Tag Archives: World War II

The Top Eight Government Putschs, Coups, Overthrows, or Coup D’états

Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in Germany...
Big Three at the Potsdam Conference in Germany: Prime Minister Winston Churchill, President Harry S. Truman and Generalissimo Josef Stalin, seated in garden. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

by Rick Bretz
Not having power for some people is too much to bare. So they go after it even if it means they have to take it away forcefully. There are not many bloodless coups. Power is too much of a drug for people to stand by without a fight. Even if taken peacefully, the people who had the power will pay some kind of price, either with their lives or with humiliation by the conquerors. No one can forget the sight of Mikhail Gorbachev being ordered around by Boris Yeltsin at the podium after he was forced to step down in the early 90s.

With the arrival of March, a couple of events come to mind. One is St. Patrick’s Day, a celebration of St. Patrick, one of the patron saints of Ireland. The other being the Ides of March, March 15th. Besides being an old world celebration day it also known as the day Julius Caesar was assassinated at the base of the Statue of Pompey in 44 BC. This thought brought up the idea of other overthrows that have occurred in history and how important they were to the rest of world order.

The United States federal government has been stable  since George Washington took office (arguably since the Articles of Confederation) because we have a somewhat organized election that begins a disciplined series of events culminating in the inauguration of the next President of the United States. Some countries never achieve this process resulting in violence and destruction.
Here are eight coups that have, in my view, significantly reverberated across the globe.

Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a r...
Fidel Castro becomes the leader of Cuba as a result of the Cuban Revolution (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

1. 1959: Fidel Castro overthrows Batista.
This one is number one on the list because it almost caused two countries to launch missiles at each other a couple of years later. The  Cuban Missile Crisis might be one cause that began the whole 1960s free love, live and let live, drugs are fantastic thing in the sixties.  They probably figured, “Well, if the governments are going to send missiles at one another at any second, and we don’t have a say in it, we’ll have fun while we can.”  In addition, the United States is still dealing with the consequences of Fidel Castro ruling Cuba more than 50 years later with the trade embargo, travel restrictions and a Cuban constituency in Florida that can influence elections.  Besides that, there’s the Cuban cigar thing.

2. 1804: Napoleon Bonaparte becomes Emperor of France by a coup d’état.
Once Bonaparte came to power, he waged war all across Europe and with Britain. This is high up on the list due to Bonaparte inflicting war and destruction across Europe until the Russian winter stopped him along with his own ego.  Russian winters taught Bonaparte a lesson that Hitler forgot or refused to take into account more than a century later.

Royal Russian family (LOC)
Royal Russian family (LOC) (Photo credit: The Library of Congress)

3. 1917–March: abdication of Nicholas II of Russia in favor of the Russian Provisional Government.
Call it an abdication, but Nicholas II didn’t give up the Czar title willingly and would have kept it if he had had an avenue to remain on the throne.  Arguably his track record as a ruler wasn’t the best.  He oversaw the economic and military collapse of his country as well as executed his political opponents. He persecuted the Jewish people inside Russia and generally made poor decisions domestically and on foreign policy.  So, Vladimir Lenin had his chance but didn’t survive long enough to keep Josef Stalin out of the dictator seat.  Instead, the over throw eventually led to a corrupted, paranoid communist government, Josef Stalin, bad decisions during World War II, an arms race, an Iron Curtain, a Berlin Wall, missile launch sites in Cuba, the edge of total annihilation from nuclear weapons, and several billions and trillions of dollars on both sides used to develop weapons of mass destruction.

4. 1792- by the National Convention against King Louis XVI of France, the French Revolution.
The difference between the American Revolution and the French Revolution is that those in power after the US revolution didn’t go around with a guillotine lopping the heads off the aristocracy, creating domestic terror throughout the land.

5. 1969–Sep 1st: Muammar al-Gaddafi overthrows King Idris I of Libya.
A country gets the wrong guy in; it could take more than 40 years to get rid of him. This dictator is on here due to his sanctioning, supporting, and harboring terrorists who executed one horrible event, the Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Lockerbie, Scotland. This Libyan dictator was a thorn in many government’s sides, including several Middle Eastern countries.

