The absence of Black Americans in WW2 movies

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The absence of Black Americans in WW2 movies

With the release of a war movie about Iwo Jima, by clint Eastwood come the revelation that the roles of Black American soldiers were removed from the historical record. Seems heros could only be white in the 1940's.

While the Flags of Our Fathers battle scenes show scores of young soldiers in combat, none of them are African-American. Yet almost 900 African-American troops took part in the battle of Iwo Jima.

"Of all the movies that have been made of Iwo Jima, you never see a black face," said Mr McPhatter. "This is the last straw. I feel like I've been denied, I've been insulted, I've been mistreated. But what can you do? We still have a strong underlying force in my country of rabid racism."

Melton McLaurin, author of the forthcoming The Marines of Montford Point and an accompanying documentary to be released in February, says that there were hundreds of black soldiers on Iwo Jima from the first day of the 35-day battle. Although most of the black marine units were assigned ammunition and supply roles, the chaos of the landing soon undermined the battle plan.

"When they first hit the beach the resistance was so fierce that they weren't shifting ammunition, they were firing their rifles," said Dr McLaurin.

The failure to transfer the active role played by African-Americans at Iwo Jima to the big screen does not surprise him. "One of the marines I interviewed said that the people who were filming newsreel footage on Iwo Jima deliberately turned their cameras away when black folks came by. Blacks are not surprised at all when they see movies set where black troops were engaged and never show on the screen. I would like to say that it was from ignorance but anybody can do research and come up with books about African-Americans in world war two. I think it has to do with box office and what producers of movies think Americans really want to see."

He added: "I want to see these guys get their due. They're just so anxious to have their story told and to have it known."

Roland Durden, another black marine, landed on the beach on the third day. "When we hit the shore we were loaded with ammunition and the Japanese hit us with mortar." Private Durden was soon assigned to burial detail, "burying the dead day in, day out. It seemed like endless days. They treated us like workmen rather than marines."

Mr Durden, too, is wearied but unsurprised at the omissions in Eastwood's film. "We're always left out of the films, from John Wayne on," he said. Mr Durden ascribes to both the conspiracy as well as the cock-up theory of history. "They didn't want blacks to be heroes. This was pre-1945, pre-civil rights."

A spokesperson for Warner Bros said: "The film is correct based on the book." The omission was first remarked upon in a review by Fox News columnist Roger Friedman, who noted that the history of black involvement at Iwo Jima was recorded in several books, including Christopher Moore's recent Fighting for America: Black Soldiers - the Unsung Heroes of World War II. "They weren't in the background at all," said Moore. "The people carrying the ammunition were 90% black, so that's an opportunity to show black soldiers. These are our films and very often they become our history, historical documents."

Much more on the site Guardian

Movie pictures

flagsofourfathers12.jpg - 90.65kb
By netchicken: posted on 22-10-2006

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