Matthew Macfadyen as Charles Cholmondeley, Flight Lieutenant (temporary), RAF Intelligence and Security Department, seconded to MI5
London, Spring 1943
Film: Operation Mincemeat
Release Date: April 15, 2022
Director: John Madden
Costume Designer: Andrea Flesch
It was 80 years ago this week when a corpse identified as Major William Martin of the Royal Marines was discovered by Spanish fishermen off the Andalusian coast on the morning of Friday, April 30, 1943. Of course, sardine spotter José Antonio Rey María had no idea that the putrefying body in uniform that he brought to shore and delivered to the nearby regiment of Spanish shoulders was not a decorated British officer but instead a pawn in one of the most famous acts of wartime deception, known internally as Operation Mincemeat.
Though formally set in motion about four months earlier, the tactic originated in a memo circulated by Admiral John Godfrey, Director of Naval Intelligence, in September 1939, just weeks after Germany declared war on England. “It was issued under Godfrey’s name, but it more all the hallmarks of his personal assistant, Lieutenant Commander Ian Fleming, who would go on to write the James Bond novels,” alluded author Ben Macintyre in his volume Operation Mincemeat, which was recently adapted into a Netflix film of the same name.
Known as the “Trout Memo” for its metaphor comparing counterespionage to trout fishing, the memorandum offered a total of 51 proposed plans for “introducing ideas into the heads of the Germans.” Listed as number 28 was “A Suggestion (not a very nice one)” which Godfrey and Fleming freely admit was borrowed from colorful author Basil Thomson’s novel The Milliner’s Hat Mystery, consisting of “a corpse dressed as an airman,” with his pockets and belongings detailing falsified plans for an invasion.
While the literary-influenced idea sounds nothing short of fantastic, it found a foothold in “the corkscrew mind” of Charles Cholmondeley, a young, shy, and somewhat eccentric Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve officer who served as secretary for the top-secret XX Committee, so named as the Roman numerals for twenty also form a “double cross”… which should provide some hint into both the type of work conducted by the group as well as the minds that directed it. Continue reading
Robert Duvall as Lieutenant Colonel Bill Kilgore, U.S. Army Air Cavalry commander and surf fanatic
Vietnam, Summer 1969
Film: Apocalypse Now
Release Date: August 15, 1979
Director: Francis Ford Coppola
Costume Supervisor: Charles E. James
Costumers: Luster Bayless, Norman A. Burza, Dennis Fill, and George L. Little
Happy 90th birthday, Robert Duvall! Today’s post looks at one of the most recognizable roles from the actor’s prolific career, his Academy Award-nominated performance as the gung-ho surf enthusiast Colonel Kilgore in Coppola’s war epic Apocalypse Now.
Loosely based on Joseph Conrad’s you-probably-had-to-read-it-in-high-school novella Heart of Darkness, Apocalypse Now needs little introduction, nor does Kilgore’s famous monologue celebrating the aromas of incendiary devices after commanding his 9th Cavalry squadron to attack a VC-held village to the tune of Wagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries”.
Bing Crosby as Bob Wallace, U.S. Army captain and popular entertainer
European Theater, Christmas Eve 1944
Film: White Christmas
Release Date: October 14, 1954
Director: Michael Curtiz
Costume Designer: Edith Head
Merry Christmas Eve! The prologue of perennial holiday cinema classic White Christmas begins exactly 75 years ago today, Christmas Eve 1944, as the title card tells us…
Private First Class Phil Davis is proudly assisting Captain Bob Wallace, evidently a known entertainer on par with Al Jolson, Bob Hope, Jack Benny, or—um—Bing Crosby, as they host a “yuletide clambake” for the men of the fictitious 151st Division, providing the type of entertainment that Davis boasts would cost $6.60 or even $8.80 stateside. Continue reading
Steve McQueen as Jake Holman, maverick U.S. Navy Machinist’s Mate, 1st Class (MM1)
Yangtze River, China, Summer 1926 through Spring 1927
Film: The Sand Pebbles
Release Date: December 20, 1966
Director: Robert Wise
Costume Design: Wingate Jones, John Napolitano, Bobbie Read, and James W. Tyson
WARNING! Spoilers ahead!