6. 1936- by Francisco Franco against Manuel Azaña.
Generalissimo Franco was the picture of opportunism. He helped put down an earlier coup when it didn’t benefit him. Became a leader for the 1936 coup that led to a civil war. He assumed power and remained there for almost 40 years. As I stated earlier, once you get some of these guys in, it is difficult to get them out. He died in 1975. He had economic successes, but it doesn’t make up for the torture and human rights abuses.  He kept power through censorship, imprisonment, forced labor camps, death sentences, and other political means. When it was beneficial to him, he moved his foreign policy towards the Italian and German fascist leaders prior to, and during, World War II. After the war, he maneuvered his political diplomacy toward the United States and NATO because he knew NATO wanted to stop the spread of communism.

Mustafa Kemal Atatürk
Mustafa Kemal Atatürk (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

7. 1909-The Young Turk Revolution breaks out in the Ottoman Empire against the absolute rule of Sultan Abdul Hamid II.
This is one coup that actually meant a great leap forward for a country. This coup led to an eventual Turkish revolution led by Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the father of the Turks.  The father of modern Turkey is revered in his country. If it is possible to take a country and drag it into the modern world, that is what Ataturk did. He pushed through economic, social, and cultural reforms while creating a secular government. He was instrumental in separating Islamic Law from government. He mandated that Islamic Law be limited to the practice of religion while the government would use secular law.

8. 1971-Military in Uganda led by Idi Amin overthrows government.
This dictator’s regime was characterized by ethnic killings, corruption, nepotism, and according to most human rights groups, between 100 and 500 thousand people killed. Besides being arrogant and astonishingly brutal to his enemies, he started a war with Tanzania in 1978, the Uganda-Tanzania War. This war led to his fleeing the country and eventually landing in Saudi Arabia where he died in 2003.

A Vietnam and Afghanistan Analysis

By Rick Bretz

The human toll these countries have paid due to both of them being a political football throughout the last century into the current one is staggering.  The estimated death toll for the Vietnam Wars just from 1959-1975 is 58,000 US troops, 1.1 million of the North Vietnamese Army, and one-half to 2 million civilian deaths.  If estimates include Cambodia and Laos, the death toll rises to more than five million.  Afghanistan’s death toll numbers from 1979-2001 have been estimated from one-and-a-half million to more that two million.  After 2001 to the present, the cost in lives for US forces is more than 1500 with an additional 20 to 50 thousand civilian casualties due to terrorist activity and the consequences of using modern warfare weaponry.  These numbers are always being revised upward and in the case of Vietnam, the numbers don’t include the casualties that were inflicted during World War II and afterwards with Ho Chi Minh’s rebellious war with the French supported by the Soviet’s and Chinese communist governments.

US-Map of Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan
US-Map of Soviet Invasion in Afghanistan (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Comparisons between Vietnam and Afghanistan are easy to understand.  After all, the Soviet Union military leadership was discussing ways to get out of Afghanistan as early as 1980 due to tribal disputes, the difficulty and lack of mountain warfare training, and the strong Mujahideen force combating against the Soviet occupation.  However, like the United States in Vietnam twenty years before, the muddy politics and refusal to understand the local culture thought process prevented them from acting on that understanding quickly.

In an interview with Zbigniew Brzezinski with the French Le Nouvel Observateur, he stated that… “on July 3, 1979 US President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul…We didn’t push the Russians to intervene, but we knowingly increased the probability that they would. The day the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War…”

The sad history about the Soviet invasion into Afghanistan and the 30 years since is that women in the country were enjoying more freedoms and educational opportunities before 1979.  Since the invasion, the civil war, and the Taliban control, those freedoms were stripped away and in its place abusive restrictions became normal procedure until the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.  Since the invasion, the progress toward more freedom for women has been slow but noticeable.

