Review of For Greater Glory

(I originally posted this on The American Catholic, and I think the history mavens of Almost Chosen People might enjoy seeing No Greater Glory.)

 

There is well known to Us, Venerable Brethren – and it is a great cause of consolation for Our paternal heart – your constancy, that of your priests and of the great part of the Mexican faithful, in ardently professing the Catholic Faith and in opposing the impositions of those who, ignoring the divine excellence of the religion of Jesus Christ and knowing it only through the calumnies of its enemies, delude themselves that they are not able to accomplish reforms for the good of the people except by combating the religion of the great majority.

Pius XI, FIRMISSIMAM CONSTANTIAM

The film, For Greater Glory, the heroic story of the Cristeros who fought for the Church and religious liberty in the twenties of the last century in Mexico, is opening on June 1.  Go here  to read my first post on the film and the historical background of the Cristeros War.   I will be seeing the movie with my family on Saturday, and I will have a full review of the film on Sunday or Monday.  In the meantime, reviews are beginning to come in.  I enjoyed this one by Dustin Siggins at Hot Air:

Over the last several years Catholics in America and Europe have experienced what they believe are the stripping of religious rights, and many are concerned the situation could easily turn into a public confrontation with various governments. One example of this is in England, where just this week the federal government has moved to declare wearing crosses in public is not a right. On this side of the water, my church’s parochial vicar Father Robert Lange often quotes His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, who in 2010 said the following: “I expect to die in bed, my successor will die in prison and his successor will die a martyr in the public square.”

Such things were on my mind as I watched “For Greater Glory,” a movie about the Cristeros, or “soldiers for Christ,” who fought against religious persecution by the Mexican government from 1926 to 1929. The movie starts with laws which encroach upon religious freedom relatively benignly, such as not allowing the public wear of religious symbols. The Mexican government then moves to decry foreigners who allegedly control the nation’s citizens, particularly the Vatican, and rounds up all foreign-born bishops and priests to force them to leave the country. Peaceful rallies and protests are responded to with military force, which leads to an economic boycott.

The boycott is the last straw for Mexican President Plutarco Elías Calles. Ignoring the counsel of his advisers, he begins invading churches and killing Catholic priests and parishioners. This leads to protests of various forms, from peacefully marching in the streets to violent rebellion. At the heart of the entire movie are a teenage boy who sees his mentor shot before his eyes, an atheist whose wife’s Catholic faith and his own belief in religious freedom cause him to lead the rebellion, a woman whose network of faithful Catholic women is critical to the rebellion’s early formation, a rebel whose legendary fighting skills are matched by his disdain for authority, and a priest whose violent leadership in the rebellion causes a great deal of spiritual uncertainty. (more…)

Published in: on May 31, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Jackson’s Report on the Valley Campaign

One feature of the Civil War that sometimes is overlooked in histories of that conflict, is that the official reports of campaigns and battles usually were written months after the event.  So it was with the Valley Campaign.  Jackson did not have the leisure to write-up his official report until April of 1863, a month before his death from the fatal wound he received at Chancellorsville.  It would have been a great loss to the history of the Civil War if Jackson had been killed before he wrote down his report on his remarkable campaign.

In an earlier post, which may be read here, we looked at the first portion of the Valley Campaign.  After chasing the Union force which he defeated at McDowell on May 8, 1862 almost to Franklin, Jackson began a return march to the Valley on May 15.

Jackson’s goal was now to drive Bank’s army from the Valley.  Swiftly concentrating his troops, he struck at a Union outpost at Front Royal on May 23.  With 3,000 men, Jackson swiftly routed the Union force of a 1,000, capturing two-thirds of them.  Jackson’s victory at Front Royal rendered the position of Bank’s position at Front Royal untenable, and he began to retreat.  Jackson pursued with the customary swiftness that caused his infantry to be dubbed “foot cavalry” and defeated Banks at the battle of First Winchester, Jackson’s 16,000 man force inflicting 2000 casualties on Bank’s army of 6500, in exchange for 400 casualties. 

Jackson’s victory cleared the Valley of any substantial Union forces and caused consternation in Washington.  Lincoln rapidly began assembling forces for an offensive against Jackson, and that will be the subject of a final post on the Valley campaign in June.   Here is Jackson’s official report dealing with this portion of the Campaign:  (more…)

Published in: on May 30, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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The United States of America-The Trailer

Not bad, although I prefer the old Flag Evolution television signoff from the Seventies: (more…)

Published in: on May 29, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (3)  
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Uncle Bill and Memorial Day

When You Go Home, Tell Them Of Us And Say, For Your Tomorrow, We Gave Our Today

 Inscription on the memorial to the dead of the British 2nd Infantry Division at Kohima.

