World War II was a large factor in my early childhood. I lived with my grandmother. My father and his two brothers were in harm’s way (as were the uncles on my mother’s side of the family). We followed the newspapers and radio every day. Every day I took a 3-foot metal pipe, which was my rifle, into the adjacent woods to hunt Japs. One of my earliest clear memories is when Grandmother received the telegram that Uncle Paul had been killed in the Bulge.

So, I have an inclination to watch World War II movies. The best ones in the earlier days were British and the best ones today are Russian. There are some good and serious Americans films, but many of them have a comic book quality. I watched them all faithfully for several decades following the war. Like most Americans who were not actually there I learned World War II from the movies.

I noticed early on that the movies very seldom portrayed Southerners among fighting men, and when they did it was usually as bumpkins for  comic relief. I know half a dozen films, almost the only ones with Southern officers, and in every case the Southerners are bad and defective and have to be corrected by their Yankee betters of lower rank. Of course, the Communists had already taken over Hollywood during and after the war. Presenting an accurate picture of American fighting men or of hated Southerners was not part of their agenda.

Box office required a favourable portrayal of Northern WASPS and ethnics, but general American opinion already regarded Southerners as ignorant and backward. Nobody cared about treating us fairly–despite the fact that Japs sometimes yelled: “To hell with Roy Acuff” before a banzai attack.

I recently saw a video on the battle of Peleliu, one of the most vicious actions in the Pacific in World War II.  Some 5,000 “deplorable” white American Marines fought 9,000 deeply-embedded no-surrender Japanese. The interview featured four veterans of the battle. Three of them had Deep South accents. People who never did anything for America are busy wiping out the memory of these men’s Confederate grandfathers.

The postwar decades were also the period when Detroit and Chicago newspapers blamed “Southern hillbillies” for the rising crime rate and the riots between blacks and Northern ethnics. And when the heroes of the Alamo were all Midwesterners in the movie. Possession of a Confederate flag is a certain sign of  depraved evil people.

It remains a dominant media theme to downplay the “deplorable” Americans who have carried much of the danger and sacrifice of American wars. It is an ironic commentary on Southerners who have long valued an honourable military tradition. Thankfully that kind of false “American” patriotism is now disappearing.

Since Vietnam we have had a new twist on our fighting history. Probably millions of Americans believe inaccurately  that that war was fought mostly by black men, as the media have portrayed it.  In a recent film about the first U.S. soldiers into Afghanistan after 9/11, one of the main characters is an African American. Such a person did not exist.

The same diversity devotion now dominates the portrayal of World War II.  I recently saw a film in which an African American commanded a warship in combat with the Germans. And several others in which black actors were portrayed as valiant leaders and members of integrated combat groups.  Whether you like it or not, such things did not exist in the 1940s United States. This approach, among other distortions, disguises how far black people have come since then.

But more importantly, it is wrong to make dishonest, misleading portrayals of history. It is a sign of a distorted national identity and in the long run not good for anybody. Might I suggest that it is a bad cause that has to be defended by lies?

Clyde Wilson

Clyde Wilson is a distinguished Professor Emeritus of History at the University of South Carolina where he was the editor of the multivolume The Papers of John C. Calhoun. He is the M.E. Bradford Distinguished Chair at the Abbeville Institute. He is the author or editor of over thirty books and published over 600 articles, essays and reviews and is co-publisher of, a source  for unreconstructed Southern books.


  • Paul Yarbrough says:

    Dr. Wilson,
    Bad causes must be defended by lies; otherwise, they are indefensible. But it isn’t the “lies” but the “liars” who are the persona—the Judas.
    Just my opinion.

  • Ira Katz says:

    … the Shpielbergization of American history.

