had captured Imperial Germany’s Oriental possessions and Pacific Ocean colonies, including the leased German Kiautschou Protectorate on China’s Shantung peninsula and its port city Tsingtau. The Japanese conducted their siege campaign thoroughly, professionally, and, most importantly, effectively. In fairness, the German defenders were naval infantry personnel who were outnumbered in personnel and overwhelmed in equipment and training.

The German East Asiatic Naval Squadron, which consisted of two armored cruisers, the SMS Scharnhorst and the SMS Gneisenau, and four light cruisers, escaped the Japanese naval blockade and steamed toward Germany’s colonies in Micronesia. An Imperial Japanese Navy task force, led by the battle cruiser IJN Shikshim, pursued the escaping German squadron with the ostensible goal of destroying it, thus ensuring safe passage for Allied commerce in the central Pacific.

However, when the Imperial Japanese Navy reached Germany’s Pacific Ocean possessions in the central and southern Pacific, they abandoned the pursuit and let the German squadron sail eastward towards Frederikshavn, their home port.

Japan’s victory secured and expanded its existing political and economic position in the Orient. More importantly, Japan took possession of German Micronesia and established a “Bamboo Curtain” that flanked any line of communication across the central Pacific and prevented passage through the area, all in violation of Japan’s League of Nations mandate. Shortly, the Japanese Imperial Navy began the fortification of key islands, the preliminary phase of their planned Pacific War with the Occidental colonial powers. Such bases included Saipan in the Marianas, Truk, Ponape and the Palau Islands in the Carolines, and Kwajalein, Wotje, and Jaluit in the Marshall—names all too familiar to our Greatest Generation.

FIN

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Review – The Russia Hoax

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Jarrett pens a comprehensive review of the Deep State’s inordinate fraud on our Constitution—perhaps the greatest attack on our constitutional republic in the history of our country. He writes in clear and empathetic style. His narrative evolves in a coherent and logical progression that details the conspirators’ skullduggery in an “ABC” type of progression. He cites exactly who violated the relevant federal statute and why and how it was violated. Unfortunately, as of 30 September 2018—the date I’m preparing the review—none of the  miscreants have been indicted even though the documentation of evidence is ponderous.

A cabal of high-ranking government officials in the Barack Obama administration, from the Department of Justice, intelligence community, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and others formed a shadow government—a camorra. Their goals were to insure that the Democratic presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, won the 2016 presidential election. Should the Republican candidate win, “God forbid,”  their self-generated insurance policy would form a shadow government with Obama holdovers during the interregnum and into the incoming administration in order to engage in a illegal campaign to have Trump impeached and, failing that, to destroy his presidency—a coup d’état, as it were.

 Leaders of the Deep State and fellow conspirators are

  • Barack Obama, ex-President
  • Hillary Clinton, ex-Secretary of State and presidential candidate
  • John Brennan, ex-national security advisor
  • Eric Holder, ex-Attorney General, serving from 2009 to 2015
  • Loretta Lynch, ex-Attorney General, serving from 2015 to 2016
  • Sally Yates, ex-Attorney General, serving from 10JAN16 to 20JAN16
  • Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General
  • James Comey, ex-Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Andrew McCabe, ex-Deputy Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Peter Paul Strzok, ex-Deputy Assistant Director of the Counterintelligence Division, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Lisa Page, ex-legal counsel to Deputy Director Andrew McCabe
  • James Baker, ex-chief lawyer for the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Robert Mueller, special counsel

Ancillary Actors

  • Mike Kortan, ex-Assistant Director for Public Affairs, Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • David Laufman, ex-Chief of the Justice Department’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section
  • Andres Weismann, deputy special counsel
  • Unnamed others

Their first task was to shield Hillary Clinton from a federal indictment, prosecution, and almost sure conviction for her egregious violation of the espionage law—extremely carelessness in handling of Sensitive Compartment Intelligence, and other federal malfeasances. If such were the case, it would ensure the Republican candidate Donald Trump’s victory. At the time, Clinton had a commanding lead in the polls and was a sure winner. Accordingly, these illegal and untoward deeds would remain secret.

