It took a few months, but after establishing my Top Five list for the best Blu-Rays out there, I finally saw a movie that was good enough to bump one of the previous ones off the list. I have set up a few resources on this blog for those who want to purchase Blu-Rays, because unlike in other mediums, sometimes the quality after a transfer is just a waste of money if you already own the movie. On the flip-side, sometimes that quality is so amazing that it will just blow you away. I had that feeling a few days ago, when I finished watching a WWII movie that gave Saving Private Ryan a run for its money, and might have even eclipsed it, in my humble opinion. It is for that reason that we unfortunately say goodbye to A Night to Remember from the Top Five, and welcome in Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, which comes thundering in to the number two spot.
Wanting to kick off the week with something triumphant, how about we venture on over to a film score, written by John Addison for the World War II epic A Bridge Too Far (my review of which can be found here), which depicted the failed allied invasion of Holland, known as Operation Market Garden. No other soundtrack for a war film ever shone through with such militaria like this one has. It has everything you could want, with some old-time fife and drums present, as well as some jazzy interludes that bring in the era of big bands in America with plenty of brass. It has a catchy main theme that can get stuck in your head for an entire day, and prove to not be such a bad thing. For me, one essential item for a war movie is the soundtrack, with the exception of Saving Private Ryan, which offered none. This one ranks very high on my list.
One’s interest in history has a funny habit of not being isolated to the region that he or she lives in. Take, for example, my friend that lives in England who has never been to the United States. He has an entire room devoted to our American Civil War. Books and movies line his shelves, painted figures and statuettes take their place on his desk and coffee table, while Mort Kunstler paintings figure as the majority of wall space, save for two exact replicas of American and Confederate flags, gently draped by the fireplace. There is actually a rather large Civil War following in England and all over the United Kingdom, which extends to many different reenacting groups, some of which travel here to participate in major reenactments such as the annual one at Gettysburg. In addition, there even seems to be a great deal of interest in Denmark and the Netherlands, as a newsletter called Nordstaterne syndicates some articles on this site and translates many of them into Danish, which I always thought was funny. How do all these people find interest in our greatest internal conflict, I have often asked myself.
Some things happen to you in life, those stupid little things, that make you step back in the middle of a busy day and just say, “Whoa.” As I get ready to prepare the April issue of my newspaper, The Proprietary Times, for our association in Perth Amboy, I asked my friend and the House’s chief financial officer, George Ryan, if he could offer up an editorial on something related to New Jersey and the American Civil War. With mounds of research at his disposal, for both lectures and the book he is writing, he chose to submit an article on the 5th New Jersey Regiment (which his book focuses on) that was created in the summer of 1861, in response to Abraham Lincoln’s calling of more volunteers after the first battle and Union defeat at First Bull Run. The article was very interesting, as it detailed the major battles that the regiment was apart of, including Second Manassas, being held in reserve at Fredericksburg, performing heroically at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg, as well as bearing witness to Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox in 1865. The unit was comprised mostly of men from the cities of Rahway, Perth Amboy, and Woodbridge, and was captained by Thomas Godfrey and Henry Woolsey. I thought the story would end there, until I went into work the next day as a substitute teacher.
Last week, I wrote about how a co-worker and I found two World War II uniforms buried in the back of a closet at the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, and how friend, historian, and actor Ed Mantell was helping me do some research to find out who exactly these belonged to. After a few days, we found out, and I am delighted to be able to write this for you all today. I had asked Ed how we would be able to identify these, and he said that the name of the soldier could usually be found inside the sleeve or cuff. A day or two earlier, I had looked there and seen some smudgy ink, dismissing it as being the name of the factory who made them, but when Ed told me that, I realized that must have been his name. I was disappointed that it was barely legible and would leave me guessing, but then, right there on the belt that was attached to the hanger of the longer uniform, was the name, stamped clear as day.