What is interesting to note in the timelines below is that Vietnam was unstable and volatile early in the last century but is now is relatively steady with economic opportunities. Afghanistan is just the opposite.  The country was relatively sound early in the last century but was thrown into turmoil later on and into the current age.

English: From George L. MacGarrigle, The Unite...
English: From George L. MacGarrigle, The United States Army in Vietnam: Combat Operations, Taking the Offensive, October 1966-October 1967. Washington DC: Center of Military History, 1998. Category:Vietnam War (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Another commonality with both wars was the formation of resistance fighters.  One fought against Soviet occupation in Afghanistan, the Mujahideen, while the other, The Viet Cong, the communist organization in Vietnam, waged war against US and other NATO forces.  Both civilian populations played a part in accepting or covertly disrupting operations.  Both wars, especially before 2001, were proxy wars funded by superpower money and weapons, sometimes masked and filtered through their allies. The initial social and tribal readings by intelligence analysts underestimated local politics and influence by local leaders in both wars.  The Soviets misread the conviction of the Mujahideen and the influence of Islam throughout the nation.  In addition, the PDPA, the communist leadership, was never as unified as the Soviet Politburo leaders were led to believe before invading on the request of Afghanistan PM Amin.  As with Vietnam, the diplomatic and government phenomenon of mission creep occurred for the Soviet military, the Soviet army initially occupied the country to protect cities and installations.  Over time, the army, composed of reservists and regulars, began to engage in combat missions that expanded.  Like the US in Vietnam, the Soviet Army had to fight a guerilla war they were not prepared to prosecute in the beginning.  They were fighting against rebels who knew their own terrain.

There are differences between the present Afghanistan War and the Soviet Union invasion. The US war in Afghanistan is retaliation against aggression from elements inside the country on September 11th, 2001.  The US force went in knowing the units had to fight in addition to securing cities and installations. Military leaders also had studied Afghanistan terrain, the climate, and tribal politics in addition to the lessons learned from the Soviet occupation.  The US leadership didn’t say this at the time of the invasion, but the fight on terrorism was a long-term commitment to Afghanistan. That meant,  if necessary, they were willing to stay past 10 years in the country to secure the region.

I can write for days concerning this topic.  If you have any comments or notes, please post them.  I am looking forward to reading other ideas about this topic.

 

Notable Links:

http://www.e-ir.info/2010/01/03/the-soviet-union%E2%80%99s-last-war/

http://www.guidetorussia.com/russia-afghanistan.asp

http://www.gwu.edu/~nsarchiv/NSAEBB/NSAEBB57/soviet.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Soviet_war_in_Afghanistan

http://english.pravda.ru/history/28-12-2011/120105-ussr_afghanistan-0/

http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/history/vietnam-war-us-involvement.html

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/How_many_people_died_in_the_Vietnam_War

Afghanistan -Comparison Timeline

1913-1920 1919-Afghanistan regains independence from British occupying forces.
1933-1945 1933-Zahir Shah becomes King and Afghanistan remains a monarchy for the next four decades.
1945-1953 1953-General Mohammed Daud becomes prime minister with King Shah a figure-head and implements many social reforms.  Gen. Daud asks for help from the Soviet government.
1954-1961 1956-Soviet Premier Nikita Krushchev agrees to aid Afghanistan and the countries become allies.    Daud’s reforms include women attending university and working.
1960-1963 1963-Daoud’s social reforms continue agitating the conservative religious community.
1964-1968 1965-The Afghan communist party forms.
1969-1975 1973-The former PM Daud seizes power in a coup, deposes King Shah and declares a republic
1976-1979 1978-PM Daud is overthrown and killed by the leftist People’s Democratic Party during a coup. Hufizullah Amin wins a power struggle, becomes president. The People’s Democratic Party (PDPA) struggle for power.  1979-The Soviet Union occupies country at the request of Afghanistan’s communist party leaders.
1979-2001 1980-With occupying Soviet troops supplying power, Party Leader Babrak Kamal becomes the countries leader.