There are far too many details to expose in this book review. Nonetheless, following are some of Jarrett’s key comments.

  • New York Times, Cash Flowed to the Clinton Foundation Amid Russian Uranium Deal,” p. 74.
  • “Roughly $25 million poured into the Clinton Foundation,” p. 74.
  • “Mueller, Comey, Rosenstein, and Weissman ignored potential crimes involving Russia and (Hillary) Clinton,” p. 81.
  • “…Clinton could and should be prosecuted for racketeering,” p. 79.
  • “… the Clinton foundation was built on greed and the lust for power and wealth—not charity,” p. 85.
  • “… Officials in the FBI and the Department of Justice—their motives corrupt and animated by antipathy for Trump. They were determined to tip the scales of justice and in the process, undermine the (2016) electoral democracy.”
  • “It appears there was coordination between the White House (Obama’s), CIA, and FBI at the outset of the (Mueller’s special counsel) investigation.”
  • “(The cabal’s) dossier (on President Trump) was salacious and unverified,” p. 156.
    • This dossier was paid for by the Hilton Campaign and the Democrat National Party and developed by a former MI6 agent who detested Trump.
  • “Under the law, the content (of a document) dictates its classification, not the markings,” p. 248.
  • “Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein had a conflict of interest so acute that no sincere debate could be waged on whether he should have stepped down,” p. 274.

As the days pass, more and more details of the camorra’s illegal activities are exposed. This attack to undermine our democracy is unparalleled in the history of our republic.

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Review – Liars, Leakers, and Liberals: The Case Against the Anti-Trump Conspiracy

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Five Stars

Pirro pens a dynamite exposé of the Deep State’s cabal to insure that the consummate liar (New York Times) and inveterate racketeer Hillary Clinton won the 2016 presidential election. With Clinton as the president, their chicanery would fade and their mischief would continue as normal. To the Deep State’s horror, the outsider Donald J. Trump topped Hillary decisively.

Donald J. Trump, this self-made billionaire, is dedicated to making “America great again” and to draining the swamp of the career politicians and entrenched bureaucrats that suffuse throughout government and whose primary task is to enrich themselves and insure their continued membership in the “good ol’ boys/gals gang.”

There’s no fiction in Pirro’s pithy essay. “Just the facts, Ma’am,” as Joe Friday was wont to say (TV show Dragnet, 1951–59). Judge Pirro was an accomplished prosecutor and a no-nonsense judge in Westchester County, New York. Accordingly, she understands full well and supports assiduously the equal application of law, and she holds as a primary tenet of the law that Madam Justice is blind. Nowadays, she is a commentator on Fox News.

The Deep State includes a host of Poohbah miscreants from former President Barack HusseinObama’s administration. They were leaders in the intelligence community, Justice Department, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Department of State: for instance, James Clapper, chairman of the National Security Council; John Brennan, Director of the CIA; James Comey, Director of the FBI; Rod Rosenstein, Deputy Attorney General; Sally Yates, former Deputy Attorney General; Loretta Lynch, Attorney General; and Christopher Steel, former British MI6 agent, to name a few.

On Trump’s presidential victory, the Deep State clique, now in extremis, had to engender an alternate scheme. Now they had to unseat our duly elected president to deflect scrutiny from their chicanery to rig the election—lest their malfeasance be exposed and their next ensembles be yellow jumpsuits. In concert with an eagerly accomplice media to spread their agitprop, they waged an intensive, illegal campaign focused on a Kremlin-based, gossip-filled dossier about President Trump’s failings and his extramarital, sexual proclivities. A faction consisting of Comey, Rosenstein, and others committed perjury on presentation of this nonsense dossier to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court(FISA) to obtain a warrant to surveil Donald Trump and his campaign, and to justify Rosenstein’s appointment of a Special Prosecutor to investigate the president for the alleged crime of collusion with the Russians to rig the election in his favor.

