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Daniel Spector and Chris Schultz have both made comments on my cautionary note about using war movies to understand war. While both made good points, I must point out that understanding war for an historian has to be a different topic than understanding the human experience of war. Getting a good feel for the experience of U-Boat men does not explain why the U-Boats are there doing what they are doing, for that you have to go back to the Treaty of Versailles (or earlier), the disaster of post WW1 Germany, the background of Adolf Hitler, etc, etc. Watching Letters From Iwo Jima doesn't provide any understanding of the rise of Japanese militarism, its takeover of the culture, and certainly reveals almost nothing of the brutality of the Japanese Imperial Army as practiced in China, the Phillippines, etc. The movies are made primarily for entertainment, and also, as Daniel Spector points out, as a reflection of the viewpoints of those in charge of making it. (BTW, while Platoon does a great job of recreating jungle warfare, its overall depiction of soldiers in Viet Nam being highly focused on drinking, smoking dope, abusing the natives, and killing each other is almost as much fantasy as Apocaplyse Now and most certainly reflects Oliver Stone's personal dark view of the war more than anything else. The John Wayne version of The Green Berets could come in for the same kind of criticism.) One can say that World At War was also made for entertainment, but its producers displayed a high degree of professionalism and reasonable objectivity in presenting testimony from both Allied and Axis commanders, and presented factual information on how the war was conducted. Nothing is ever perfect, but I cannot think of many other war documentaries of the quality of that series. There is a fascination among people for trying to understand the human experience of war, for listening to the personal histories of individual veterans and trying to grasp the reality of what they went through. Just watching the extra DVD from the series Band Of Brothers last night in which the actual men of Easy Company are interviewed and even taken to revisit places where they fought was a good example of letting people try to gain that understanding. As Chris Shulz points out, the instructor taking an active role in promoting learning through a movie is critical, but that means that two different instructors can provide students with very contrasting lessons from the same movie. Platoon is an excellent example of this, the instructor who shares Stone's view of war will make the movie into a gospel version of war, while another instructor might use the movie as a point from which to discuss Stone's view and why other veterans can and do differ strongly with him. But neither instructor can use the movie to explain why those Americans were there or why the NVA was there. A discussion of what "valid" history may be is not one that belongs here, and in fact that has certainly been a well known topic of some controversy among historians for a very long time. Mr. Schulz is correct in thinking I am what one might call a conservative in that debate, believing that the understanding historical events from the top down is the primary approach of an historian. Having run into too many younger people who have seen Platoon, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, and other famous Viet Nam movies, who have proudly proclaimed they understand that war from those movies, has made me somewhat sensitized to the excessive reliance much of the public puts on movies as real history. R J Del Vecchio firstname.lastname@example.org ----- For subscription help, go to: http://www.h-net.org/lists/help/ To change your subscription settings, go to http://h-net.msu.edu/cgi-bin/wa?SUBED1=h-war -----