  • Robert Powell says:

    Dr. Wilson
    In your article, it was a bit as if you were describing me, as a young boy. I was born on 23 Feb 1945, flag raising day. Evidently, I was not particularly aware
    of North versus South in a negative fashion, so the articles here somewhat generate a puzzlement. My view of the Southern personality, was honour, abiding respect for ethical behavior, on one hand and the frontiersman, rifleman and the like.
    In my readings of the Civil War, I was mostly struck, by the ethos of Robert E. Lee, conversely the courtisies of his friends, and in return from his foes. From my time in the military, I did become aware that perception, in fact is not reality. Being from Oregon, I suppose being out side the temper of the conflict glosses over the ill of condemnation. For some reason I never thought either side truly won or lost. While a NIKE employee I was able to travel to the Shilo battlefield, and spent a day, just touching and trying to envision the sounds and sights.
    As now an old Military analyst, I should look into more, and have a book in my library talking about the “knights of the Golden Circle” and another with
    a picture not long ago posted of the “Wide Awake” faction in the North in 1860.
    Most fervently though, I wish the Statues and monuments not be disturbed and defiled with no regard to the continuance of addressment of error in
    text, letters, etc. I hope to be remembered for this quote: ” History is the engine of the future, without there is no direction forward. This may sound odd, but out here, the Confederate Flag is respected. For me, I believe your past honored the men, and I have many southern and northern relatives who fought in the Civil War. Please continue the works, while for me, and others I suspect, honor those who fought, with grace and devotion.
    LT Robert K. Powell GDO ( RET ) HFCA

  • Gunny says:

    In the 60s there was a TV show (those boxes had just come out a few years back) and one of the shows featured “true life tales of the old West”. As much as I liked watching the shows of the day, I knew most of them were fiction but the “true stories” intrigued me, Jump forward 50 or so years. After doing a chunk of reading as well as hands on experimentation of period tools, more reading both of tools, people of the day and the environment they were in as well as political environment to include customs of the day, I find even “true tale of the old west” were merely facts redressed in fiction or convoluted making more research required of prior knowledge of people, places and events to really understand the true story. I agree with Paul’s post. It is the Liars who are the true Judas. .

  • Mark Maciolowski says:

    Prof. Wilson,

    There is no cure for vulgarity of the ever lying parvenue, here and everywhere.
    Let me quote :
    „ Our Founding Fathers did not glory chiefly in the fact that we were a prosperous people ( though they did find that a source of satisfaction ) but in the fact that we were a virtuous people. And „ virtue „ did not mean a mere puritanical avoidance of minor vices or that commercially circumspect behavior designed „ to win friends and influence people „.
    Virtue had a stern Roman connotation. It was a striving for republican ethics and personal honor. Men were not virtuous because they enjoyed the boon of self-government. Rather, they enjoyed the boon of self-government because they were virtuous enough to earn and to keep it. „
    „ Ideology and Our Daily Bread „ Clyde Wilson in „ Garden of the Beaux Arts „ Clyde N. Wilson , editor .
    Virtue is a powerful weapon against contemporary parvenue and lying Judas alike.
    God Bless !

  • NBII says:

    Mrrr. Not sure I’m going to find agreement with someone claiming this:
    The postwar decades were also the period when Detroit and Chicago newspapers blamed “Southern hillbillies” for the rising crime rate and the riots between blacks and Northern ethnics. And when the heroes of the Alamo were all Midwesterners in the movie. Possession of a Confederate flag is a certain sign of depraved evil people.
    That last line — it is currently true. It wasn’t considered true until sometime in the last 20y or thereabouts, as Woke took over, and identity — including black victimization — became the standard. There were arguments over whether the South was right or wrong, and the general sentiment was that they were at least partly wrong, due to slavery — but no one thought ill of them for their background, and the idea of States Rights was a reasonable defense and argument against the actions of the North.

    In other words, it did not apply to war movies following WWII — and in general the denigration of war all around did not occur until the later 60s, and while there were various anti-WWII sentiments (notably George C. Scott and Kelly’s Heroes), most of the anti-war was Korea and Vietnam.
    As to the makeup, well, yeah, not surprising, as the target of mass media is the middle ground.