Other Significant Dates

1979-2001

1980-Afghan Army soldiers defect to Mujahideen rebel force, led by Ahmad Massoud.

1980-US   and other nations supply rebel forces.

1986-US supplies stinger missiles to rebels to shoot down   Soviet air power.

1988-Last of   the Soviet troops leave Afghanistan.

1996-Taliban  seize control of Afghanistan and carry out harsh Islamic doctrine controls.

2001-Present

9-9-2001-Massoud assassinated by suicide bombing

9-11-2001-Terrorist  attacks on US Soil.

2001-US   and Great Britain launch invasion of country after it refuses to hand-over  Osama Bin Laden, the master mind of the 9/11 attacks on US soil.

2001-Taliban ousted from power.

2004-Democratic  elections held in country, electing Hamid Karzai as President.

2012– Continued US and NATO presence in the region.  Karzai still in power. Taliban force strength reduced but still launches attacks from mountainous region bordering Pakistan.

   Vietnam Timeline-Comparison Timeline

1913-1920 1919-Ho Chi Minh emerges after WW I and tries to petition Woodrow Wilson for Self Determination
1933-1945 1940-Japan invades   Vietnam.  1941-Ho Chi Minh   organizes pro independence league.  1945-Japan surrenders.  Minh declares independence and unites all French colonial provinces to form Vietnam.

 

1945-1953 1946-National Chinese, French, and Viet Minh struggle   for control of the Viet Territory.  1946-Beginning   of First Vietnam War between French and Viet Minh.  China and USSR back Viet   Minh. US back French to stop the spread of communism.
1954-1961 1954-Viet Minh defeat French at Dien Bien Phu, leading to Geneva negotiations diving   Vietnam at the 17th Parallel.

1955-1956-Emperor Bao Dai is forced from power by Ngo Dinh Diem. He declares himself president and gains support from US. US sends advisors

1960-1963 1960-National Liberation Front  (Viet Cong) forms to fight against US   Forces and President Diem.  1963-US supports military Coup against President Diem. Diem’s murder during the coup leads to a number of successive leaders.
1964-1968 1964-Gulf of Tonkin Resolution give President Johnson   war powers.  1965-US Combat   Troops arrive in Vietnam (Second Vietnam War).  1968-Tet offensive launched by Ho Chi Minh and Viet Cong.
1969-1975 1969– Ho Chi Minh dies.  1973-Nixon and Kissinger negotiate peace treaty. US   withdraws a majority of troops.  1974-President Ford balks at sustaining aid to South Vietnam Forces.  1975-Viet Nam unified under   communist rule after taking Saigon, which they rename Ho Chi Minh City.
1976-1979 1978-Vietnam invades Cambodia, trying to take over from the Khmer Rouge. Tensions with China increase.
1979-2001 1986-Vietnam revises strategy and commits to social and market reforms.  1995-Diplomatic relations normalized between US and Vietnam.
2001-Present 2010/2011-Academic year-More than 14,800 students studies at US colleges and universities.  2012– Trade between US and Vietnam continue to increase.
   

 

 

The Top Eight Women Inventors

Man does not have a monopoly on inventions.  It just seems that way because Mr. Bell, Mr. Jefferson, Mr. Franklin and Mr. Edison have been hogging all of the publicity the last 250 years or so. In fact, several women have made significant contributions to industry, the home, science and information technology.  Some were the first to contribute to their particular field and forge new accomplishments for others to advance.  If it weren’t for these women on this list, life would be more difficult today in many ways.

 

  1. Hedy Lamarr (1913-2000)  She is best known as movie star actress during the WWII era.  She starred in “Samson and Delilah”, “Algiers” and many others.  She also wanted to contribute to the World War II effort by figuring out how to prevent the jamming of and intercepting of frequency communication systems by the enemy.  She and her co-inventor, George Anthiel, figured out the technique of “frequency hopping” or what they call today, “spread-spectrum” communication, proving that she was not  just a pretty face for the movies.  This technology is used today for everything from military weapons to cell phone transmissions.  They received a patent for it but it didn’t earn her any significant wealth.  In 1997 she was awarded the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) Pioneer Award.