As we are currently in the process of re-renovating the historic house I work at in Perth Amboy, we decided to clean out one of the closets last week, and hanging in the back, completely out of sight, were two World War II uniforms, each one on a wooden hanger inscribed, “October 31, 1942″. Because I will be teaching a weekly class on this war starting in a few weeks, I wanted to learn more, so I took some pictures and posted them on Facebook, with an open request asking for any information, and hoping one of my history buddies would be able to tell me something. Within a few hours, I received some comments, until a friend sent me more information than I thought I would ever be able to find out about two simple uniforms.
A few weeks ago, for my World War II class in college, I had to conduct an interview with anyone who either served in the army during the war, or lived through it as a civilian. Normally, I do not share any school projects on my blog, unless they are something important, and being that this is the 70th anniversary of the attacks on Pearl Harbor, and America’s official entrance into WWII, I thought I would share this interview I conducted with my grandma, Julia Shutter, who is now 83 years old, and on my mother’s side of the family. She was just a young girl when American began their involvement in the war, but she was still able to give me a decent amount of information, even though she admitted that she unfortunately could not remember many details.
Had I needed to do this assignment four or five years ago, I could have also spoken to my great-uncle as well (her sister’s husband), Salvatore Piacentino, who served as a tank crewman during WWII. When I was a little kid, he would tell me stories about the war, and several battles he was in, including the famous Battle of the Bulge. I only remember but one line from his story about that battle, which was when he said, “We nearly soiled ourselves when the Germans started shooting at us.” I also remember him saying how the noise inside the tanks was deafening, and they were frightened the entire time. Unfortunately, about four years ago, he developed Alzheimer’s, and passed away within the last year. With his death when volume’s worth of stories, experiences, and knowledge about the war, but I am still grateful to have spoken to my grandma about the subject, and to have spent some time with her.
In the beginning of December, I created the first poll for FNYTSF, wanting to know what readers thought was their favorite topic covered by this blog. Though I was expecting a landslide decision for hockey, and it was that way for a time being, history quickly caught up, although not enough to overtake it. I was only going to leave it up for a month but then I decided to let it get to 50 votes. I also want to say that I am very pleased with how many hits this site is getting daily, despite a decrease in hockey coverage. The disappointing stretch the Rangers have been in lately, unable to score goals, and looking miserable on the powerplay, has left me uninspired to write post-game recaps. At first, I never thought that this blog could survive without hockey, because it was averaging 200 hits a day (which I was more than happy with) when my coverage of the New York Rangers was in full-swing. But since I started writing about more history, including coverage of the Gods and Generals Director’s Cut, hits skyrocketed to nearly 400 a day, which is where they are now.
I would like to thank my readers who have shared this link with other Civil War sites, because a lot of people have emailed me, thanking me for spreading the news, including a military sergeant who was an extra in the film, who thanked me for “Keeping Gods and Generals alive”. All I can say is that I am happy to have spread the word, because this film needs exposure upon its re-release.
Anyway, onto the actual poll results, they are as follows:
- Hockey (52%/ 26 votes)
- History (34%/17 votes)
- Movies (6%/3 votes)
- Music (4%/2 votes)
- Baseball (4%/2 votes)
I promise to try to get the hockey coverage back to what it was, though I have been so busy and missing bits and pieces of games that I feel I should not write about them unless I watch the entire game. The history pieces will only increase, because we are growing ever-closer to the 150th anniversary of the American Civil War. Music and movies will stay the same—I’ll write about them when I can, and baseball will pick up in late March.
This leads us to the new poll I have just put up, which is asking readers what their favorite aspect of American history is. The choices are Pre-Colonial (I.E everything leading up to the Revolution), Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War I, World War II, Vietnam and “other”. I encourage everyone to share their opinion and vote in the poll!
Remember the days when the History Channel wasn’t so focused on Armageddon, the end of humanity, aliens and Freemason world domination conspiracies? Remember when it was one of the more respectable networks, that focused on World War II, Ancient, and American history? Well, thanks to a recent release of DVD sets, now you can relive those days when the History Channel was the best place for both informative and entertaining documentaries.