Their unlawful campaign consisted of abuse of power, obstruction of justice, perjury, conspiracy, and violations of the Espionage Acts. In effect, the Deep State staged a coup d’état. It failed. And now, notwithstanding their continued futile resistance, the details of their corruption are unfolding day by day.

I’ll not go into the details of Pirro’s exposé of this Deep State conspiracy. I do not want to spoil your reading pleasure with “giveaways.” Her narrative is comprehensive, straightforward, and cogent. For those who believe in our constitution, the equal application of justice, and the rule of law, Judge Pirro’s book is a must-read.

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Review – The Case Against Impeaching Trump

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Alan Dershowitz

Dershowitz pens a dispassionate, cogent, and compelling monograph that makes the legal case that the blather that suffuses through the media regarding the impeachment of President Trump is but manifestly political agitprop. He presents his thesis in the Queen’s English, instead of legalese, for the proletariat—it is easily readable and comprehensible, and decidedly politically neutral.

This is a small book, only 150 pages. The nugget of Dershowitz’s explication lies in the first seventy pages. The remaining eighty pages are primarily transcriptions of his television interviews that enhance his thesis. He explores the constitutional duties and protections that a sitting president has. The law must be applied equally to all our citizens. But, Dershowitz notes, some parts of the law are different for a sitting president. For example, a president cannot be subpoenaed in federal court, indicted, or convicted of a crime while in office. Impeachment is the only remedy for removing a president. Such a constructional legislative action must be rare and used only after a sitting president commits an obviously egregious “high” crime—murder, treason, etc.

Dershowitz assails the radical left with constitutional vigor for their irrational rhetoric regarding President Trump and their self-righteous hypocrisy. For example, he chides the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) for its leftist bent. On page 100 he writes, “Unfortunately, however, over the last several years it has turned from being a neutral civil liberties organization to a left-wing, agenda-driven group that protects its contributors and constituents while ignoring the civil liberties of Americans with whom it disagrees.” He applies an equal reproach to the “civil libertarians” who have abandoned their neutrality and have embraced the leftist agenda.

Dershowitz is an unabashedly proud liberal. He tells his audience that he voted for Barack Obama twice and voted for Hilary Clinton in the 2016 election. He is an emeritus professor of law at Harvard University, a criminal defense attorney, and a noted civil libertarian. He is a man of courage and principle and a zealous advocate of applying the principles of our Constitution equally (my emphasis). The recurring theme in his monograph is “the shoe on the other foot test.” Will the accusation (or whatever) that is leveled against a person, race, religion, etc., be equally applied to that which is different, least favored, or the opposition? For example, “If a controversial president is denied constitutional protection, then any citizen can be denied constitutional protection.”

My favorite line is, “The Constitution is fragile and imperfect, as is democracy itself. Both require the legitimacy of the governed.”

FIN

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Book Review – The 1929 Sino-Soviet War: The War Nobody Knew

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Rating – Four Stars

Congratulations to Michael Walker on his assiduous research and lucid manuscript about this seminal 1929 conflict between the Republic of China and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) over control of the China Eastern Railroad (CER). The CER runs through Chinese Manchuria and links the Russian Far East city Chit with Vladivostok. This railroad spur is a shortcut of about 1,200 miles between these two cities on the northern loop of the Trans-Siberian Railroad that skirts Manchuria. If you study a map of this area, you will understand why both its economic and its military value have been apparent to Imperial Russia, the USSR, Russia, and China.

In 1896, after the first Sino-Japanese War, 1894–1895, the Chinese Qing dynasty was weak and adrift under the inept leadership of the Empress Dowager Tz’u His. Under intense Russian pressure, the Qing government granted a concession to Czar Nicholas II of Imperial Russia to construct the CER through northern Manchuria. Work began on the CER in July 1897. The contract provisions provided for dual control by the USSR and Imperial China, and for employment of Chinese executives and workers.