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth a war, is much worse. When a people are used as mere human instruments for firing cannon or thrusting bayonets, in the service and for the selfish purposes of a master, such war degrades a people. A war to protect other human beings against tyrannical injustice; a war to give victory to their own ideas of right and good, and which is their own war, carried on for an honest purpose by their free choice, — is often the means of their regeneration. A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. As long as justice and injustice have not terminated their ever-renewing fight for ascendancy in the affairs of mankind, human beings must be willing, when need is, to do battle for the one against the other.

John Stuart Mill, 1862

One of my earliest memories is being called a “Dirty Yank”.  My Dad met my Mom while he was in the Air Force in Newfoundland.  After his enlistment ended he was unable to find work in Saint John’s, my Mom’s home town, so the young couple traveled to my Dad’s home town in Paris, Illinois.  I made my appearance shortly thereafter.  My Mom, who was all of 21 at the time, grew homesick, so she and my Dad, an elderly 24, pulled up stakes again and moved back to Saint John’s.  Family tranquility was forever destroyed when my little brother arrived a year and a half later, as he and I quickly put our heads together for campaigns of mischief and nefarious activities which enlivened my childhood.  The family stayed in Saint John’s until I was four, jobs were still scarce on the ground there, alas, before the family moved back permanently to Paris in the summer of 1961.

During our stay in Saint John’s I met all of my maternal relatives on a frequent basis, and other than my maternal Grandmother and Grandfather, my favorite was no doubt my great Uncle Bill Barry.  Whenever he would come over he would yell out, “There’s that Dirty Yank!”  I would lisp out in return, “There’s that Dirty Newf”!

Bill Barry was a truly wonderful man.  An Irishman with a laughing, sunny disposition he was also a fighter.  A boxer in his young manhood, he lived up to Chesterton’s famous observation about the inhabitants of the Emerald Isle:

For the great Gaels of Ireland

Are the men that God made mad,

For all their wars are merry,

And all their songs are sad.

He loved to brawl when he was a young man, but there was always a smile on his face when he was doing so, albeit the police who had to bust up some of the fights he got involved in didn’t always share the joke.  It was to be expected that such a man would join up with the Royal Army immediately when war was declared on Germany in 1939.  When he was asked why he did, he said, “Well, someone has to teach the Limies how to fight!”  Fight he did, taking part in the D-Day invasion, and fighting on through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany until the thousand year Reich became the twelve year Reich.  He rose from private to sergeant, receiving a field promotion for the courage and leadership he displayed in taking a village.  He had a short spell as a noncom.  After the Lieutenant left him and a squad in charge of the village, Uncle Bill led his men to an abandoned wine cellar and then, as all the best military leaders do, led by example.  “Men, do as I do!” he shouted as he began to chug a bottle of wine.  Inspired by this oration his men followed him, and by the time the Lieutenant arrived back, Uncle Bill and his command were dancing in the streets.  The Lieutenant promptly, and correctly, tore the stripes off Uncle Bill’s tunic and he spent the rest of the war as a private.  That was fine with Uncle Bill, since he had signed up to fight and not to make the Army a career.  A fighter Uncle Bill definitely was, but not a soldier! (more…)

Published in: on May 28, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (4)  
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Ronald Reagan on Memorial Day

Freedom is not only a gift, but also a summons to personal responsibility. Americans know this from experience – almost every town in this country has its monuments honoring those who sacrificed their lives in defense of freedom, both at home and abroad.

Pope Benedict XVI

My fellow Americans, Memorial Day is a day of ceremonies and speeches. Throughout America today, we honor the dead of our wars. We recall their valor and their sacrifices. We remember they gave their lives so that others might live.

We’re also gathered here for a special event—the national funeral for an unknown soldier who will today join the heroes of three other wars.

When he spoke at a ceremony at Gettysburg in 1863, President Lincoln reminded us that through their deeds, the dead had spoken more eloquently for themselves than any of the living ever could, and that we living could only honor them by rededicating ourselves to the cause for which they so willingly gave a last full measure of devotion.

Well, this is especially so today, for in our minds and hearts is the memory of Vietnam and all that that conflict meant for those who sacrificed on the field of battle and for their loved ones who suffered here at home.

Not long ago, when a memorial was dedicated here in Washington to our Vietnam veterans, the events surrounding that dedication were a stirring reminder of America’s resilience, of how our nation could learn and grow and transcend the tragedies of the past.

