Information Warfare: Military History on DVD


December19, 2006: A number of older war movies have recently been released on DVD. Just in time for the Christmas season. Many of these films feature legendary actors, like John Wayne, and lesser-known actors, like Van Johnson.

Here are some of those movies out on DVD, either on their own or as parts of collections:

* Battleground (1949) - A retelling of the 101st Airborne Division's stand at Bastogne. Starring Van Johnson and James Whitmore.

* Fighting Seabees (1944) - John Wayne stars in this film about the naval Construction Battalions, of Seabees. While it was Hollywood-ized to a degree, it caught the essence of what Seabees had to do in the Pacific Theater.

* Flying Leathernecks (1951) - John Wayne again stars, this time, telling the story of Marine aviators in the Pacific.

* They Were Expendable (1945) - John Wayne tells the story of the PT boats in the Philippines. Modeled after the exploits of John D. Bulkeley, a recipient of the Medal of Honor for bravery, Wayne against struts his stuff.

* Flying Tigers (1942) - John Wayne portrays a leader of the American Volunteer Group in China during 1942. This one is a film that takes a number of liberties with the actual history, but it is still a classic.

* Dam Busters (1954) - This film tells the story of the formation of Number 617 Squadron, and their operation against the Mohne, Sorpe, and Elbe river dams in the Ruhr Valley. This classic film, which will be re-made by Peter Jackson for a 2008 release, also inspired the "trench run" sequence in Star Wars.

* Sergeant York (1941) - Gary Cooper plays the conscientious objector who eventually serves his country in World War I. This film not only tells the story well, but also hearkens back to the day when service to one's country was admired.

Other movies can be found by looking through Amazon's used videotape sales. Films like "The Gallant Hours" (a 1960 film starring James Cagney as William F. Halsey), and "Thirty Seconds over Tokyo" (a 1944 movie about the 1942 Doolittle raid starring Van Johnson and Spencer Tracy) are still out on VHS. These old war movies are not only cinematic treasures featuring Hollywood legends, but also surprisingly refreshing. There is rarely the cynicism of some later movies (most notably Platoon), and more of a respect for the American troops. Most of these are available through or local stores. - Harold C. Hutchison (


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