I wasn't very kind to Jimmy Work in The Sorry Saga of the Brewster Buffalo. It turns out that, despite his faults as a businessman and airframe manufacturer, Mr Work had a good heart. I was pleased to get email recently from Robin Lupinacci about Brewster's president, the factory he built in Warminster PA, the National Farm School nearby, and how he helped Mr Lupinacci's father to matriculate at Rutgers. More about all this in the Annals of the Brewster Buffalo.
They Shall Not Grow Old -- I was blown away by this film, if that's not an inappropriate term for a movie about the trenches of the First World War. What a commentary on the Academy Awards that it didn't win an Oscar! Not only the best foreign film of 2018/2019, but the best in any category, and arguably one of the best in the history of cinema. The link is to the DVD on Amazon.com though we watched it on a trial subscription from HBO. We sat in our chairs, riveted to the TV monitor, for an hour and a half, with only occasional mewing from the woman who shares my life, and who doesn't care for blood and guts. I was deep into the film before understanding that I wasn't watching modern actors but colorized newsreels from 1914-1918, and mostly hearing the recorded voices of Tommies who survived. (As for the French, their only mention is in the closing credits, and there's nothing at all about Americans, Irish, or other lesser nationalities -- not even the Canadians who volunteered to fight in France!) Beyond the colorization, the film speed has been adjusted to modern theatrical standards, except for the small-screen, herky-jerky beginning and end, where people jog along in the usual fashion of newsreels during the first two decades of the 20th century. The effect is indescribably powerful. Even the closing credits are unforgettable, accompanied as they are by verse after verse of "Mademoiselle from Armentieres [Parlez-vous?]." Wonderful!
Also reviewed this month: Operation Chastise, a great account by Max Hastings of the billiant, costly, and immensely destructive "dam busters" raid of May 1943, in which the RAF flooded Germany's industrial Ruhr Valley; and Road to Disaster, an irritating but fascinating study of how we went wrong in Vietnam. See the Warbird's Book Club for more about those.
We are spending this month in what we hope is useful isolation. We keep a Rubbermaid bin at the head of the driveway for deliveries by UPS, Amazon, and the occasional kind neighbor, and we socialize only by email, phone, and Zoom. For exercise I work in the words or, when it's raining, employ our daughter's elliptical trainer while watching a video on the Fire tablet. I am reading David Kilkullen's The Dragons and the Snakes and will have something to say about it next month, along with my worries about what's going these days in Russia and China.
Fifteen years ago, a pal was shocked to hear I was doing graduate work in War in the Modern World (MA 2010). "Why don't you study peace?" she wanted to know. I was reminded of a quip sometimes attributed to Trotsky: "You may not be interested in war, but war is interested in you." Indeed it is. Putin's Russia has been bloodying its neighbors since invading Georgia in 2008 and Ukraine in 2014, while regularly deploying cyberweapons and covert disruption to the "near abroad" (Poland, Sweden, Finland) and the "far abroad" (notably Britain and the US) as well. And of course there's Xi's China, weaponizing the artificial islands it has built in international waters in the South China Sea. Is it entirely a coincidence that the Corona Brothers came to life in the country that's home to the Wuhan Institute of Virology?
Blue skies! — Daniel Ford
Here are a thousand or so files on airplanes, pilots, and the wars of the past hundred years, grouped under these headings: