In this romantic wartime comedy, four female defense plant workers share a house with four male workers. The situation is on the up and up as the men and women work different shifts and they are only making due because there is a housing shortage. Unfortunately, they soon begin to fight about who gets the house during certain hours. Romance ensues.
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(”Rosie the Riveter” is briefly mentioned in this.)
Iron Eyes Cody Sheds Glycerin Tear
The White Man as Environmental Malefactor
Older Americans will recall a famous TV commercial known as “The Crying Indian.” The 60-second spot debuted on Earth Day 1971, but ran from 1971–1983.
In the ad, a buckskin-clad Indian with a single feather in his raven hair paddles a birch bark canoe initially along a pristine waterway signifying the pure, clean America of its “indigenous,” wise, sensitive non-white stewards.
As the Indian proceeds, the water becomes littered. Soon he is in a dirty industrial port with large ships. A silhouette of the native canoeist is superimposed over the background of metal scaffolding and belching factory smoke as the music swells in intensity. The music drops suddenly as the native drags his canoe onto a dirty, heavily-littered shoreline.
The deep, baritone voice of actor William Conrad—radio’s Matt Dillon (Gunsmoke) and TV’s Cannon and “Fatman” (Jake and the Fatman)—intones: “Some people [Amerindians] have a deep, abiding respect for the natural beauty that was once [pre-white man] this country . . .”
As the Indian approaches the edge of a busy freeway, a white hand suddenly emerges from a car window, disdainfully expelling trash that explodes as dirty garbage around the Indian’s moccasins.
Conrad’s voice continues “. . . and some people [whites] don’t.”
The camera zooms in on a single tear rolling down the Indian’s cheek as Conrad concludes, “People start pollution, and people can stop it.”
Whites = filthy slobs, racists, and thieves: they stole, then polluted, the land! Also implied: they killed and oppressed the natives, the land’s rightful owners.
The weeping Indian = the Noble Red Man of misty-eyed white mythology described long ago by Mark Twain:
He is tall and tawny, muscular, straight and of kingly presence; he has a beaked nose and an eagle eye. His hair is glossy, and as black as the raven’s wing; out of its massed richness springs a sheaf of brilliant feathers; on his arms and wrists and ankles are broad silver bands and bracelets; his buckskin hunting suit is gallantly fringed, and the belt and the moccasins wonderfully flowered with colored beads; he is a being to fall down and worship.
Though horribly wronged by his destroyers and oppressors, he harbors no animus toward them.
The ad was produced jointly as a public service announcement (PSA) (a noncommercial propaganda ad) by Keep America Beautiful, Inc. and the Ad Council.
It had a tremendous impact.
Keep America Beautiful received more than 2,000 letters a month from people wanting to join its local team after seeing it.
The anti-white Establishment loved the commercial, too. The spot won two Clio Awards, was named one of the top 50 ads of all time by Entertainment Weekly and TV Guide, and one of the top 100 advertising campaigns of the 20th Century by Ad Age Magazine.
Hollywood Indian Garners Worldwide Fame
The commercial made its star, Hollywood supporting actor Iron Eyes Cody (1904–1999), famous. He had appeared in minor roles in numerous TV and movie westerns over many decades, though his film credits become spurious the farther back in time you go. In 1983 the Hollywood Chamber of Commerce honored him with a star bearing his name on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.
Cody sported a grave, dignified manner. He’d solemnly say things like: “Nearly all my life, it has been my policy to help those less fortunate than myself. My foremost endeavors have been with the help of the Great Spirit to dignify my people’s image through humility and love of my country.”
Reader’s Digest published his “Indian” fable “But You Promised” for its large white readership in 1989.
The Reverend Norman Vincent Peale, guru of positive thinking and pastor of the Dutch Reformed Marble Collegiate Church in Manhattan, liked the tale so much that he printed it in Guideposts magazine for his extensive Christian audience, and used it again in his book The Power of Positive Living (1990).
Peale, not a stickler for authenticity when it came to anecdotal evidence, doubtless liked the multiracial aura it imparted, since there is nothing “positive” about it. The brief story is identical in essence to William Pierce’s “The Scorpion and the Frog” (2001), which has its roots in ancient Sanskrit lore (where, however, the victimized creature is a turtle rather than a frog), though Cody’s version is cast in terms of Amerindian legend and involves a venomous snake.
