The other evening I had a chance to watch the corny movie “Captain America: The First Avenger.” I like these kinds of movies — “Thor,” “Green Lantern,” “Iron Man” – all the heroes that I grew up in DC and Marvel comics. And I look forward to the future release of “Sgt. Rock” and “Sgt. Fury and His Howling Commandos.”
If you’ve seen “Captain America” you’ll note that some of the Howling Commandos are introduced. You’ll also note that in some of the scenes, especially those with Tommy Lee Jones playing Col. Chester Phillips, and Chris Evans as Capt. America – the medals they wear on their uniforms are wrong.
Now I know it’s a dumb point and meaningless in a film meant to just provide pure escape. But, it’s another example how Hollywood is out of touch with military matters. In one scene, Col. Phillips is explaining a mission to Capt. America who is wearing an Army uniform, instead of his red-white-and-blue costume. Both men are wearing the Combat Infantry Badge – at the bottom of their row of ribbons. Accuracy dictates the CIB be worn above the ribbons. Additionally, Capt. America is shown wearing a Purple Heart (with one star) and the American Defense Service Medal. The American Defense medal is wrong, since it was only earned by those who were already in the military prior and including the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. The movie’s time frame begins well into the war.
With a budget of $140 million, one wonders why they didn’t hire a military adviser for a few bucks to bring a little more accuracy in something they had complete control over. But they did hire someone: Billy Budd, a Royal Marines Commando. Well, there you go. That’s what you get for hiring a Brit, instead of a real American, like Marine Capt. Dale Dye who was the senior military adviser on “Saving Private Ryan,” “Band of Brothers,” “The Pacific” and “The Thin Red Line.”
It’s not just medals that Hollywood seems to always screw up. How often have you seen a movie — especially a war film — where somewhere in the background an American flag is hung with the blue field and stars displayed on the upper right-hand side, instead of being hung properly like it was on the Pentagon after 9/11?
These inaccuracies, albeit insignificant in these movies, show poor or no research by the advisers, costume designers, armorers , directors, and producers. All this adds up to disrespect for those who have worn the uniform of the American military.
Hollywood would respond, well only 1 percent of Americans today are or have been in the military, so it really doesn’t matter, movie-goers don’t know the difference. Yes, but the 1 percent do.
These discrepancies add up; wrong medals, improperly hung flags, wrong uniforms, wrong ranks, wrong tactics. It is much bigger than an error here or there, it is disrespect.
I understand some things can’t be accurate such as using an American M48 Patton tank instead of a real German Tiger tank, like they did in the 1965 “Battle of the Bulge,” or using Spanish-built four-prop Messerschmidt Bf-109s instead of the three-prop jobs in the 1969 “Battle of Britain.”
But paying attention to simple things like placing a medal in its proper position on a uniform is showing respect to the movie’s authenticity and more importantly to the audience, many of whom have worn that uniform.
There are some shining examples, I will admit. Capt. Dye I’ve mentioned, but also Marines Lt. Col. Michael R. Strobl, Master Sgt. Vic Szalankiewicz, and veteran William D. “Zig” Zwicharowski were brought onboard as the military advisers in the exceptional HBO film “Taking Chance.”
The little details in “Chance” were greatly appreciated and brought authenticity to the film, for example making sure that actor Kevin Bacon saluted with his head cover on; something missed in many military films.
Many will say give it a rest, it’s just a movie. True, but the inattention to detail is at the expense of the public, no matter how serious or how corny the movie is. Maybe Hollywood can start its own jobs program by hiring more veterans to ensure the movies are accurate and therefore, more entertaining.