So I went to see this movie Dunkirk at the urging of James Kirkpatrick, VDARE.com’s lead tweetmeister and our ambassador to popular culture. In the process, I made the interesting discovery that my young Texan wife had never heard of Dunkirk. For me, it brought flocking back a host of memories and emotions sternly repressed since I left Britain for U.S. in 1970. Chief among them now: lethal rage.
If you grew up in Britain in the 1950s, as John Derbyshire and I did, the myth of the Dunkirk evacuation—using “myth” in its affirming and sustaining sense—was everywhere. I remember reading illustrated stories about it in children’s comics when I was about Felicity’s age (now 6).
Of course, the British were wrong to believe this was the decisive turning point in World War II—there were, as we are incessantly reminded, far bigger battles on the Eastern Front. But it was pretty decisive for Britain: the loss (or, politically even more awkward, capture) of the 200,000-plus U.K. troops retrieved from the beaches after being cut off by the German panzers would have been devastating, perhaps fatal, for a country that could field only ten infantry divisions in 1939. As it was, casualties were very heavy—one of many arresting points made by Dunkirk is how terrifyingly quickly combat-damaged ships can sink.
Moreover, Dunkirk was in a real sense a people’s battle. Some 700 civilian craft were recruited to get the men off the beaches and…