Like many of you, I’m addicted to both the History Channel and the Military Channel. Were it not for them I would have to learn canasta or take up calligraphy while I wait for the end to come. The Military Channel still runs some good stuff, but I’m seeing it drift farther and farther from bullets and bayonets and more toward show biz.
The first example of this is a program called “An Officer and Movie,” in which a war film is played and the host, the actor Lou Diamond Phillips, quizzes a combat veteran about what the movie purports to show. The concept is a good one, but the films are some of the lamest military flicks ever made (Heartbreak Ridge? Spare me.) Mr. Phillips is no military authority, the officers are given no time to say anything important, and the questions are innocuous. Aside from that it’s fine.
If the Military Channel would like to do something meaningful, how about having Colonel Jack Jacobs host the program? Colonel Jacobs (USA, Ret) won the Medal of Honor in Vietnam and does military analysis for MSNBC. How about running movies like Attack, a film that stars Jack Palance and came out in 1956. It deals with cowardice under fire, and has some distinctly unpleasant things to say. Or Decision Before Dawn (1951) which was the first postwar American film to show Germans in a sympathetic light, and is about loyalty to a cause, and what it can do to you. Neither film makes for easy watching, and I’d love to see one or both on “An Officer…” but I won’t hold my breath.
The most recent disappointment came Wednesday night in the form of “Triggers.” This show, hosted by one Wil (with one “l”) Willis, purported to be about the Colt Model 1911. However, if you’d like to learn something substantive about the Colt Model 1911, you’d better buy the book Small Arms of the World, because you won’t get it here.
Mr. Willis wears a muscle shirt to show us he has muscles. (Dr. William Atwater has never felt the need.) but if he is responsible for the script, he needs to lose the shirt and grasp the concept of a coherent line of thought. This program is all over the place. Its tone and content seem to be lifted intact from Spike TV, which runs programs on who would win in a fight to the death between a samurai warrior and Justin Beiber).
“Triggers” starts with Sergeant Alvin York, segues to a comparison of the wheel lock and flintlock, includes a fast-draw segment with the Peacemaker and a shootout between that gun and a Trapdoor Springfield, takes in the virtues of the Luger, and on and on. When in doubt, Mr. Willis and guests shoot stuff to no apparent point.
The show could have asked some good questions: For example, it points out that in the 1890s, the Army dropped the .45 in favor of the .38 Special, which quickly proved inadequate. Why? Was the Army stupid? (Answer: yes. Our small arms procurement has never been particularly good, except for some notable successes such as the Model 1911 pistol, the M-1 rifle, and the M2 machine gun. Our introduction of the M-16 to combat was a case study in military incompetence. At the end of World War II, the U.S. ignored the German Sturmgewehr, the first assault rifle, but the Soviets did not. The result was that they developed the most successful infantry rifle of all time–the AK-47–and we did not.)
Then in 1985, the Army did the exact same thing, replacing the Model 1911 with the 9mm Beretta M9, which no one seems to like very much, and which is just as inadequate as the .38 Special. Why? Is the Army stupid? (Answer: yes.) Mr. Willis allowed that special ops units still use the 1911? Why? No answer.
Perhaps “Triggers” will improve. I hope so. Meanwhile, three pieces of advice for Mr. Willis: Lose the muscle shirt and pay some attention to your storyline. Fire whoever does the graphics. A Colt Model 1873 is not a Colt Model 1860 Army. And finally, the velocity of the .45 Long Colt bullet is around 750-850 fps, not 1,200 fps.