A large Russian army occupied Northern Manchuria to control the CER and protect it from bandit raids and Japanese incursions. The Japanese were gravely concerned that Russia was appropriating their sphere of influence; this led in large measure to the Russo-Japanese war of 1904–1905.

Freight traffic on the CER line started in November 1901, and regular passenger traffic from St. Petersburg to Vladivostok across the Trans-Siberian railway and the CER began in July 1903.

Problems of ownership of the CER and its operations festered for years.. In July 1919, the Soviets promised to return the CER to Chinese control without compensation. The Soviets had laid the foundation for a double-cross to regain complete control of the CER and its auxiliary lines. In 1924, the Soviets, under the reign of Joseph Stalin, reneged, and began a campaign of subterfuge to get rid of all Chinese control and interest in the CER. The Soviet Comintern spread Marxist agitprop among the Chinese executives and workers, led strikes, and encouraged sabotage.  In the ensuing years, the controversy escalated.

In 1929, Generalissimo Chang Kai-shek’s Kuomintang government in Nanking was weak and controlled only about fifty percent of the land area of China. A collage of warlords controlled the remainder. The powerful warlord Chang Hsuch-liang (Wade-Giles spelling), the leader of the Fengtian clique, governed Manchuria with a large, well-trained, and well-armed modern army

The Soviets intensified their perfidious campaign with wide-ranging agitations, purloining of CER funds, and assassinations. In turn, Chang began retaliation activities including the kidnapping of Soviet CER executives—leading to his goal of a forced hostile takeover. Realizing that armed conflict with the USSR was inevitable, Chang Hsuch-liang pledged his army and his loyalty to the Kuomintang government in Nanking. In turn, Chang Kai-shek pledged what support he could. Warlords in other cliques also offered backing.

The armed conflict started slowly in the summer of 1929 with skirmishes along the Amur and Songhua Rivers. The first battle started on 17 August 1929, when the Soviets attacked Chalainor. Chang’s troops retreated to a heavily armed trench line. The Soviets advanced into a killing zone, and suffered heavy losses. Following that, the Chinese troops fought a valiant and bloody defensive campaign. However, by late November, the USSR’s overwhelming military power forced the Chinese to sign a treaty on Soviet terms on 13 December 1929.

The most serious negative I find with Walker’s narrative is the absence of a series of small-scale maps to detail the conflict areas and include the many geographical names mentioned in his text.

Note. The USSR conceded ownership of the Chinese Eastern Railway to the People’s Republic of China in 1952.

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Book Review – Exploring Chaos

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Rating – Three Stars

In Exploring Chaos, Hall has combined eighteen essays that explore the science of chaos in several disciplines: the stock market, quantum physics, the arrow of time, electronics, mathematics, fluids, chemistry, engineering, the solar systems, and so forth. The authors are prominent scientists, professors, and aerologists.

This book is not an easy read. It is geared to a sophisticated audience that understands science and mathematics. Nonetheless, there are gems of information scattered throughout the essays. For example:

  • The theory of chaos touches all disciplines.
  • Small changes lead to bigger changes later—the signature of chaos.
  • Chaos is persistent instability.
  • Feedback may morph into chaos.
  • Chaos helps researchers understand evolving, complicated systems.
  • Chaos is a dynamic phenomenon.
  • Extreme sensitivity of initial conditions characterizes an evolving chaotic system.
  • The language of chaos is topology.
  • Frequently, chaotic motion follows simple, deterministic laws.

Lastly, I fault Nina Hall for not including an index—essential for all science books.