I was very pleased to see a bunch of new sets in the store last week, titled History Classics, which each consisted of five DVDs containing six or so documentaries and about eight hours of footage. I could tell by the names of the shows on the back that they were mostly from the late 1990′s and early 2000′s, when the channel was in its heyday. The days of Roger Mudd anchoring and introducing specials have long since vanished, being replaced by paranoid (and nerdy) shows like Ancient Aliens, Life after People, and Monsterquest. Though I find these shows a bit entertaining, they get very old, very fast, and almost serve as an embarrassment to the network.
The first few episodes of Monsterquest were very well done, but as they progressed and expanded into four seasons, I had a feeling that I may be getting a call from an HC rep asking if they could investigate the strange-looking squirrels that look for acorns in the woods behind my house. I quickly discovered the recipe for their structure: spend the first fifty minutes building up the “monster” at hand, with eyewitness testimony and the expertise of scientists, before taking the final ten minutes to debunk everything they previously presented, telling us that there is absolutely no evidence of the monster’s existence and any that they may have can’t be proven anyway. This is the direction the channel has taken, and Life after People only enhanced its hilarity. It began as a one-time, two-hour special, which was clever, but then they had to ruin it by making it a weekly series. (If you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen them all.)
Needless to say, being able to purchase and view episodes that I watched as a kid (which no doubt contributed to my love for history) made me smile, and I bought two collections—on ancient Egypt and Rome. I have yet to watch all the episodes, but I am very happy with what I have seen so far. These were the days that I remember, and surely, you do too. The History Channel used to be made fun of because of how much WWII coverage they used to do, some even mocking it with the moniker of “The Hitler Channel”, but compared to some of the garbage they are peddling now, 24 hours of Adolf Hitler doesn’t seem so bad.
They have so far released sets on Ancient Egypt, Ancient Rome, Ancient Greece, Famous Figures of the Civil War, Heroes of the Bible, The First Days of Christianity, Real West Cowboys and Outlaws, American Adventurers, The Founding of America, UFO’s and Aliens, WWII: Unsung Heroes, and some others containing more recent documentaries.
The UFO Classic sets contains episodes of one of my favorite HC shows, UFO Files, which were put out around 2004, right when the network began to fall into where they are now. These were the last truly enjoyable alien shows put out by the network—UFO Hunters seems far less credible. Meanwhile, the Egypt set contains episodes of a small series narrated by Frank Langella, which is a tad bit dated, but very well done.
And so I recommend that you check this out if you are a fan of the old History Channel days. These collections sell for $19.95 on History.Com, but other stores, such as Costco, offer the same exact ones for $11.95. Do some searching before you buy, because you may find them a lot cheaper. Even so, either price is fair for these sets.
This is something very interesting and something that I am very excited to be a part of.
On Saturday January 15, from 10 am to 4 pm at the Proprietary House in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, the historic governor’s mansion will transform into a living timeline, which is a creation of Revolutionary and Civil War reenactor Tony Sattilaro. We will have people coming from all over the country to take part in this annual event, which will include reenactors from Medieval Times, Revolutionary War, Civil War, World War II, and Vietnam, as well as the Alamo as I will be portraying New Jersey’s lone defender Richard L. Stockton, who ironically was 19 years old like I am at the time of the battle, which led to the death of him, along with more famous names such as David Crockett and James Bowie. My buckskin jacket is coming in the mail, and I already have a coonskin cap, knife, and flintlock. (I can do a pretty good Crockett impression, so perhaps I should play him.)
There may also be reenactors coming from the French and Indian War, as well as the Cuban Missile Crisis (I have heard these guys were amazing). They have come in year’s past, but we are unsure if they are going to attend. The cost of admission is free, but as always, donations are more than welcome because of the ongoing restoration work we are doing, which will probably take several years.
We will be having exhibits both outside and inside, including every weapon and artifact from each era you can imagine. This will be the perfect event for those who have an interest in wars and history, as well as for those who have children that may be interested in history. I hope to see you there!
149 Kearney Avenue
Perth Amboy, New Jersey