I was interested by Roger J. Spiller’s “War in the Dark” (February/March) because as the son of a U.S. Army veteran of the Pacific theater, I occasionally watched war movies and television shows (usually “Combat”) with him while growing up in the 1960s. When asked how they compared with his experiences, he always dismissed them as hokum.
So I was very interested in his reactions to Saving Private Ryan . He took my mom and my son (his fifteen-year-old grandson) to see it. My wife and I were somewhat worried that my dad would be disturbed by the movie; he found a few parts moving (the hand-to-hand in the house) but thought it mostly hokum. He said, for instance, that no officer would invite a sniper’s bullet by wearing his bars openly. Moreover, he opined that the Tom Hanks officer character would carry a carbine, not a submachine gun. Even after all these years, it is amazing what a dogface remembers.
As for the ten-best movie list, I would add Attack! and Catch-22 . Although perhaps not great movies, the former touches upon the incompetence of some members of the officer corps, while the latter is a maddening look at the sheer idiocy of war and the “fubar” corruption and criminality it engenders.
As for Mr. Spiller’s observation that it was odd that a P-51, not a P-47, was shown as the tank-busting ground-to-support aircraft, I think it may have something to do with Mr. Spielberg’s love affair with the Mustang. In his Empire of the Sun , there were some nice scenes showing the “Cadillac of the Skies.” I guess Hollywood must make concessions to artistic license.