Movie Review: Devotion

Jesse Brown, a black man, became a US Navy pilot in 1946.  As one might expect at that time, he faced plenty of race-based obstacles in addition to the inherent difficulties involved in becoming a Naval Aviator. Nevertheless, he prevailed, and flew a Corsair piston-engined fighter from the carrier Leyte, in missions to support US ground troops in the Korean War.  On one mission, supporting Marines at the battle of Chosin Reservoir as a member of  the VF-32 squadron, he was shot down in rugged terrain.  His (white) wingman, Thomas Hudner,  observed that Brown had not exited the airplane–which was starting to burn–and landed his Corsair near Brown’s wrecked one with the intent of getting Brown out of the plane and waiting with him until a rescue helicopter could (hopefully) be dispatched before Chinese or North Korean troops showed up.

Oh, and by the way, while Leyte was in the Mediterranean, prior to being dispatched to Korea, several of the aviators met actress Elizabeth Taylor while on shore leave.

Definitely sounds like fiction, doesn’t it?  But it really happened.  While the film indeed took some liberties with the historical truth, the events cited in the above summary are in accord with the factual history.

Race does play a significant role in this movie, of course…since his childhood, Brown had maintained a notebook in which he recorded the various race-based insults he had received over time, especially those telling him all the things he would never have the ability to do.  Sometimes he would recite these as a way of giving himself extra inspiration for high performance.  But I don’t think the racial angle was overemphasized, given the era and Brown’s apparent actual experiences.

The flying scenes were well-done…real airplanes, not CGI…an actual MiG-15 even made an appearance.  (The scene in which a MiG is shot down by a Corsair did not actually happen on this mission, but there was historically an engagement in which a Corsair did manage to shoot down a MiG.)  The movie also includes scenes of the ground combat at Chosin Reservoir.

Despite Hudner’s effort, Brown could not be pulled from the wrecked airplane, and died there.  He was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Purple Heart medal, and the Air Medal.  Tom Hudner received the Medal of Honor from President Truman.  The frigate Jesse L Brown, FF-1089, was named after Brown in 1973, and an Arleigh Burke-class guided missile destroyer was named after Hudner in 2012.

The movie draws on the book Devotion by Adam Makos,  which I haven’t read but apparently goes into considerable detail on the Chosin Revenue ground battle as well as the stories of Brown and Hudner and the experiences of other VF-32 members.

Recommended.  I thought it was better than  Top Gun:  Maverick.  A little slower, but more sense of realism and character development.

Another One Bites the Dust…

Or perhaps and I dearly hope, only takes a small nibble and backs off in revulsion, once the target customers for the item in question have their say. I speak of the American Girl book imbroglio. A book by an in-house writer with all the proper and up-to-the-moment proggie qualifications and sympathies – has been distributed as part of toy behemoth Mattel’s American Girl brand. The book, aimed at pre-teens and tweens, openly suggests changing gender by chemical and surgical means, should they not feel comfortable in their bodies as girls. By the term girls, I mean the pre-mature of the female sex. (Honestly, looking at the picture of the author, I am not surprised at her proggie leanings. Facial piercings – anything but a small hole in each earlobe for earrings – now constitutes a social warning for me.) Look, puberty as it is, remains a miserable and confusing enough experience for many teens. Encouraging and enabling girls to take powerful drugs to delay puberty and have their breasts surgically removed if they are a little unhappy with the form that their bodies have or are assuming … this is not helpful. Appearing to countenance keeping parents in the dark if they do not support this chemical and surgical mutilation … even more so not-good. This development with American Girl is horrifying, but, alas, not particularly surprising, given how just about every long-time and supposedly family-friendly mass establishment such as Disney has gone all-in woke for the latest social media fad. Those fond parents and grandparents who buy American Girl merch for their daughters and granddaughters are not the least bit happy about this development – not the least because it’s coming on to Christmas, where indulgent generosity is expected, not least by retail outlets hoping to make up for an otherwise bleak economic year.

