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Bad Dreams about the Good War / 155 remember the “atrocities of war and work toward a better world.” Tanks and weapons, of course, do not directly convey a sense of atrocities or suffering . In part, they suggest that the men had not only surrendered and died but that they had fought hard as well. And such images always represent an effort to resist a rhetoric of tradition that aspires ultimately to forget much of what a war was about. In Salinas, more of what the war was about was also preserved for future historians to read. Next to the half-­ track memorial in the archives of the Monterey County Historical Society can be found the diary of one of the survivors, Frank Muther, who died shortly after the dedication of the half-­ track. In his writings Muther tells how he was thrown into the hold of a Japanese ship and surrounded by suffering men and horrible smells of human excrement and how—after he came home— he had nightmares so intense that one morning he discovered that he had put his fist through a wall in a motel and was completely unaware of what he had done until he awoke.30 In the 1940s, Hollywood paid considerable attention to the struggle on Bataan and essentially framed the story in terms that were highly traditional . In the 1943 film Bataan, Ameri­ can men were depicted as stout defenders of the Philippines, willing to stand fast against a superior force of Japanese invaders. In this representation of the men and the event, Ameri­ cans are inherent democrats willing to put the racial and ethnic differences that marked Ameri­ can society behind them and fight as one. Moreover, they are shown not only as defenders, but as strong adherents to Ameri­ can democratic ideology—a point that is not raised in hometown monuments. At the end of this movie a narrator makes it clear that “it doesn’t matter where a man dies as long as he dies for freedom.” The patriotic courage of the men is mirrored by women serving in the armed forces in the Philippines in two 1943 films, So Proudly We Hail and Cry Havoc. In these features women do not seem to regret the fact that they are trapped, and they do what they can to help their male comrades. One army nurse in Cry Havoc exclaims as the enemy approaches that “we’ll hold them as long as we can.”31 At the end of 1945, with the possibility of victory in sight, two more films returned to the subject of Bataan and the Ameri­ can surrender in the Philippines. Again, the anguish of defeat has been mitigated by stories that focus on acts of individual heroism and the fighting spirit of Ameri­ can men. John Wayne starred in both Back to Bataan and They Were Expendable. In the former he is a tough Ameri­ can officer who leads Filipinos in a guerrilla campaign against the Japanese after the surrender from jungle hideouts . Here the Japanese are seen as barbarians, but the Ameri­ cans and their 156 / Bodnar Filipino allies appear as courageous and skilled warriors. This film actually begins with a reenactment of the plight of some of the men in Japanese prisons and how they were finally liberated by Ameri­ can soldiers. Faces of some of the actual survivors and their names are also presented, before the main narrative moves back in time to show the bravery of Wayne and his guerrillas. In the second movie, Wayne plays a dedicated PT boat commander who leads a daring raid against Japanese naval vessels in the waters off the Philippines. The traditional images and words that dominated the great public memorials to World War II in the nation’s capital—and even in the nation’s wartime movie industry—encountered stiff resistance in local places where private sorrows ran deep and ties to the dead were personal. On the home front, tradition—in the form of the Ameri­ can flag and words about honor— was forced to share rhetorical space with feelings of mourning and grief that raised moral qualms about all that people were asked to relinquish. Commemoration in such places tended to be less abstract and less invested in the language of victory or in the greatness of the generation that fought. The remembrance of the war was forced to register at some level the pain and sorrow that was still felt in neighborhoods and...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9780817383602
Related ISBN
9780817356132
MARC Record
OCLC
663080291
Pages
282
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-01
Language
English
Open Access
No
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