The Great Raid is a great movie abut our history

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, September 6, 2005

With one notable exception, this summer’s fare of movies has been very disappointing. The one exception…The Great Raid.

Rarely does Hollywood produce a movie that inspires patriotism, much less put the U.S. military in a positive light. But The Great Raid delivers on all fronts. The movie depicts the heroic rescue of over 500 American soldiers held by the Japanese at a POW camp near Cabanatuanin the Philippines.

Among the liberal critics of the movie is Stephen Holden from New York Times, who complained how the Japanese treatment of the POWs is depicted. According to Holden, scenes showing the sadistic treatment of American soldiers and Filipino civilians, including beatings and executions, by the Japanese went too far. Perhaps what Holden was really offended by was the possibility that viewers would associate the barbaric actions of the Japanese with the barbaric actions of Islamic terrorists that U.S. soldiers and their allies are fighting today.

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While perhaps the majority of Americans today are basically uninformed of the full scope of Japanese atrocities against POWs that claimed the lives of up to 70,000 Allied soldiers, they are at least vaguely aware of the atrocities of the Bataan Death March. More then 600 American soldiers and somewhere between 5,000 and 10,000 Filipino soldiers died from disease, malnutrition, or wounds suffered in combat or were shot, beheaded, bayoneted, or clubbed to death during that six day ordeal.

Whatever the politically correct liberals may think about how The Great Raid depicts the Japanese treatment of POWs and Filipino citizens, this movie does not even come close to portraying what the POWs actually suffered.

Director John Dahl, whose father fought in the Philippines, does a great job of setting the stage for the story by using black and white footage from the surrender of Bataanand the Death March. The emphasis for the rescue is established early in the movie when 150 American POWs on the Philippine island of Palawanwere murdered by the Japanese on December 14, 1944. Though there is no mention of it in the movie, one of the POWs, Pfc. Eugene Nielsen escaped and informed U.S. Army intelligence which set in motion the plans to rescue the POWs at Cabanatuan.

The raid was planned and carried out by the all volunteer 6th Ranger battalion. The 6th, under the command of Lt. Colonel Henry Mucci, was the only Ranger battalion in the Pacific and had never been in combat. Lt. Colonel Mucci, who personally led the mission, chose one company from the Ranger battalion, Company C under the command of Capt. Robert W. Prince, to carry out the rescue.

The Rangers, with only about 120 men, received invaluable assistance from several hundred Filipino guerrillas under the command of Captains Juan Pajota and Eduardo Joson. The plan required the Rangers to cross deep behind Japanese lines without being detected. Once at the POW camp, the Rangers had to belly crawl across a mile of flat, open ground to a ditch about 30 yards from camp in the late afternoon daylight. To distract the Japanese garrison, Capt. Pajota suggested having a P-61 night fighter make several passes over the camp. The P-61 kept the Japanese so distracted that the Rangers were able to get into position undetected.

When the attack on the POW camp began, Captain Pajota’s forces blocked a Japanese battalion of reinforcements that included tanks from crossing a bridge over Cabu Creek about a mile from the prison camp. This blocking action virtually destroyed the battalion and allowed the Rangers to wipe out the entire Japanese garrison at the prison camp and rescue every POW.

Everyone that cares about the courage and honor of American soldiers should see The Great Raid. It doesn’t have any of the brooding, self-doubting American heroes that are so typical of what Hollywood usually produces in a modern American war movie. What you see in this movie are soldiers that live up to the warrior ethos and soldiers creed that our soldiers still adhere to today…put the mission first, leave no fallen comrade behind.

The Great Raidhas an ‘R’ rating for violence, which I think is undeserved and unfortunate because it may keep many families from seeing it. Those that do see it should stay for the black and white footage of the liberated POWs shown during the closing credits.

This is a movie that Americans need to see, not just because it is a great portrayal of the courage and sacrifice of U.S. soldiers, but because it reemphasizes the fact that sometimes wars must be fought. And sometimes wars are about more than a clash of arms, sometimes they are a clash of cultures and beliefs.

The military nationalism that dominated Japan created a culture that led to the atrocities committed against civilians and POWs, acts that the West uniformly condemned as barbaric and inhumane. Today the barbaric acts of Islamic terrorists give evidence that we are in another clash of cultures and beliefs that will require the same grim determination to win that it took to defeat the Japanese. In terms of the public’s understanding of this, The Great Raid couldn’t have come out at a better time.

Gary Palmer is president of the Alabama Policy Institute, a non-partisan, non-profit research and education organization dedicated to the preservation of free markets, limited government and strong families, which are indispensable to a prosperous society.