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How have recent historical combat films (from the 1980s onwards) memorialised the American soldier? Essay Example

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How the recent historical combat films (from the 1980s onwards) memorialize the American soldier


There are a number of American historical war films that have been screened since 1980. Among these are the Tropic Thunder, which was screened in 2008, We Were Soldiers, which was screened in 2002, Good Morning Vietnam, 1987, Forrest Gump, 1994 and Born on the Fourth of July, 1989. Certain happenings are often commemorated in a number of ways, which may include plaques, monuments, and the use of various forms of attire or behavior when the days set aside for the commemorations are reached. Commemorations area way of satisfying the human need for remembrance for the ‘good’ work done by those perceived to be allies at a particular time in the past. In the case of soldiers, commemorations are for remembering the brutalities they went through in order to bring victory to their land, or in trying to bring victory even if it was not achieved. Most countries of the world have also formulated a unique way of commemorating and memorializing their historical soldier through film. The films tend to depict the happenings during war and the hardships faced in the fields of battle. The aim of this paper is to construct an evidence-based interpretation of the past in written form to show the various ways in which historical combat films memorialize the American soldier.

How the recent historical combat films (from the 1980s onwards) memorialize the American soldier

Logan Stark, an American soldier who went through the Afghanistan ordeal made a short film after returning to his country for Michigan University. In the film, he shows the level of brutality the soldiers face in battlefields. Logan made this film as a form of commemoration to his friend who died in the Afghanistan battles. He displays in the film his leader telling him that his friend had died from a bomb explosion. To provide clear evidence, Logan together with his fellow soldiers, recorded the real happenings in a video camera he had with him. Michigan University stores the video as a means of commemoration and as a way of showing the kind of brutality that an American soldier undergoes while in the battlefield (Stark, 1998).

Saving Private Ryan is also a film that was created as a way of commemorating the American soldier. The film shows the attempts by the troops led by John Miller to rescue a private from the battlefield after Normandy was invaded in the 1944 during the Second World War. This film shows just how horrific battlefields are. These are evident in the first scenes of the film that show the landing in Omaha Beach by the Americans. The modernization of technology provided room for making the film more terrifying through adding sound effects that depict the German gunfire and brutalities involved in explosionsaffecting parts of the body (Bodner, 2001).

Reviews on the film indicate that it mirrors heroic warriors by exposing the realities of combat in various ways. This film was one of the first to reveal the realities of battlefields following relaxation of government censorship to allow for democracy and freedom of expression (Bodner, 2001). In the past, it was difficult to express the realities of battlefields because accessing some government departments was difficult and making of films that depicted the government units was controlled. Through this film, people are able to realize the hardships of the soldier’s life and hence it acts as a form of commemoration.

The film is heroic in the sense that because it brings a revelation of the fight for democracy that had been promised by leaders like Franklin Roosevelt. The War Office of the United States permitted filmmakers afterwards to produce films that would remind people of how they were involved in the wars in one way or another, and the need for their participation in the bringing of future justice and freedom (Bodner, 2001). This film depicts the democracy that soldiers fought for that formed the foundation for social justice and individual freedom enjoyed by people currently. The state of the nation and the expressions about suffering are best represented by the Washington mall, which has been set it aside as a centerfor American cultural memory.

From Lt. Calley to John Rambo: Repatriating the Vietnam War is also a film meant to remember the soldiers who took part in the Vietnam War, or the American war in Vietnam as the Vietnamese call it. However, this movie commemorates the negative actions of the soldiers towards the people of the Vietnam. The military bombed areas without notifying innocent citizens, andthrew suspects from helicopters instead of undertaking a judicial process that would subject them to the rule of law (Eben, 1993). The soldiers also manifested their masculine psyche through raping and killing women.

Calley is responsible for all the injustices because he was the leader of the soldiers who carried out the injustices. In this case, he is a scapegoat of the war. He is a casualty of emasculation and cannot heal from the wounds of the war. Also, in commemoration of the emotional struggles that soldiers experience while in the battle fields, a character by the name Nick, who is emasculated by playing Russian Roulette, is haunted by his previous life.