Iron Eyes’ rhythmic chanting can be heard on Joni Mitchell’s anti-white “Lakota” (Chalk Mark in a Rain Storm, 1988), harking back to the FBI/Sioux gun battle on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota in 1973. Her repetitive “I am Lakota!” suggests that the Nordic songstress entertained a whacked-out notion that she was Indian—emotionally and psychologically, anyway.
The Los Angeles Times said of Cody, “As one of his people’s most visible figures, he traveled extensively on goodwill missions, meeting with presidents, popes and heads of state.”
Ephraim Katz in The Film Encyclopedia (1979) wrote that Cody was born a Cherokee Indian in Oklahoma, a claim repeated in the 1998 third edition edited after Katz’s death by Fred Klein and Ronald Dean Nolen.
The Los Angeles Times (whose beat includes Hollywood), likewise claimed in its 1999 Cody obituary, still online, unamended, that Cody was “part-Cherokee, part-Cree:”
Originally called “Little Eagle,” Oscar Cody was born on an Oklahoma farm. He received his first taste of movie-making as a child when a Paramount Pictures crew used his family’s farm for location shooting in 1919. Within a year, the Codys relocated to Hollywood where Iron Eyes’ father, Thomas Longplume Cody, worked as a technical advisor on many early westerns.
All of this is false, presumably gleaned from studio publicity handouts. But note the granularity of invented detail: “Little Eagle,” “Oklahoma farm,” “Paramount Pictures,” “1919,” “Thomas Longplume Cody,” etc.
Many precise falsehoods closely packed into three short sentences! Just because you read something in a “respected” source is no guarantee that it’s true—or even approximately correct!
In reality, Iron Eyes was born Espera Oscar DeCorti in Kaplan, Louisiana to immigrants from Sicily, Italy. He was baptized at the Holy Rosary Catholic Church in Kaplan. His father’s name was Antonio DeCorti. In his earliest acting credits, Cody was identified as Tony DeCorti, which he later changed to “Cody.” It is unclear when he added the impressive-sounding “Iron Eyes.”
After his racial background was publicly exposed in 1996, DeCorti lied, saying it was untrue.
Accounts which correctly report DeCorti’s origins (many still do not) nevertheless emphasize that he married an Amerindian woman, adopted Amerindian children, lived (in some unstated way) as an Amerindian, and was active in Amerindian charities.
Assuming this to be true, DeCorti is a prime example of a man “going native.” According to his half-sister, even as a boy DeCorti would dress up as an Indian: “He always said he wanted to be an Indian. If he could find something that looked Indian, he’d put it on.” After he went to Hollywood and changed his name from DeCorti to Cody, he “turned 100 percent Indian,” she said.
Of course, one cannot entirely ignore the tangible benefits that accrued to him for doing so.
DeCorti’s story also graphically illustrates how a few simple, but false, cultural cues can completely mislead whites as to a person’s race. This is particularly true with Jews, Levantines, Mediterraneans (some), West Asians, Mestizos, Amerindians, and part-whites.
Indeed, wardrobe alone can serve as a highly misleading cultural marker, particularly when combined with Westernized (or non-Westernized) speech and manner resulting from conscious adoption or genuine assimilation. And simple theatrical disguise techniques can greatly enhance any deception. DeCorti, for example, wore a black wig and in some roles was body-painted in order to darken his skin color.
The Change Agents
One sponsor of the crying Indian commercial, Keep America Beautiful, Inc., is an environmental organization founded in 1953 by a consortium of businesses, nonprofit groups, government agencies, and high-status individuals.
Co-sponsor was the Ad Council, formed in 1942 as the War Advertising Council. Famous ad campaigns promoted by it are “Rosie the Riveter” and “Loose Lips Sink Ships” in furtherance of the war against Europeans; the United Negro College Fund’s “A Mind is a Terrible Thing to Waste,” “I Am an American” (launched 10 days after 9/11, it showed people of every race and creed stating “I am an American”), and the homosexual-promoting, censorship-oriented “Think Before You Speak.”
In the late 1960s, a noncorporate faction within the Ad Council, led by Dartmouth president John Sloan Dickey, began to call for Keep America Beautiful to move from litter to the larger problem of environmental pollution. They threatened to scuttle Ad Council support for further antilitter campaigns. Backed into a corner, KAB directors agreed to expand their work to address “the serious menace of all pollutants to the nation’s health and welfare.”
In 1967, meeting at the Yale Club, they decided to go negative. “There seemed to be mutual agreement,” wrote campaign coordinator David Hart, “that our ‘soft sell’ used in previous years could now be replaced by a more emphatic approach to the problem by saying that those who litter are ‘slobs.'” The next year, planners upped the ante, calling litterers ‘pigs.'”
The crying Indian commercial added the implicit epithet “racist”—if such toxic poison can be considered implicit.
The Ad Council assigned Keep America Beautiful’s new anti-pollution project to the ad agency Marsteller, Inc., which produced the pro-bono spot. The Council then distributed Marsteller’s finished product to media outlets.
Who actually wrote and directed the commercial for Marsteller I have been unable to discover.
Despite the spit-in-your-face racism of the offensive ad, millions of maudlin whites identified with the Indian. How many countless times this simple subliminal trick has been played on gullible audiences over the past 100 years!
(”Rosie the Riveter” is briefly mentioned in this.)
The World War II film Hacksaw Ridge is in contention for multiple Oscars, and I hope it wins a gaggle of them. It is a fine, well-made film, and a rare attempt in mainstream cinema to portray the heroism of a faithful Christian believer. Having said that, I have to lodge an objection. Without the slightest ill intent, the film contributes to a pervasive lack of understanding or appreciation of the U.S. role in that vastly significant conflict, the popular memory of which is utterly dominated by radical and leftist perspectives. For most people under forty, the war is recounted in terms of the country’s allegedly pervasive racism, bigotry, and sexism, in which the only heroes are those resisters who defied that hegemony. It has become Exhibit A in the contemporary retrojection of modern-day culture wars into the transmission of American history.
Hacksaw Ridge tells the story of Desmond Doss, a devout Seventh Day Adventist, whose religious views forbade him accepting military service. As a conscientious objector, he served as a medic, and found himself on the extraordinarily bloody battlefields of Okinawa. His feats of courage and self-sacrifice earned him the only Congressional Medal of Honor ever awarded to a conscientious objector. No one would have dared invent such a story, which clamored to be told. But here is the problem. If such a treatment were part of a broad range of accounts of the war, then it would be a wonderful contribution, but it does not form part of any such continuum. While the main narrative of the war has faded into oblivion, major events like Okinawa are recalled only as they can be told from a perspective that appeals to liberal opinion, and even to pacifists.
For many years, I taught a class on the Second World War at Penn State University, and I have an excellent sense of the materials that are available in terms of films, textbooks and documentaries. Overwhelmingly, when they approach the American role in the war, they do so by emphasizing marginal perspectives and racial politics, to the near exclusion of virtually every other event or controversy.
At that point, you might legitimately ask whether minority contributions don’t deserve proper emphasis, as of course they do. Waco, Texas, for instance, was the home of the magnificent Dorie Miller, an African-American cook on the USS West Virginia, who responded to the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor by blasting at enemy aircraft with a machine gun. Miller was a superb American hero, as also was (for instance) Daniel Inouye, of the Japanese-American 442nd Regimental Combat Team, who suffered terrible wounds and was later awarded a Congressional Medal of Honor. The legendary Tuskegee Airmen produced a legion of distinguished (black) fliers, but we might particularly cite Roscoe Brown, the first US pilot to shoot down one of the Luftwaffe’s terrifying new jet fighters. All these individuals, and many like them, have been lauded repeatedly in recent books and documentaries on the war, for instance in Ken Burns’s 2007 PBS series The War. They absolutely deserve to be remembered and honored.