During the dedication ceremonies, the rolls of those who died and are still missing were read for three days in a candlelight ceremony at the National Cathedral. And the veterans of Vietnam who were never welcomed home with speeches and bands, but who were never defeated in battle and were heroes as surely as any who have ever fought in a noble cause, staged their own parade on Constitution Avenue. As America watched them—some in wheelchairs, all of them proud—there was a feeling that this nation—that as a nation we were coming together again and that we had, at long last, welcomed the boys home.

“A lot of healing went on,” said one combat veteran who helped organize support for the memorial. And then there was this newspaper account that appeared after the ceremonies. I’d like to read it to you. “Yesterday, crowds returned to the Memorial. Among them was Herbie Petit, a machinist and former marine from New Orleans. ‘Last night,’ he said, standing near the wall, ‘I went out to dinner with some other ex-marines. There was also a group of college students in the restaurant. We started talking to each other. And before we left, they stood up and cheered us. The whole week,’ Petit said, his eyes red, ‘it was worth it just for that.'”

It has been worth it. We Americans have learned to listen to each other and to trust each other again. We’ve learned that government owes the people an explanation and needs their support for its actions at home and abroad. And we have learned, and I pray this time for good, the most valuable lesson of all—the preciousness of human freedom. (more…)

Published in: on May 27, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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Eternal Father

Something for the weekend.  Eternal Father seems very appropriate for a Memorial Day weekend, as we remember those who paid the ultimate price for the freedom we cherish.  Written in 1860 as a poem by William Whiting in England, the music to accompany the lyrics was composed by John B. Dykes in 1861.  The moving hymn has always been a favorite of those who serve in the military:

Eternal Father, strong to save,

Whose arm hath bound the restless wave,  

Who bidd’st the mighty ocean deep  

Its own appointed limits keep;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

 For those in peril on the sea!

O Christ! Whose voice the waters heard

And hushed their raging at Thy word,  

Who walkedst on the foaming deep,

And calm amidst its rage didst sleep;

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

Most Holy Spirit! Who didst brood

Upon the chaos dark and rude,

And bid its angry tumult cease,

And give, for wild confusion, peace;  

Oh, hear us when we cry to Thee,  

For those in peril on the sea!

O Trinity of love and power!

Our brethren shield in danger’s hour;

From rock and tempest, fire and foe,  

 Protect them wheresoe’er they go;

  Thus evermore shall rise to Thee

Glad hymns of praise from land and sea. (more…)

Published in: on May 26, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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George Washington in Trafalgar Square

American travelers in London, at least those who pay no attention to tour guides, are sometimes astonished when they see the above statue of George Washington in Trafalgar Square.  A gift from the people of Virginia, the statue bears the inscription:  “Presented to the people of Great Britain and Ireland by the Commonwealth of Virginia 1924″.  The presence of the statue in London is a tribute to the good relations that have existed between Great Britain and the United States for more than a century.

The greatest Englishman, half American as he was, paid this tribute to Washington:  (more…)

Published in: on May 25, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments Off  
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More Movies For a Memorial Day Weekend

Last year I gave my top ten picks for movies for Memorial Day weekend.  Go here to read that post.  Here are more films, in no particular order as to merit, to help remember those who went into harm’s way for us:

10.  The Gallant Hours (1960)-James Cagney as Admiral William F. “Bull” Halsey, video clip at the beginning of this post, the film highlighting Halsey’s brilliant leadership in the fierce naval battles that raged around Guadalcanal in 1942.  The importance of Guadalcanal was put succinctly by Halsey: “Before Guadalcanal the enemy advanced at his pleasure. After Guadalcanal, he retreated at ours”.

9.   John Paul Jones (1959)- Robert Stack, just before he rose to fame in the Untouchables, is grand in the role of the archetypal American sea hero.  Bette Davis is absolutely unforgettable as Catherine the Great.  The climactic sea battle with the Serapis is well done, especially for those pre-CGI days.  The only problem with the film is that many of the details are wrong.  This is forgivable to a certain extent since scholarship on Jones was badly skewed by Augustus Buell in a two volume “scholarly biography” which appeared in 1900.  Buell was a charlatan who made up many incidents about Jones and then invented sources to support his fabrications.  Buell was not completely exposed until Samuel Eliot Morison, Harvard professor of history, and an Admiral in the Navy, wrote his definitive biography of Jones. Here is a list of the fabrications of Buell compiled by Morison.  Morison’s book appeared after the movie, which is to be regretted.

