I rarely go to the cinema these days. Most of the films put on general circulation these days qualify as ‘drek’, the ‘super-heroes’, the ‘Ironmen’, the transgender garbage: all in all, it takes a great deal to drag me away from my t.v. with access to the ‘greats’ such as Casablanca, or Seven Samurai.
But an advert on the back page of a newspaper pulled me to book for a Documentary, but this is no ordinary documentary. The film is called ‘The Cold Blue’, is about the American Air War in the 1942-45 era, and features film actually recorded during flights and bombing runs across Germany.
I am a child of World War Two, born as the last daylight Nazi bomber fleets pushed their paths across the airfields of Southern England in the dark days of that Battle of Britain. But we had taken on a behemoth a literal juggernaut of mechanised death. Great Britain were stretched almost to breaking point, and, in many disastrous episodes, displayed how unready we actually were for the ferocious warfare now demanded of our fighting men. We sent our soldiers to invade Norway, and some three months later, defeated, with great loss of military and civilian assets, we had to evacuate those left, losing valuable warships in the process. The German war machine was polished, and accomplished. The Allied operation was patchy, ill-thought-out, and we shouldn’t have been there.
As with all peacetime Governments, both then and now, our defence preparations were abysmal. By the great good fortune of the year gained, perhaps unwittingly, by Chamberlain by abandoning Czechoslovakia to the Nazis, we were able to build up our Air Forces, but ships take longer to design and build; as do Armies to train and equip. The Government never understood that the patience of the British people was finite, and when they attempted to block people seeking shelter against the night-time bombing of London, the barriers were simply swept aside, and the London Underground shelters became the saviour of a City.
Hitler’s decision to turn away from the Channel, from a planned invasion of Britain; and to send his armoured legions to attack Soviet Russia, after a deadly delay, was perhaps his second greatest mistake of the entire War. His greatest mistake? In the aftermath of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour, was to declare war on the United States as the Germans were allies of the Japanese Empire. No-one, most of all the Germans, obsessed as they were with racial purity, understood the American psyche or immigration make-up: nor did they understand the possibilities of an America, stung by a surprise attack, to change itself from an Isolationist stance in politics and Diplomacy, to an industrial giant which flexed its newly-strengthened muscles. My own novel, a salute to those boys, was written in the hope that a few youngsters in these British Isles would remember the sacrifice made by others, so that they might live in peace.
The film I have booked up for, ‘The Cold Blue’, is but a retelling, from long-lost reels of film, of the Air War which was prosecuted, from myriad fields and airstrips, built almost entirely by Americans, on the broad fields of Southern England. Norfolk, Suffolk, Cambridgeshire; all held their complements of American servicemen, along with the B-24s, the B-17s and, latterly, the long-range fighters which were able to protect the bombers as they rained destruction from the skies. William Wyler and his cameramen went along on these daylight missions, and ‘The Cold Blue’ is but a salute to the American Boys who became Men, who flew at high level against the Nazi war machine, who never turned back despite atrocious losses; and, fighting alongside the British bomber contingent, furthered the Allied Cause to the inevitable defeat of that evil regime.