Anyone familiar with the history of World War II knows about Dunkirk, but now with the release of the highly publicized movie of the same name, millions of others will learn the story, sort of. That is the complaint of the French, who say the movie is highly inaccurate and glorifies British prowess, and luck, while neglecting the sacrifice made by French troops in losing to the Germans which made the epic evacuation both necessary and possible.
Historians and critics have expressed annoyance over what they see as another rewriting of history attempting to glorify the defeat of Allied forces. Dunkirk was one of the biggest screw-ups of the war and left 30,000 French troops trying to hold off several Nazi divisions near Lille in the spring of 1940. While Operation Dynamo was put into effect to save the British Army it cost thousands of lives. Meanwhile, Russia has officially dubbed the film a celebration of British cowardice.
In France, the story of Dunkirk is not even taught in schools. Why would it be? It was just another defeat in a long line of them. But as a result, most people in France know nothing about it. So movie reviewers are having to become history teachers to explain just what happened and why.
As for the British, they are very proud of their accomplishment in evacuating their stranded troops from the French shore, and well they should be, “jolly good show” and all that. Meanwhile, the French newspaper Libération has called Dunkirk a “founding episode in European history” adding: “The Dunkirk spirit has lived on since the war as a strong marker of the English patriotic psyche.”
The French say that for the most part, Christopher Nolan successfully brushed out the role of their army, save a few brief scenes. Les Echos, a business publication said of the movie: “This vibrant homage to the British Army and people avoids the suffering of the French soldiers who, after protecting the British retreat, watched the last boats sail away. While they were heading for the night of the occupation.”
Frankly, there can be no doubt that were it not for the delaying tactics of the remnants of the French Army, Operation Dynamo would never have succeeded. Their sacrifice prevented 200,000 enemy soldiers from penetrating the pocket of Allied resistance at Dunkirk and erasing the British Army. The films harshest review came from Le Monde, which talked of the “scathing rudeness, deplorable indifference” of Nolan towards France.
Nowhere in the movie are the are the 120,000 French soldiers who were evacuated from Dunkirk shown, neither are the 40,000 who sacrificed themselves to defend the city against the invading Germans. Winston Churchill and his commanders lavished praise on the French saying; “the heroic resistance of the French army saved the British and allowed them to continue the war”.
Meanwhile, the British defend the movie saying film-makers had a right to rewrite history, after all that is what liberals do. Just as they are attempting to rewrite American History by removing statues and monuments to Southern military leaders in an effort to sell the mantra of “Anti-slavery” rather than the truth of “Anti-taxation and big Federal Government.” History told only in part is not history, it is propaganda.