The Americanization of Emily – “War is not moral”

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An evening pause: A fine performance by James Garner from a Paddy Chayefski screenplay. While I agree that putting soldiers on pedestals is often a misplaced emotion that can lead to future unnecessary wars, I do not agree that all war is immoral. There are times, as a last resort, when good people have to stand up and fight, if only to prevent bad people from dominating the battlefield. In 1964, when The Americanization of Emily was released, Americans could be forgiven for being hostile to war. After World War II the country had gotten itself into a string of wars, the goals of all having been poorly considered. It was also a time when evil people were well restrained by our willingness to stand up to them.

Today, our fear and hostility to war is allowing evil to run rampant worldwide. It will very soon descend upon our heads if we do not begin to fight back.

Having said that, this is a fine and thoughtful scene from a fine and thoughtful movie, raising many profound thoughts about the nature and consequences of war. Hat tip to Phil Berardelli, author of Phil’s Favorite 500: Loves of a Moviegoing Lifetime.


  • Phil Berardelli

    A fine post, Bob, and thanks for sharing the clip with your readers. It was fitting that you posted it yesterday, on the 70th anniversary of V-E Day, which was just 11 months and two days after the Normandy invasion, the central occasion covered in the movie. Yes, Garner’s performance of Chayefsky’s screenplay was eloquent and thoughtful — but misguided. Years after the movie’s release, newly discovered Nazi documents revealed that Hitler’s plan for England’s conquest was a throwback to ancient times. It involved, effectively, killing all British men and impregnating all British women of child-bearing age, thereby extinguishing the English. No doubt Der Fuhrer had similar plans for other nations. Only the courage and determination of the allies stopped him. It was indeed England’s finest hour — and America’s. My father landed at Normandy on Utah Beach on D-Day. He drove a tractor trailer hauling a bulldozer for the Army Corps of Engineers. He landed three hours after the beginning of the invasion, and the allied forces were still under attack. His truck was third off the LST. The first man drove his truck into a bomb crater and drowned. The second truck also sank but the driver was able to escape. Dad reached dry land unharmed. I am here, as are my daughters and grandchildren, because of the victory of the United States over Germany. War is hell, but sometimes war in inevitable and necessary, and victory over evil is to be celebrated.

  • Merwig

    At moment of invasion in Normandy, the WWII was already decided by the loosed fight against Soviet Union (Russia), where the large majority of German troops were involved. I do not believe that Adolf Hitler had such plans (as proposed by commenter above) with England after conquest, because it is well known that A.H. admired the British in reality and he was mentality linked to England (initially he hoped for separate peace with the British). That was also the reason that A.H. did let escape several hundred thousand English soldiers/troops at Duennkirchen over the North Sea in summer 1940, despite German troops had the easy ability to kill or capture them all.
    The problem was more that the British did not respond as A.H. hopped, rejected several German peace notes and gave not his “love” back to him. To the other point: It is well known that there are several harsh British plans to eliminate the German nation as such after war, which included castration plans for all German men. (British hate against Germany was always without any limit.) I think the German nation was only saved, because the Cold war dictated that the captured parts of Germany are needed for both opponents (USA and Soviet Union). Furthermore, the origin of WWII and appearance of A.H. cannot be understood without going back WWI and its causes. Here played the English and also USA a very bad rule. However, this another chapter.

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