 

  1. Sybilla Masters (died 1720) She was a significant contributor to the field of farming and weaving.  Masters was the first recorded American woman inventor.  She earned a patent for “Cleansing, Curing, and Refining of Indian-Corn Growing in the Plantations” and for a new methods for weaving straw for hats and bonnets. However, her husband had to put his name on the patent because of the laws at the time in 1715.  She deserves credit now for not being recognized back then.

 

  1. Josephine Garis Cochran (1839-1913) The world’s population owes this woman a collective thank you.  The reason?  She invented the first      working automatic dishwasher in 1889.  It was first shown at the 1893 Chicago World’s Fair.  The next phase for anyone out there, of course, is an automatic loader and un-loader.

 

  1. Marion Donovan (1917-1998) She invented the first waterproof, disposable diaper in 1950. The key word is “waterproof”.  Amazingly, business leaders weren’t interested in this at first, which showed an incredible lack of understanding to the plight of their wives and mothers.  She wasn’t discouraged.  She started her own company, Donovan Enterprises, and then sold it for a million dollars later.  At last the sweet smell of success!

 

  1. Grace  Murray Hopper (1906-1992) An engineer, educator and a naval officer rising to the rank of Rear Admiral, every computer programmer owes a debt of gratitude to her.  She invented  the concept of compiling programming languages. She popularized the term, “debugging” which refers to a weeding out code errors in a program.  She is a legend in the Navy and in the fields of Mathematics and Computer Engineering.

 

Ada Lovelace Day, March 24, 2009
Ada Lovelace Day, March 24, 2009 (Photo credit: clvrmnky)
  1. Ada Byron, Lady Lovelace (1815-1852) She was a mathematician and a collaborator with Charles Babbage, the inventor of the Analytical Engine, who built the first mechanical computer that could calculate numbers.  She also foresaw that computers could do more than calculate numbers, such as composing music, creating graphics and would be used for practical and scientific use. She also wrote the first computer program (Bernoulli numbers) for calculating numbers for Babbage’s machine. She was indeed a pioneer and a profit of the computer age.

 

Marie Curie
Marie Curie (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
  1. Marie Curie (1867-1934) Here is a woman who literally put her life on  the line for science. She was a polish physicist and chemist who      discovered radioactive metals such as Radium and Polonium.  She also discovered that the harmful properties of x-rays could kill tumors.  She made a decision to not seek patents for methods of processing  radium or how it could be used for medical applications. Curie was the first person to win two Nobel Prizes. She died of Leukemia caused by overexposure to radioactive material during her years of research.

 

 

  1. Lillian Moller Gilbreth (1878-1972) She was a pioneer in the field of ergonomics as well as an author, industrial engineer and inventor.      Gilbreth invented several helpful items for the kitchen to make our lives easier.  Everyone should give a collective bow of thank you (she saved our backs) to her because she invented the trashcan with the foot-pedal lid-opener.  She conducted several significant Time and Motion studies that simplified and improved industrial work. She also determined that stress affected worker efficiency as well as lack of sleep. While working for General Electric she conducted interviews with women to determine the proper height for stoves, sinks and other kitchen appliances.

Do you have any that you think significant?  Leave me a comment and I will respond.

Top Eight Military Memorials

Since Memorial Day is a few days away I wanted to give a list of memorials in remembrance of American service members..  The nation owes them a debt of gratitude for defending the United States  and its values. Choosing the top eight military memorials is a tough task.  I think all of them honor the veterans with splendor and reverence. Throughout history, leaders and politicians from America’s adversaries have underestimated the spirit of our fighting men and women.  Arguably, when given a mission and left alone, they have achieved success time after time.  American servicemen aren’t politicians so they have no control over decisions made by the government.  The military is an essential position for diplomacy. It’s President Teddy Roosevelt‘s analagous “Big Stick.” Politics aside, they have achieved success in every war, conflict, police action and peace-keeping mission given to them—and that means every mission.  These memorials are a testament to the widely held belief that servicemen would rather have peace because they know more than any other citizen the price to be paid for war.