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Film Review – Dunkirk

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Rating – Two stars

I enjoyed the first few minutes of Dunkirk. The narrative was presented in classic cinematic design—relevant, dynamic, kinetic action void of dialogue and supported by pertinent sound effects. “Here’s a winner,” I reckoned. Unfortunately, as the film continued, I became increasingly disappointed.

I do not know what to make of Dunkirk. Is it a historical fiction film based on the rescue of the British army from France, or an avant garde experiment? Nonetheless, as a straight narrative film it is seriously flawed. Notwithstanding the numerous technical errors, several egregious, I could not willingly suspend my disbelief while viewing this film.

Dunkirk does not engender empathy for its characters. One exception is actor Mark Rylance—the skipper of a small boat that putt-putts at an agonizingly plodding pace to the beach at Dunkirk. Other than him, I’ve no one to root for.

There is no antagonist, except some vague enemy who shoots from concealment, fires artillery shells from the ether (as it were), and flies Messerschmitt 109s and drops bombs from Hinkle 119s sans aviators. I’ve no one to fear or abhor. Who is the enemy that is causing the havoc at Dunkirk? I am bamboozled by why the producers did not identify the adversary—the German Wehrmacht, Luftwaffe, and Kriegsmarine. Am I to conclude that the filmmakers’ cultural-correctness negates history so as not to offend—anyone? Gadzooks! Without a defined antagonist, the narrative is palpably defective.

Compounding my disappointment is the negative ambiance that pervades Dunkirk. The mise en scène focuses excessively on sinking ships, downed aircraft, and dying and dead “tommies”—dying in all manner of horrors. Bedlam is a more fitting title for this epic extant. Admittedly, war is Hell. But to linger on its savagery is ghoulish.

My most serious objection to Dunkirk is the film’s dereliction in failing to communicate the critical importance and far-reaching consequence of the “Miracle of Dunkirk”—the evacuation of 200,000 British “tommies” and 140,000 French poilus from the beaches of France. This British operation was one of Word War II’s most critical actions. The film ignores the great triumph that it was. Had this operation failed, Britain would have been without an army and probably would have had to ask for terms with the Third Reich.

Background. Field Marshal Gerd von Rundstedt, Wehrmacht Commander of Army Group A during the Battle of France, said, “Dunkirk was one of the greatest turning points of the war.”

The filmmaker missed a beckoning opportunity to concoct a classic cinematic montage that would portray the frenetic activity of British naval personnel and subjects fueling and preparing private boats that could sail the forty miles from Ramsgate to France, and return with soldiers. En route was an armada of eight hundred self-propelled vessels—the “little ships of Dunkirk.” It was a mélange of trawlers, pleasure yachts, fishing boats, dinghies, Thames ferries, lifeboats, automobile ferries, and tugboats. Included also were Belgian fishing boats, Irish motor torpedo boats, and Dutch coasters.

The last scene in Dunkirk shows a rescued British soldier riding in a train, looking at a newspaper. He spots a transcript of Winston Churchill’s famous “Miracle of deliverance” speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940—”We shall fight on the beaches…we shall never surrender.” This was the most famous speech of the war. It boosted British subjects’ sagging morale and encouraged them to carry on. To my serious disappointment, the soldier read aloud this hallmark speech. How pedestrian.

Nolan missed another golden opportunity to salvage a smidgen of this flawed film’s ambiance. After the surfeit of death and destruction that suffused through this epic, it ought to have ended on a high point, a capstone. Consider a scene that would show the “little ships” flotilla closing on the English coast. On the sound track is Winston Churchill delivering his “Miracle of deliverance” oration. Didn’t happen.

The special effects in Dunkirk are spectacular. I wonder, however, if less technology and more plot and cinematic design would have produced a more tolerable film.

FIN

Complete text of Winston Churchill’s “Miracle of deliverance” speech to the House of Commons on 4 June 1940—the last day of the Dunkirk evacuation.

”We shall go on to the end, we shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our Island, whatever the cost may be, we shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender.”

FIN

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