". . . But the past does not exist independently from the present. Indeed, the past is only past because there is a present, just as I can point to something over there only because I am here. But nothing is inherently over there or here. In that sense, the past has no content. The past -- or more accurately, pastness -- is a position. Thus, in no way can we identify the past as past." p. 15

". . . But we may want to keep in mind that deeds and words are not as distinguishable as often we presume. History does not belong only to its narrators, professional or amateur. While some of us debate what history is or was, others take it into their own hands." p. 153

Silencing the Past: Power and the Production of History (1995) by Michel-Rolph Trouillot

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Captain Victor "Pug" Henry

Captain 'Pug' Henry is played by Robert Mitchum in the television miniseries  made from the Herman Wouk novels, Winds of War (published 1958; series 1983) and War and Remembrance (published 1978; series 1988).

We know what sort of character and naval officer Captain 'Pug' Henry is from the opening credits of both series.  Though the image is a moving one, though at first, in black and white, it looks like a still, a painted portrait in ,of an American military hero of chiseled face and the look of eagles, that fills with color.  It's only seconds later the viewer realizes this is a 'moving picture,' a looped screen moment.  We rapidly learn that the Captain is a supremely organized leader of men, courageous, intelligent and very talented in many areas -- he speaks so many languages, and fluently.  When he doesn't know a language he swotts it up in a matter of hours.  He effortlessly wins the trust and liking of everyone around him. Though loyal to his wife, he's also a chick magnet to very intelligent, talented, brave women who are much younger than he is.  President Roosevelt counts on him, personally.  He's an all around urbane cosmopolitan, who works as a naval attaché assigned to various U.S. missions abroad, while working as an intelligence advisor and reporter.*   He champs for his real life as a gunnery specialist at sea.

This is a splendid military fantasy of WWII and Our Fighting Men who are all Fighting Gentlemen Possessed of Great Honor (well, actually, the only fighting is accomplished by the U.S. Navy, of course, and the Royal Airforce -- and the German Pansers and executioners).

The essential qualities of Captain Henry are that his nature is composed of equal parts honor, loyalty, courage and intelligence. Prepotent sire that Captain Henry is, he's naturally  passed all these qualities on to his sons, who are also in the Navy, though one of them, significantly named Byron, has not achieved the strict rein on his temper and tongue that Captain Henry possesses.

How does our military stack up today?  Let's check out Gen. Stanley McChrystal -- but remember, he's Army, not Navy, so take that into account when you assess what comes through here, in Rolling Stone Magazine.

 Interesting to see how much President Obama's disappointed Wenner, isn't it?  See "The Spill, The Scandal and the President," here.


* Has anyone ever counted the number of scenes of Captain Henry opening an envelope and taking out a letter? For that matter how often we see him typing letters and reports, as well as writing by hand and sending telegrams?


K. said...

"The Spill" is a miserable piece of "journalism," half hindsight and half supposition with no context whatsoever.

Herman Wouk had an fascination with and admiration for the gentile officer class of the American military. The Caine Mutiny treats Captain Queeg as nut case for most of the book, then shows him as burnt out by endless and unappreciated patriotic days at sea.

I have no idea how open the officer ranks were to Jews in those days, but one gets the impression of a closed shop of WASPs. Go figure.

Foxessa said...

The Navy is traditionally the aristo branch of the U.S. military, so I was instructed.

When very young I served under - er - worked for a retired WWII Naval commander for one winter, who was now working in NYC's government. Every one of his contractors and business associates, the VPs, everybody, was Navy, and they'd all sailed together in WWII. I got the impression their war was nothing like Captain Henry's. Also they come very close to be on the top of the list of the most imcompetent people for whom I've worked, so much so that I could see them running the agency into the ground and spending it into bankruptcy. And, why yes, they managed to give it the coup de gras soon after I'd moved on. It was a scandal.

As far as my reading goes, the Navy didn't have any Jews among the officers in those days. For one thing they wouldn't have been accepted into Anapolis, any more than into West Point. Naval officers, as in the English Navy, tend the generational aristocracy -- however it's defined in the U.S.

Wouk is so very propagandistic, it does get tiresome. WWII -- only the wealthy and the aristocratic, even among the nazis -- except for Hitler -- fought only by the Navy and some Russians and English airforce.

Gads I've gotten to hate stupid Natalie and her stupid uncle.

In the meantime we get glimpses of Sharon Stone and Ian McShane.

Love, C.

Foxessa said...

Like McChrystal, Salazar is a bad man.

Love, c.