Five Came Back

Five Came Back

Never Was readers may be familiar with Frank Capra’s Why We Fight series. I’ve used animations from the seven films, which were produced for the War Department between 1942 and 1945, in several stories, including “How the Nazis Planned to Invade Great Britain” and “The Rise and Fall of Japan’s Empire in Maps“.

But did you know the animations were from Disney? That Capra used Axis propaganda footage in his films? And that there were four more Hollywood directors who made movies for the war effort?

I didn’t. In Five Came Back, Francis Ford Coppola, Paul Greengrass, Lawrence Kasdan, Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Guillermo del Toro tell the story of how five directors invented the war documentary.

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De Gaulle’s Cold War

European countries generally welcomed American involvement after the Second World War. From the Marshall Plan to NATO, the United States was seen as a benevolent influence.

But American help came with a price. European governments were expected to keep the far left out of power, accept the rehabilitation of West Germany and curtail trade and other relations with the Soviet Union.

France took exception to being treated as an instrument of American foreign policy. Charles de Gaulle famously blocked Britain’s entry into the European Economic Community, believing it would be a Trojan horse for America. He refused to give up France’s independent nuclear deterrent and even pulled out of NATO’s integrated military structure in 1966.

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What If France Had Started World War II?

It is hard to imagine France starting World War II. Its entire military strategy, including the construction of the formidable Maginot Line, was premised on fighting a defensive war. The only people who ever envisaged 1930s France as the aggressor were Nazi propagandists, and I doubt even they believed what they wrote.

To make the scenario remotely plausible, we probably need to start by changing the outcome of World War I. A more lenient peace that would have allowed Germany to keep its gains in the west, including Alsace-Lorraine and maybe Belgium, could have given the world a revanchist France in the 1920s, which in turn could have given way to a Weimar-like France in the 1930s with the far left and far right vying for power. Either could be motivated to start a war.

But such a France would not be allied to Britain, and such a war would not involve the United States. The outcome would almost certainly be French defeat.

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Partnership with Sarah Zama

Never Was is proud to announce a partnership with Sarah Zama, author of four books and many stories set in the diesel era. She most recently published Living the Twenties, a nonfiction e-book about the decade. Sarah also maintains an active blog, called The Old Shelter.

In 2018, she blogged about the history of Weimar Germany in an A-to-Z challenge: 26 entries, one for each letter of the alphabet. We’ll be republishing those stories in the coming months. The first one, about the 1918 armistice that ended World War I, just went up.

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Anglo-Dutch Union

The year is 2039. Princess Catharina-Amalia, heir to the Dutch throne, has married Prince George of Wales, nine years her junior, creating a personal union between the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Two ambitious prime ministers propose to go further: unifying the kingdoms on the North Sea, thus making it possible for Britain to reenter the European Union by the backdoor.

It may seem far-fetched, but it almost happened before — thrice.

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Red Storm Rising

Red Storm Rising

Red Storm Rising (1986) is a classic of the World War III genre. Tom Clancy’s second book, coming on the heels of the enormously successful The Hunt for Red October (1984), depicts a NATO-Warsaw Pact war in the mid-1980s fought entirely with conventional weapons. (Although the risk of nuclear escalation is present.)

The book opens with Azerbaijani terrorists destroying the main Soviet oil refinery at Nizhnevartovsk. The Politburo, split between a war-wary general secretary and a warmongering defense chief, decides to seize the oil fields of the Persian Gulf to avoid economic collapse. Fearing that the West would intervene in such an attack, the Soviet leaders determine to eliminate NATO first.

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Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984

I was looking forward to Wonder Woman 1984. The last movie was amazing. Gal Gadot is perfect for the role. And this one would be set in the 1980s!

Sadly, it disappoints on all fronts.

Unlike 2017’s Wonder Woman, the plot of this movie is discombobulated. The main villain, played by Pedro Pascal of The Mandalorian fame, is a cartoonish version of Donald Trump. His sidekick, played by Kristen Wiig, is even more predictable.

There is a detour to Egypt that is almost entirely irrelevant to the plot. As is the opening act on Woman Woman’s home island, Themyscira. Action scenes go on for too long. Wonder Woman attains not one, but two new powers. Dialogue is often puerile. Gadot is given little to work with.

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