Charles T. Pinck: 'Basterd'ized history

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[Charles T. Pinck is president of the OSS Society, an organization of OSS veterans and their descendants in McLean.]

Given the very close relationship between Hollywood and World War's II Office of Strategic Services (OSS), forerunner of the CIA and U.S. Special Operations Forces, whose ranks included director John Ford and actors Robert Montgomery and Sterling Hayden, it's troubling that Hollywood has distorted the history of the OSS in two recent major motion pictures, "The Good Shepherd" and "Inglourious Basterds."

These two movies present diametrically opposite but equally false assertions about the OSS, particularly about the important role played within the organization by Jews and other minorities...

... "Inglourious Basterds," the new movie by Quentin Tarantino, who evidently never saw "The Good Shepherd," has an OSS unit made up entirely of Jews whose mission it is to brutally kill Germans behind enemy lines by scalping them, carving swastikas in their foreheads and beating them to death with baseball bats. Such an OSS unit never existed. (There was a unit of Jewish commandos in the British army who went ashore on D-Day and performed valiantly throughout World War II.)

"Inglourious Basterds" loses its pretense as a fantasy when it attaches this fictional group of Jewish commandos to the real OSS, thereby giving even the most knowledgeable viewer the impression that this story is true.

Given the enormous amount of material about the OSS available to the public, including its personnel and operational files and numerous books, there are countless true stories about bravery behind enemy lines that could be told.

The fictional "Basterds" may serve the film's purpose, but they do disservice to the history of the OSS.

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Lawrence Baron - 9/4/2009

When a movie opens with the caption, "Once upon a time," it is warning viewers that it is a work of fiction. When most of the music used in a movie ostensibly about World War Two is from horror movies and westerns, that too should be a red-flag against taking it too seriously. That this is obvious from cartoon arrows identifying historical figures, comic dialogue, visual and verbal references to films unrelated to World War Two, over-the-top performances,and a fantasy finale that bears not the slightest resemblance to how World War Two ended, let alone to the operations and personnel of the OSS.
Yes, there may be members of the audience who mistake this exercise in cinematic creativity for historical reality, but that reflects their ignorance rather than Tarantino's intentions.