Saturday, April 25, 2015

5 War Movies I'd Like to See Made

In no particular order, here are five historical conflicts that I think would make excellent films.

Forty Days of Musa Dagh
Pronounced 'Moosa Da,' (or Moses' Mountain) this site in modern Syria was once a part of the Ottoman Empire. During the 1915 genocide, six Armenian villages—5,000 people—fled to the mountain and fought off assaults by the Turkish army. With its back to the Mediterranean, Musa Dagh held out for 53 days. As food and ammunition dwindled, the embattled Armenians managed to signal passing French warships. The survivors were taken to safety in Egypt.

Not surprisingly, Turkey has fought like a velociraptor to keep this film from being made. A 1930s production was scotched by Turkish diplomatic pressure on the U.S. State Department and MGM. Sly Stallone and Mel Gibson both backed off Musa Dagh projects after Turkish grousing. President Obama won't even call it a genocide, referring to the Armenian massacre as a 'great catastrophe.' A 'great catastrophe' is the 2004 tsunamis or Chicago Cubs baseball. What happened in Turkey was genocide.

Book to Read: Forty Days of Musa Dagh by Franz Werfel.

Operation Buffalo

Marines along the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) were given a thankless and 
bloody task of checking North Vietnamese infiltration into South Vietnam. Untouchable in North Vietnam for political reasons, Russian-made artillery concealed in caves constantly shelled the Marines. By fighting at times of their own choosing, then retreating back to safety across the DMZ, the North Vietnamese Army (NVA) controlled the tempo of battle. As if matters weren't bad enough, Secretary of Defense McNamara decided that a nice barrier built during the fighting would control infiltration. Finally, Marines were worn down by constant patrolling, a poor supply chain, and saddled with new M16 rifles that jammed

In the face of all that, an understrength Marine company was ambushed and shot to bits in July 1967. The subsequent relief of the survivors, attempts to recover the dead, and a massive NVA assault across the DMZ highlight the bravery and dedication of men locked in a futile war of attrition. 

I once had the rights to a book about this operation, but hopefully someone else will find the money and energy to bring this project to life.    

Book to Read: Operation Buffalo: USMC Fight for the DMZ by Keith William Nolan.

The Forest Brothers

A Baltic Red Dawn, people in Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia waged guerrilla war against the Soviet Union until the mid-1950s. Overrun by Russia in 1940, then Nazi Germany, then Russia again in 1944, the Baltic peoples were under no illusions as to what awaited them under brutal Soviet occupation. In desperation, many waged a forlorn battle with the invaders, hiding out in forests and fighting until betrayed by communists serving in British Intelligence. After Stalin's death, an amnesty ended most of the conflict, though isolated units soldiered on until the 1960s. 

Some films have been made in the Baltics, but there's still plenty of David vs. Goliath, brother against brother material to fill up 120 minutes. 

The Great Siege

In 1565, the world superpower was the Ottoman Empire under Sultan Suleiman the Magnificent. Annoyed by the raiding of the last crusading order, Knights of St. John, the Sultan commanded a huge fleet to sail to the island of Malta and crush the knights. With a split command, the Turks invested the knights' forts, hauled up artillery and attempted to batter the walls into a degraded state for a final assault. The ensuing siege, the politics, tactics, and personalities of the opposing commanders would make for fascinating viewing.

This movie is probably too non-pc for at least another generation. Nevertheless, given Turkey's attitude, I would release it as a double feature with Forty Days of Musa Dagh.  

Book to Read: The Great Siege: Malta 1565 by Ernle Bradford

Neptune's Inferno

In a series of battles lasting six months, the U.S. Navy lost five-thousand men wrestling the Japanese for control of the seas around Guadalcanal. This is a film made for CGI as the U.S. fritters away their advantage in radar because senior officer don't trust the "new fangled thing." Japanese night fighting tactics and torpedoes are decisive early on. Lots of command in-fighting on both sides in a back-and-forth brawl that saw the United States reduced to a single damaged aircraft carrier in the whole Pacific during the fall of 1942.

This ought to be the 21st Century equivalent of In Harm's Way except we won't blow up model ships in a big tank.

Book to Read: Neptune's Inferno: The U.S. Navy at Guadalcanal by James D. Hornfischer.

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