Rambo is connected with Vietnam and America and this shows heroism in relation to the purpose of warring with other countries. He manifests this by acting as a warrior and a king of Vietnam. Vietnam had in the past, prevented entry of the American troops into its territory for about ten years,but Rambo is successful in marching into the country (Eben, 1993). This shows that American soldiers, through determination, can enter into any land and become victorious. This can be related to the strength of the American military. None of the soldiers has ever made attempts retreat due to fear.

Black Hawk Down and We are Soldiersbrings the reality the hardships of being a soldier into focus. The film is an extraction film showing the martial mental impotence that soldiers felt while they were held hostage in Iran. They had to be rescued by other military forces before the local population???Arabs could kill them. Is this Somalia However, while other soldiers were on the way going to rescue them, their helicopter crashed in the staging post called Desert One Sands. The helicopter crash brought bad omen to the soldiers because they were not able to extricate the primitive warlords. The Americans consider Africa to be the most crime soaked landscape and thus this film was created as a revelation of the hardships of a soldier’s life (Semmerling, 2006).

Interestingly, the film which? Shows the faceoff between the blacks and whites, which demonstrates the existence that these people suffered from, and the superiority complex that increased their quest for win. As a result, they make more efforts aimed at achieving victory over the local Somalian population. The more effortsare made, the more the hardships they are likely to encounter. As a sign of the commemoration to the hardships experienced, the film has episodes showing helicopters flying like eagles, with men spurting blood??? (Semmerling, 2006). Through this it is clear that combat operations are not an easy task as one might think, and thus soldiers deserve a commemoration. This film therefore embraces some implicit current standards that is, respect for military members, empathy for their enigm of conduct, and celebration of the success achieved during operations.

The Three Kings is also a movie that shows how sometimes one can even approach the point of sustaining gunshots while in the line of duty. This movie commemorated the Gulf War of 1991. The movie is of a rapid energy and shows scenarios in which gunshots and all forms of violence form the basis of every place in localities of war. There is a confusion at some point and the Iraqis start killing their fellow countrymen (Eberwein, 2004). This scene illustrates how battlefields can be confusing and people from one side may turn against each other, which can work to the advantage of the enemy. It therefore shows that success in the battlefield only comes through teamwork and formulating strategies that confuse the enemy.

Clooneyplays a leadership character trusted by people as he performs varioustasks with complete conviction. Other members of the military are caught up in his operations that are aimed at giving them a win. Furthermore, the movie shows the enthusiastic nature of the soldiers atplaces of combat without showing any form of fear (Eberwein, 2004). This is what leads to victory in military operations, even though some members of the military die in combat. Such members therefore deserve commemoration.

We were soldiers, is also a film that shows the commitment of the members of military in fighting against the people who invade their land.Wewere Soldiers is a film performed to depict what soldiers experienced in the clashes in Ia Drang valley. This movie reveals the commitment of the members of military in defending their territory no matter what it takes. In addition, the members of the military take an oath of commitment to the service of their country at all times should the need arise. The movie also shows the credibility of soldiers while at the battlefields (Wetta & Novelli, 2003). This movie is a form of inspirations to the viewers.


Film commemoration is a way of remembering soldiers in an entertaining way. Thus, more viewers are attracted to the film, and as a result, many commemorate the soldiers indirectly. The films depict the hardships experienced by the members of the military in battlefields and combat zones. Such films call attention of viewers to why it is important to commemorate soldiers fallen in battlefields, and those who have suffered subsequently. The movies have therefore been successful in commemorating the fallen soldiers who often go unremembered because nation states only focus on the fallen policy makers while quite often while forgetting those who shed their blood to ensure the safety of the nation.


BODNER, J., 2001. ‘The American Historical Review’, Saving Private Ryan and Postwar Memory in America. 106(3). Pp. 805-817. Print

EBEN J.M, 1993. From Lt. Calley to John Rambo: repatriating the Vietnam War’, Journal of American Studies 27 (1). Print

EBERWEIN, R. T., 2004. The War Film. New Brunswick, N.J., Rutgers Univ. Press. Print.

SEMMERLING, T. J, 2006. «Evil» Arabs in American Popular Film Orientalist Fear. Austin, University of Texas Press.

STARK, L., 1998. Underwater training. Soldiers, 53(2), p.46.

WETTA, F.J. & NOVELLI, M.A., 2003. War Films and Hollywood’s New Patriotism. The Journal of Military History, 67(3), p.861-882.