8.  The Sands of Iwo Jima (1949)-This film earned John Wayne his first Oscar nomination as best actor.  (Broderick Crawford would win for his stunning performance in All The King’s Men.)   Wayne was initially reluctant to take the role, partly because he had not fought in World War II, and partly because he saw script problems and didn’t like the character of Sergeant Stryker as initially written in the screen play. (There is evidence that Wayne, 34 at the time of Pearl Harbor, and with 3 kids, did attempt to volunteer in 1943 for the Marine Corps with assignment to John Ford’s OSS Field Photographic Unit, but was turned down.) 

Wayne was convinced to take the role because the film had the enthusiastic backing of the Marine Corps, which viewed it as a fitting tribute to the Marines who fought in the Pacific, and to help combat a move in Congress to abolish the Corps.  Marine Commandant Clifton B. Cates went to see Wayne to request that he take the role and Wayne immediately agreed.  (Thus began a long association of John Wayne with the Marine Corps, including Wayne narrating a tribute to Marine Lieutenant General Chesty Puller.)

Appearing in the film were several Marine veterans of the Pacific, including Colonel David Shoup, who earned a Medal of Honor for his heroism at Tarawa, and who would later serve as a Commandant of the Corps, and Lieutenant Colonel Henry Crow who led a Marine battalion at Tarawa.  The Marine Corp hymn is sung in the film after the death of Wayne’s character, one of ten films in which a Wayne character died, and as the raising of the flag is recreated.

Taking part in the flag raising were Rene Gagnon, Ira Hayes and John Bradley, the three survivors of the six flag raisers who survived the battle.  (The three men who raised the flag and subsequently died in the battle were Franklin Sousely, Harlon Block and Michael Strank.)  (First Lieutenant Harold Schrier, who led the flag raising party that raised the first, smaller, flag on Mount Suribachi, and who was awarded a Navy Cross and a Silver Star for his heroism on Iwo Jima, also appeared in the film.)  The flag on top of Mount Suribachi could be seen across the island, and was greeted with cheers by the Marines and blaring horns by the ships of the Navy.  A mass was said on Mount Suribachi at the time of the flag raising and I have written about that here.  Go here to see the ending of the Sands of Iwo Jima and listen to the Marines’ Hymn.

7.  The Horse Soldiers (1959)-In 1959 John Ford and John Wayne, in the last of their “cavalry collaborations”, made The Horse Soldiers, a film based on Harold Sinclair’s novel of the same name published in 1956, which is a wonderful fictionalized account of Grierson’s Raid.

Perhaps the most daring and successful Union cavaly raid of the war, Colonel Benjamin Grierson, a former music teacher and band leader from Jacksonville, Illinois, who, after being bitten by a horse at a young age, hated horses, led from April 17-May 2, 1863 1700 Illinois and Iowa troopers through 600 miles of Confederate territory from southern Tennessee to the Union held Baton Rouge in Louisiana.  Grierson and his men ripped up railroads, burned Confederate supplies and tied down many times their number of Confederate troops and succeeded in giving Grant a valuable diversion as he began his movement against Vicksburg.  The film is a fine remembrance of the courage of the soldiers North and South who fought in our war without an enemy.

6.  Red Tails (2012)-  This film was released on Blueray this week, and I have been viewing it and enjoying it immensely.

Blacks have served in all of America’s wars, in spite of the racial hatred that was often directed against them during their service.  In World War II the military was still segregated, and opposition to blacks serving as pilots was intense.   However, the Army Air Corps could not ignore that blacks had passed the tests to qualify as aviation cadets. Trained at Tuskegee University in Tuskegee, Alabama, the 99th Pursuit squadron was activated in 1941 and sent overseas to North Africa in April 1943.

The 99th served in the Sicilian Campaign and in Italy.  In the Spring of 1944 it was joined by the 100th, 301st and 302nd pursuit squadrons and formed the all black 332nd fighter group.  The 332nd flew as escorts for bombers flying bombing raids into Czechoslavakia, Austria, Hungary, Poland and Germany.  The 332nd became known as the Red Tails, or Red Tail Angels, for the red paint on the tails of their planes, and for the skill with which they guarded the bombers they escorted.  The men of the 332nd in their time in combat destroyed 261 enemy planes, damaged another 148, and flew a total of 15,533 combat sorties.  They suffered 66 pilots killed.  95 Distinguished Flying Crosses for heroism were earned by the pilots, along with other awards for valor, and the 332nd received three President Unit Citations.  A bomber group, the 477th Medium Bomber Group, consisting of the 616th, 617th, 618th and 619th bomber squadrons, was formed from Tuskegee Airmen, but the War ended before the unit was deployed overseas.

Red Tails, is a long overdue salute to these men who had to fight not only the enemy but the racial prejudice of  many of their fellow Americans.  They were a credit to their nation and to their race, the human race.