    Another thing to spot about the “yokel” notion is that, while the yokel was used for comic reasons, if you paid ATTENTION, you noted that the VALUES of the yokel were actually suggested to be quite good. And they got the last laugh in the end. Yes, Gomer Pyle made Gomer into a not-too-bright guy, but his heart was in the right place and he kept winning in the end. The same with the Beverly Hillbillies — who clashed with the expectations of their “betters” around them, but kept winning. And Green Acres, which had the Rich Guy come to live with a lot of zany yokel types… and yet they kept being right.
    Andy Griffith was on the air for more than a decade (including the retitle after Griffith left), and showed Southern values in a very positive light. And was ranked in the top 7 every year when Griffith was on.

    So, no, the South was not particularly denigrated. Yes, it was the source of much bumpkinhood, but it was also shown as a place where American values still held true, and those values won out more often than not. The South was the heartland of American values in the post WW-II era.

  • dogface says:

    One of the chief things that brought me to hidden history is I could not understand why WW2 was a good war while Viet Nam was the bad war. I just could not reconcile that.

    So happy to have found Abbeville.

  • Brandon Forrest North says:

    Thank You Kind Sir. You came when I needed you the Most. I am eternally in your debt. May God Bless You and Yours.

    Confederate Heir,

    Brandon Forrest North

  • F young says:

    Yes Professor there are many lies,the one that bothers me is the one regarding the Tuskegee airmen never having lost a bomber
    they were escorting. Pure fantasy.

  • bo chambers says:

    Thank you Dr,Wilson for making my day!! i love my Southern heritage and appreciate you telling the truth about the role our boys played in the war!! As general mcarthur said in the first world war, send me the alabamians!

  • Barbara says:

    I have a folder on my computer named “Abbeville Institute” where I save articles like this. Dr Wilson is one of my heroes. I don’t know if you can see this page link or not since I am logged in at online Reads but I have recommended every book of his that I can find. Reads never has books like the ones he writes. I wonder why?

    • David LeBeau says:

      Ms Barbara, I smiled when I read that you save your favorite articles from the Abbeville Institute. I do the same in my email folders. Also, I recently started a MS Word document where I save what I consider valuable information or wisdom from Clyde Wilson and others, who write for the Abbeville Institute. My goal is to read every article published by the Abbeville Institute that was written my the GOAT. I wish that I had found the Abbeville Institute from its beginning.

  • Jimmy D. Jacobson says:

    This we all need to keep us straightened out. I’ll never forget the way you straightened out the pilgrims about Plymouth Rock.
    God bless,

  • Wes Shofner says:

    My Dad (1916-1999), a native Tennessean whose grandfather rode in Forrest’s Escort during the War for Southern Independence, was badly wounded on the first day of Peleliu, was carried off the beach on a stretcher while men were dying all around him and in time received the Purple Heart medal (among many others for his wartime service, including the Distinguished Service Cross). One of the enlisted men under his command, Eugene B. Sledge (1923 -2001) wrote the definition work on the Battle of Peleliu: “With the Old Breed”” (which book was used as primary source for the HBO miniseries “The Pacific”). Sledge too was a Southern ( he was from Alabama), and he had several ancestors who fought for the Confederate States of American against the invading Yankee horde. He wrote of his ancestors proudly in his gut-wrenching book on Peleliu.

    My father and “Sledgehammer” were just two of the many fighting men from the South at Peleliu. They are now gone; if they were still here, they would be, like I am, appalled by the hate directed at their/my ancestors. Also, I fear that if they were young men today, they, like so many today, would refuse to serve in the U.S. military in light of the hell it has unleashed on this good earth during this 21st century. In sum, Hell has come to America.

    • Baron says:

      With the Old Breed has been mentioned on Abbeville before. Referencing the battle flag being flown on Okinawa. I have looked around for a pocket-sized flag… you never know when an opportunity will arise.

      I appreciate Sledge’s unfiltered account, including details of his own actions. Some other soldiers have whitewashed parts of their memoirs to be more politically correct. I guess that’s what you have to do to get a miniseries made.

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