The Navy League of the United States organized the first Navy Day on October 27, 1922, to commemorate the birthday of Theodore Roosevelt who—before becoming the 26th President of the United States—had long championed the U.S. Navy and had served as Assistant Secretary of the Navy. Set four years after the establishment of Navy Day, The Sand Pebbles begins in 1926 China, “a country of factions trying to unite to become a nation… through revolution…” according to the opening text. Continue reading
Today marks the 75th anniversary of “the great escape”, the mass breakout of allied airmen from the Luftwaffe-operated Stalag Luft III in Sagan-Silesia—now Zagan—in Poland on March 24, 1944. Of the 76 men who escaped, only three made it to freedom and 50 of the group were murdered by the Nazis in retaliation.
Film: The Great Escape
Release Date: July 4, 1963
Director: John Sturges
Wardrobe Credit: Bert Henrikson
Paul Brickhill, one of the Allied officers who had worked on the various tunnels used for the escape, wrote the definitive account of prison camp life, the famous March 1944 breakout, and the subsequent fallout in The Great Escape, published in 1950.
Thirteen years later, a star-studded cast reenacted the incident in The Great Escape, a now-classic war movie that dramatized this real-life story of heroism, humor, and tragedy.
Today’s post—coinciding both with the 75th anniversary of the escape and the 89th birthday of the film’s star Steve McQueen—examines the uniforms of the Allied airmen, sorted by each major character’s surname. Continue reading
Alan Alda as Captain Benjamin “Hawkeye” Pierce, U.S. Army doctor
Korean War, 1950-1953
Air Dates: September 17, 1972 – February 28, 1983
Creator: Larry Gelbart
NB: Almost all screencaps below are from the first season, which aired during the 1972-1973 season.
Adapted from Robert Altman’s 1970 film MASH, itself inspired by Richard Hornberger’s 1968 novel (published under the pseudonym Richard Hooker), the Korean War-set series M*A*S*H lasted four times as long as the war it portrayed and broke new ground for serialized television, blending comedy and drama.
Today is Brad Pitt’s birthday, and I’m delighted to commemorate the actor’s special day with a submitted post from BAMF Style contributor “W.T. Hatch”. Enjoy!
Brad Pitt as Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, battle-hardened 2nd Armored Division tank commander, U.S. Army
Forward edge of the battlefield, Germany, April 1945
Release Date: October 17, 2014
Director: David Ayer
Costume Design: Maja Meschede & Anna B. Sheppard
Ideals are peaceful. History is violent.
Set in the final weeks of World War II, Fury is a brutally honest movie depicting the true face of war. Ground combat is dirty, cold, dangerous. War exacts a terrible cost from those who survive to return home. David Ayer’s magnum opus, Fury, depicts World War II as it happened without glorifying the unforgiving violence, death, and carnage of battle. Brad Pitt portrays Staff Sergeant Don “Wardaddy” Collier, a hardened veteran and commander of an M4 Sherman tank nicknamed “Fury”. Very little of Wardaddy’s background is directly revealed in the film although a number of clues point to his prior combat experience in World War I and perhaps service during in interwar years. As such, Collier is an “old school” tanker with a preference for uniforms first introduced before the start of WWII. Continue reading
Roger Moore as James Bond, sophisticated British MI6 agent
Sardinia, Italy, Summer 1977
Film: The Spy Who Loved Me
Release Date: July 7, 1977
Director: Lewis Gilbert
Wardrobe Supervisor: Rosemary Burrows
Have you heard of Black Tot Day?
On July 31, 1970, the British Royal Navy ended its centuries-old tradition of providing its sailors with a daily rum ration. The day became known as Black Tot Day, as I first learned in a Facebook post from my favorite Pittsburgh bar, Hidden Harbor, when they announced their acquisition of a Black Tot “Last Consignment” bottle, bottled from the last remaining stocks of Royal Naval rum.
To commemorate this tragic day in the history of the British Royal Navy, I’m revisiting The Spy Who Loved Me for the second time this month with a look at the naval battle dress worn by Commander James Bond, RNR, during the climactic battle aboard the Liparus, the massive supertanker owned by the film’s Goldfinger-esque villain, Karl Stomberg (Curd Jürgens). Continue reading