Read more

Quote of the Day: Veterans Day 2022

J.E. Dyer:

Americans instinctively know that empires bring more wars, not fewer. Over the centuries, Europeans have had ample opportunity to learn the same lesson, and many still understand it. The surge of so-called “populism” in much of the world today, and not just the West, is largely about not being dragooned into empires, in which taxes and mandates on the people, and each generation’s fighting men, are devoted to the agendas of rulers at some level that can’t be held accountable.
 
[. . .]
 
We don’t fight for abstractions that may bring others unknown to us under the rule of emperors. We fight so that fighting will stop, and we will have homes to go home to when it does. We fight so that the vulnerable and beloved among us can live securely in peace. We fight so that empires cannot prey on us, whether attacking us in our cities and farms or denying us tradeways and travel and interaction with our fellow men. We fight so that self-organizing “tribes,” subject to ideological fits, cannot wage guerrilla war among us.

On the PBS News Hour today or yesterday two American think-tank people discussed the Biden administration’s new enthusiasm for promoting a negotiated settlement to the Ukraine war. (The Biden people now sound like Elon Musk, except that when Musk said it people who usually support Biden called Musk a Putin supporter. Perhaps Biden finds that he can be more flexible now that the elections are over.)

One of the think-tank people, agreeing with the Administration, said that an imperfect negotiated settlement in Ukraine is preferable to the risk of nuclear war. The other think tanker said that, on the contrary, the Ukrainians are winning, and since their cause is just we should help them to reclaim all of their land and win a complete victory. The obvious (unasked) question was, Why should we even consider taking such a risk? We may sympathize with Ukraine and supply them with weapons, but risk a major war? A possible perfect outcome isn’t worth additional fighting, death, unpredictability and geopolitical peril if a muddled-through deal that leaves everyone unhappy but puts a quick stop to the fighting is available.

The Biden people and too many members of Congress have been gratuitously bellicose towards Russia. And of course Biden pulled us out of Afghanistan in a way that could only have encouraged Putin to invade Ukraine. Our leaders have forgotten, or never knew, the first principles to which J.E. Dyer alludes.

Reprise Post; At the Tomb of Couperin – Thoughts on a Centenary

(For Veteran’s Day – a reprise post from 2018)

There is a lovely little classical piece by Maurice Ravel – Le Tombeau de Couperin, composed shortly after the end of the war, five of the six movements dedicated to the memory of an individual, and one for a pair of brothers, all close friends of the composer, every one of them fallen in a war of such ghastliness that it not only put paid to a century of optimistic progress, but barely twenty years later it birthed another and hardly less ghastly war. Maurice Ravel himself was over-age, under-tall and not in the most robust of health, but such was the sense of national emergency that he volunteered for the military anyway, eventually serving as a driver – frequently under fire and in danger. Not the usual place to find one of France’s contemporarily-famous composers, but they did things differently at the end of the 19th Century and heading all wide-eyed and optimistic into the 20th. Citizens of the intellectual and artistic ilk were not ashamed of their country, or feel obliged to apologize for a patriotic attachment, or make a show of sullen ingratitude for having been favored by the public in displaying their talents.

Read more

Midterms and Mayhem

Abstract: A “red wave” midterm election seems about to occur. Notwithstanding the apparent (relatively) recent precedent of the 1994 midterms, the eight weeks from Tuesday 8 November 2022 to Tuesday 3 January 2023 may become the most challenging period to date in the entire history of the American constitutional order, not excepting the “Secession Winter” following Tuesday 6 November 1860. A broadly similar situation would almost certainly exist if the relative positions of the major political parties in the US were reversed. Even with alarming possibilities in view, this post is intended to promote constructive apprehension, not mere fearfulness.

Like all good students at our eponymous institution, you get the theoretical elements first, then more practical aspects, and falsifiable predictions at the end.

Read more