But they should not be the whole story, and in modern cultural memory, they virtually are. If you look for educational materials or museum presentations about America in World War II, I can guarantee you will find certain themes or events constantly placed front and center. By far the most significant thing to be highlighted in the great majority of films, texts, and exhibitions are the Japanese-American internments. Depending on their approach, other productions will assuredly discuss women’s role on the home front, and “Rosie the Riveter”. Any actual tales of combat will concern the Tuskegee airmen, or the Navajo code-talkers. Our students enter classes believing that the Tuskegee fliers were basically the whole of the Allied air offensive against Germany.
A like emphasis dominates feature films of the past couple of decades such as Red Tails (2012, on Tuskegee) and Windtalkers (2002, the code-talkers). Especially when dealing with the Pacific War, such combat-oriented accounts strive very hard to tell their tales with a presumed objectivity, to avoid any suggestion that the Japanese were any more motivated by pathological violence and racial hatred than the Americans. That approach was amply illustrated by Clint Eastwood’s sprawling duo of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters From Iwo Jima (2006). Western productions virtually never address the mass murders and widespread enslavement undertaken by the Japanese regime. Not surprisingly, the Japanese neo-militarist hard Right loved Eastwood’s Flags and Letters. (Fortunately, you are still allowed to hate Nazis, or we wouldn’t have the magnificent Saving Private Ryan.)
The consequences of all this are apparent. For many college-age Americans today, America’s war was largely a venture in hypocrisy, as a nation founded on segregation and illegal internments vaunted its bogus moral superiority. If awareness of Nazi deeds prevents staking a claim of total moral equivalence, then America’s record is viewed with a very jaundiced eye.
Even setting aside the moral issues, the degree of popular ignorance of the war is astounding. I have complained that the materials available for teaching military history are narrowly-focused and tendentious, but the opportunities even to take such courses have all but collapsed in recent years. Most major universities today will not hire specifically in military history, and do not replace retirements. Courses that are offered tend to be general social histories of the home front, which can be excellent in themselves, but they offer nothing of the larger context.
In terms of actual military enterprises, under-40s might at best know such names as Pearl Harbor, Omaha Beach (exclusively from Saving Private Ryan) and maybe Iwo Jima (from Flags / Letters). Maybe now, after Hacksaw Ridge, they will know something about Okinawa—but only as seen through the eyes of one pacifist. (So what were U.S. forces actually doing in Okinawa? Why did the battle happen? How did it end?)
Military buffs apart, younger Americans know nothing about the Battle of the Bulge, which claimed nineteen thousand American lives. They have never heard of Guadalcanal, or Midway, or the Battle of the Coral Sea, or a series of battles that prevented the Pacific becoming a Japanese lake, and the main trade route of its slave empire. They know nothing about the land and sea battles that liberated the Philippines, although that could be politically sensitive, as it would demand coverage of the mass killings of tens of thousands of Filipino civilians by Japanese occupiers. That might even raise questions about the whole moral equivalence thing.
Younger Americans know nothing of the battle of Saipan, one of the truly amazing moments in U.S. military history. Within just days of the American involvement in the D-Day campaign in France, other U.S, forces on the other side of the planet launched a near-comparably sized invasion of a crucial Japanese-held island, in what has been described as D-Day in the Pacific. In just a couple of days of air battles related to this campaign, U.S. forces in the Marianas destroyed six hundred Japanese aircraft, an astounding total. Japan never recovered.
Quite apart from any specific incident, most Americans have virtually no sense of the course of the war, or American goals, or the political context. Nor will they appreciate the stupendous feats of industrial organization that allowed U.S. forces to operate so successfully on a global scale, and which laid the foundations for all the nation’s post-war triumphs. There was so much more to the story than Rosie the Riveter.
Nor do they appreciate the critical role of the war in creating American identity and nationhood, in forging previously disparate immigrant communities into a new national whole. So the Civil War was the American Iliad? Then World War II was our Aeneid, an epic struggle against authentic evil, which at once created the nation and framed its destiny. It should not be commemorated as a study in victimhood and injustice.
Philip Jenkins is the author of The Many Faces of Christ: The Thousand Year Story of the Survival and Influence of the Lost Gospels. He is distinguished professor of history at Baylor University and serves as co-director for the Program on Historical Studies of Religion in the Institute for Studies of Religion.
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