1.  USS  Arizona-dedicated in 1962

2. Vietnam Memorial-Accepted by the President of the US in 1984

Vietnam war memorial
Vietnam war memorial (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

3.  Marine Corps War MemorialDedicated November 10, 1954 (179th Birthday of the Corps)

United States Marine Corps War Memorial by Fel...
United States Marine Corps War Memorial by Felix de Weldon at night. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4.  US Air Force Memorial-Dedicated in 2006

5. Tomb of the Unknown Soldier-Patrolled continuously 24/7 since 1930

Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unkno...
Changing of the Guard at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
                                                                                            6.  Korea War Memorial-Dedicated in 1995
Korean War Veterans Memorial
Korean War Veterans Memorial (Photo

        7.  Women  in the Military Service Memorial-Dedicated in 1997

The Women in Military Service for America Memo...
The Women in Military Service for America Memorial is the nation’s first major national memorial honoring women who served in the armed forces during all eras and in all services. Image shows a panorama of the monument. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

8.  Arlington  National Cemetery-Began with the confiscation of the Mary Anna Custis Lee  property in 1864

Soldiers from the 3d Infantry Regiment carry N...

Other Notables: Normandy American Center and Memorial (D-Day); Missing Man Formation; Empty Boots, Rifle and Helmet; Gettysburg National Park; Taps on the Bugle; and any resting place for an American serviceman and family member.

The Top Eight Historical Films

Hollywood’s dream factories have released many films that both entertain and sometimes educate.  The following movies are the selections I have made that come nearest to educating as well as entertaining.  I also admit that I have chosen these movies with a small measure of subjectivity.

1.       Schindler’s List (1993) Directed by Steven Spielberg

Schindler's grave
Schindler's grave (Photo credit: Seetheholyland.net)

Schindler’s list is a movie that holds you from the start and doesn’t let go.  The movie is a true story about Oscar Schindler, a factory owner who used his wealth and connections to save more than 1000 Jews during World War IISteven Speilberg shoots in black and white but uses color to make emotional points throughout the movie, the most memorable being the girl in the red coat walking on the street. Director Steven Spielberg uses his talents to show what evil is and what courage is throughout the film.  The film stays true to the original story as Liam Neeson gives a stellar performance as Oscar Schindler. Actor Ralph Fiennes personifies evil in the film and puts a face to the horror of the holocaust.

2.       Apollo 13 (1995) Directed by Ron Howard

Ron Howard’s Apollo 13 is the story of the shortened moon mission and how the NASA program found a way to bring the crew back home safely.  The film, from all accounts, is accurate to what actually happened.  The film took artistic liberties with arguments on the spacecraft between astronauts as well as combining all the engineering efforts of the NASA ground team into one character, Gary Sinise.  If NASA history captivates you the this film should satisfy your hunger games for all things that make astronauts modern-day heroes.

3.       Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970) Directed by Richard Fleischer, American sequences.  Kinji Fukasaku and Toshio Masuda, Japanese sequences

The producers and directors of “Tora! Tora! Tora!”, meaning “Tiger! Tiger! Tiger!”, present a balanced view

The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (C...
The U.S. Navy aircraft carrier USS Yorktown (CVS-10) during the filming of "Tora! Tora! Tora!", her flight deck painted to resemble that of a World War II Imperial Japanese Navy carrier. Note the piston-engined aircraft on deck, often North American T-6 Texan resembling Japanese aircraft. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

of both sides of the Pearl Harbor attack.  It shows us the planning stages through the actual attack.  The producers elected to employ directors from America and Japan to present each point of view.  What the audience receives is a compelling straightforward presentation of Japan’s leaders planning for the attack and the America’s leaders trying to figure out when and if an attack would occur.  It outlines the view-point that Pearl Harbor’s military leaders received ambiguous orders while the political establishment ignored intercepted message to Japan’s diplomats stationed in the embassy in Washington, D.C.  If you want a clinical version of the events on December 7th without  political viewpoints or romance, watch this movie version of that horrific day.

