Yesterday was the anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that brought the United States into WWII and caused so many young, enthusiastic men to enlist in the army. Josef Jankola from Perth Amboy, New Jersey was one of those men. It is his uniforms that are currently on loan to me from the Proprietary House Museum, as I bring them around when I teach and give lectures. It was almost a year ago when we stumbled upon them in the back of a closet at the old museum and not seeing them having any use there, they were given to me, for the time being, so they could be used for education. All this time later, I still have them, and all this time later, I was still searching for more information on the marine who owned them. After posting two articles on the uniforms, one about them being found, and one with some additional follow-up information thanks to my friend, military expert Ed Mantell, many people have contacted me with more information about the jackets themselves and the insignias, but we could not find anything in-depth on the sergeant, who we did deduce died sometime in 1943 or 44 in the Pacific. But even with more facts steadily mounting, what I really wanted was a picture. It was yesterday when I finally got my wish.
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.
Let’s just say that I’ve been on a World War II kick of late, which gives me occasion to post my first movie review in quite some time. Heck, I might even go out and get a pack of Luckies since I’m in such a good mood. So, anyway, it seems that one cannot be considered a war movie buff unless they have watched the 1977 WWII epic A Bridge Too Far. Now that I have finally watched it, my journey is complete, and I must say, it was well worth the lengthy wait. Despite its obvious flaws, many with casting, it is still an outstanding film and one of the best war movies ever made. I consider this to be a companion to an earlier made film, The Longest Day, though the two are not officially connected in any way in regards to the production. However, both are based on novels written by the same author, Cornelius Ryan, and both took the same approach to actually making the film: have a sense of scope that is unmatched for the time, strive for the utmost historical accuracy, and of course, acquire every big name actor you can, pay them whatever they want, and find a role for them. While both films suffered nominally because of the last part, that really is the redeeming quality they have that gets people to say, “Gee, they don’t make movies like that anymore.”
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.
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 film caught my eye because it was in the upper echelon of lists that suggested the most disturbing movies ever made. Having seen Salo: or the 120 Days of Sodom, Cannibal Holocaust, and Caligula, I was not sure how this movie would affect me, and if it would live up to its stature as one of the more horrific movies ever filmed.
While I was disturbed at some points, this just goes to show how de-sensitized we have become as a society, with appalling movies such as the Saw series, and all the other countless pieces of garbage that try to mimic it. By today’s standards, this film could be placed near Saw for the gore factor, but it surpasses it in storytelling, because what we have here is the true story of Unit 731, a Japanese biological and chemical warfare test facility. This film examines some of the atrocious experiments conducted on human beings, which in this case, were captured Chinese citizens and soldiers.
When this first came out in 1988, it was probably one of the most disturbing movies ever made up until that point. I have no doubt that there were countless people who got up and left the theaters. There is no censorship here; when they are conducting an experiment, we see everything.
Sometimes the experiments are done on men, sometimes women and children, which make it all the more disgusting. But perhaps the scene that really made me cringe was when the doctors threw a live cat into a tub of rats and watched it get eaten alive. This was without a doubt a real cat, because the whole scene was too realistic, and there was no CGI back then to make a cat. Had this part been left out, I would have been able to give this film a higher rating, but I am not a fan of having animals killed for the making of a movie.
Aside from medical experiments, which includes testing a man in a high pressurized chamber and watching his entrails burst out of him, and testing a woman’s arms in sub-130 degree temperature, only to have them submerged in hot water where they then rip the skin off her bones, the film also goes into detail on the youth corps serving there.
This youth corps would be kept from the secrets going on at the camp until the very end, when they are asked to participate in the extermination of all surviving prisoners because, as the film mentions, Japan was bombed at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and the war was nearing an end.
Another thing that caught my attention was the mention of the Nazi’s and there experiments, and how the Japanese doctor says that Germany’s are subpar to theirs, and that they will never accomplish what the Japanese already have.
Camp 731 also has a crematorium, which is there to mimic that of a concentration camp used by the Nazi’s. I don’t know if they were that identical in real life, or if director T.F Mous just used it as a parallel.
All in all, this film has some very realistic and shocking death scenes sure to make you cringe. But it is not just a gore fest, there is an actual story and some history behind it. Camp 731 really existed, and the main character, Lt. General Shiro Ishii, played by Gang Wang, existed as well. I have not done further research, but I am sure that I will find more truth than fiction in this movie, making it all the more stunning. My final grade will be a 6 out of 10, and I do recommend this to an audience that is not faint of heart and wants to learn some of the secrets of WWII human experimentation.