Book Review: Why We Fought: America's Wars in Film and History


by Peter C. Rollins and John E. O'Connor, editors

Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 2008. Pp. xiv, 604. Illus., notes, biblio., index. $40.00 paper. ISBN:0813191912

An anthology that takes a look at various aspects of the American war film. 

After an introduction, the volume groups the 22 essays into four broad eras; from earliest time to the twentieth century, the world wars, the Cold War, and the post-Cold War period.  Each essay is focused on how a particular war or event is depicted, using one film or a series of films to explain the causes of the conflict, how combat was portrayed, and various the political and social implications of the war. 

The essays are uneven.  Some betray a lack of knowledge of military matters and history; Santa Anna really did travel in great luxury.  A number of essays are merely political tracts, and a couple omit notable films; the essay on Alamo-themed films fails to mention The Last Command, perhaps the best of the lot.  On the other hand, several essays stand out, most notably that on D-Day, dealing with The Longest Day and Saving Private Ryan.

A useful book for anyone interested in cinema and film, war propaganda, and military history in general

Reviewer: A. A. Nofi   

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