4.    Glory (1989) Directed by Edward Zwick

Who can forget the preparation for the charge into confederate defenses at the end of the movie Glory starring Denzel Washington, Matthew Broderick, and Morgan Freeman? No one who has seen the movie, I tell you!  The story of the first all black volunteer unit, the 54th Regiment, during the civil war and their commander Col. Robert Gould Shaw, it presents a generally accurate account of the unit’s formation, training and battle history. The story shows how Col. Shaw overcame prejudices so that his unit could form, train and get into the fight.  It features a great music score and each of the cast members is terrific in their parts.  I used to work with an Army Colonel who played a clip of this film before his final after action review after a two-week long training exercise.  He really liked this film and so do I.

5.       The King’s Speech (2010) Directed by Tom Hooper

What is significant about this film is that it shows that no matter your status in life, there are still personal

Colin Firth walks the red carpet at the 83rd A...
Colin Firth walks the red carpet at the 83rd Academy Awards Feb. 27, in Hollywood, Calif. Firth would go on to win in the best actor category for his portrayal of King George VI in the film “The King’s Speech. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

issues to conquer.  For some, it means bearing them in a public forum.  King George the VI of Britain, played by Colin Firth, ascended to the throne under extreme circumstances.  His brother abdicated the crown due to his insistence on marrying a divorced American.  However, the film is about the King’s struggle with a speech impediment, a stammer or stutter, that revealed itself especially in front of audiences or when making public speeches.  Colin Firth does a skilful portraying of the King working to correct his speech challenge.  Geoffrey Rush as the speech coach does not cower to the challenge of being the taskmaster to a King.  Helena Bonham Carter is charming as the young Queen Mother Elizabeth.  King George the VI rates high on my royal list because he stayed in London with its citizens during World War II bombing raids when he and his family could have went elsewhere.

6.       The Last Emperor (1987) Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

This movie gives us a glimpse of the Forbidden City and the essential parts of the life of the last emperor of China, Puyi.  As the last emperor of the Qing dynasty, the movie presents Puyi, who ascended to the throne at 2 years, 10 months. He changes from a person isolated from society inside the Forbidden City, believing he is better than his subjects to someone who dies as a simple gardener.  The story runs through the stages of the Chinese revolution and how the Emperor tried to hold on to his status and finally his re-education.  The film is breathtaking visually because the filmmakers were permitted to shoot inside the Forbidden City.

7.       We Were Soldiers (2002) Directed by Randall Wallace

Based on the book by General Hal Moore and Joseph Galloway, the movie is relatively accurate depiction of the first major battle the American’s fought during the Viet Nam War.  What is honest about this film is the cost of war paid by soldiers and their family members, especially spouses.  The notices from the Pentagon being delivered back home to wives is a truly heart breaking scene.  The battle scenes are brutal to watch but it does a better job than most films of showing how the Air Cavalry integrated with the Infantry during a battle.  The music score and the choices as to where to use it during the film will give you chills.

8.       Gangs of New York (2002) Directed by Martin Scorcese

Bird's eye panorama of Manhattan & New York Ci...
Bird's eye panorama of Manhattan & New York City in 1873 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The director makes the Five Points in New York the as much of a character in the movie as Bill “The Butcher” Cutting and Amsterdam Vallon.   This movie gets a lot of things right about New York in the 1800’s, including how firemen fight for the right to put out fires and therefore get paid.  This movie is worth seeing just to watch Daniel Day-Lewis light up the screen as Bill “The Butcher”.

Honorable Mentions: The Aviator, Black Hawk Down, Longest Day, The Madness of King George, Reds, Elizabeth, Inherit the Wind, The Right Stuff, Ran, Kingdom of Heaven, 300, Midway, Enemy at the Gates, Stalingrad, Gandhi, and Alexander.  There are many more but I have to stop the list at some point.