(more…)

Published in: on May 24, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (6)  
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Marse Robert

He was a Caesar without his ambition; a Frederick without his tyranny; a Napoleon without his selfishness; and a Washington without his reward.

John William Jones on Robert E. Lee

Great Americans fought on both sides of the Civil War, and one of the greatest of Americans, of his time or any time, was Robert E. Lee.

Always outnumbered, with troops often dressed in rags, ill-fed, ill-supplied, he led his men to magnificent victories in the Seven Days, Second Manassas, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville.  Fighting another great general, Grant, he achieved a stalemate in 1864 against an army that had more than a two-to-one advantage, and prolonged the life of his country by almost a year.  A fighting general with a propensity for taking huge risks, he was also a humane man with unfailing courtesy for both friend and foe.  A true Christian, he did his best, in turbulent times, to live the teachings of Christ.

In regard to the great issues of his day, he was opposed to secession as he indicated in this letter to his son “Rooney” on January 29, 1861: “Secession is nothing but revolution. The framers of our Constitution never exhausted so much labor, wisdom and forbearance in its formation, and surrounded it with so many guards and securities, if it was intended to be broken by every member of the Confederacy at will. It was intended for ‘perpetual union’ so expressed in the preamble, and for the establishment of a government, not a compact, which can only be dissolved by revolution, or the consent of all the people in convention assembled. It is idle to talk of secession.” When Virginia seceded however, he decided that he had no choice but to fight in her defense.

As to slavery,  before the Civil War Lee condemned it in private correspondence, viewing it as an unmitigated evil. While not an abolitionist he hoped that Christianity and education would eventually end slavery. (more…)

Published in: on May 23, 2012 at 5:30 am  Comments (2)  
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The Priest and the Marine

Born on January 3, 1936, one of five kids, Robert R. Brett knew from an early age what the wanted to be.    As his sister Rosemary Rouse noted, “He always wanted to be a priest. He was always there for everyone.”

He attended Saint Edmond’s and Saint Gabriel’s grade schools and then attended a preparatory seminary for high school.  Brett entered the Marist novitiate at Our Lady of the Elms on Staten Island and made his profession of vows on September 8, 1956.  Studying at Catholic University, he received a BA in philosophy in 1958 and a Master’s Degree in Latin in 1963.  He was ordained a priest of the Society of Mary in 1962 by Bishop Thomas Wade at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

While teaching Latin at the Immaculata Seminary in Lafayette, Louisiana in 1967, he decided to enlist in the Navy as a chaplain.  Neither a hawk nor a dove on Vietnam, Father Brett believed that it was his duty to go where he was needed the most, and he decided that the men fighting in Vietnam needed him.  He joined the Navy specifically to volunteer for combat duty in Vietnam with the Marines.  (The Marine Corps, although many Marines choke to admit it, is part of the Department of the Navy, and receive their chaplains from the Navy.)

Father Brett was commissioned a Lieutenant in the Navy, and, after training at the Chaplain School in Newport Rhode Island, and Marine combat training at Camp Pendleton, California, he arrived in Vietnam on September 15, 1967, assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 26th Marine Regiment, 3rd Marine Division.  His goal was simple:  wherever Marines in his unit were in danger he was going to be there, to say Mass, give the Last Rites to the dying and help the wounded.  His own personal safety was simply going to have to take a back seat to this mission.

His superiors quickly realize that this priest was going to need an assistant and a guard since he was so intent on going into harm’s way.  They assigned him Corporal Alexander Chin, a truly remarkable Marine.

Of African-American and Chinese ancestry, Corporal Chin had served in Vietnam for several months when he had a religious conversion.  He announced that he could no longer kill the enemy, but that he had no problem still putting his life on the line for his country.  Assistant and guard to a chaplain seemed like an appropriate assignment for this particular Marine.

Much of Father Brett’s service in Vietnam centered around the Battle for Khe Sanh.  Situated in northwestern Quang Tri Province, Khe Sanh was next to the border between North Vietnam and South Vietnam.   The North Vietnamese sought to replicate their victory at  Dien Bien Phu over the French in the 1950’s by massing several divisions and overrunning the Marines at Khe Sanh.  They failed, and the Marines inflicted far more casualties on the North Vietnamese Army than they sustained.  Intense fighting at Khe Sanh lasted from January 21, 1968 to April 8, 1968, and Chaplain Brett was in the thick of it, along with Corporal Chin.

His commanding officer, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry Kurth recalled Father Brett in his book Walk With Me:  a Vietnam Experience: (more…)

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