55 Days at Peking (1963), Zulu (1964), and The Sand Pebbles (1966) aren’t part of an actual trilogy, and aside from Zulu, the films aren’t necessarily about colonialist projects in the strictest sense. Additionally, the movies are produced, written, and directed by entirely different people. However, they are remarkably similar in some ways, and they all have a pro-white rule vibe.
The 1960s were a radical, change-filled decade. Part of the reason for this change was that the last of Europe’s Empires started to break up during that decade. France was driven from Algeria in 1962, and Portugal dealt with a fierce insurgency in its colonial Empire.
The Congolese reverted to savagery the very instant Belgium left in 1960. Across the globe the non-white hordes came under their own control — to varying, mostly negative, results. When Lothrop Stoddard wrote about white supremacy in 1920, he was discussing an existing situation where whites ruled all over the Earth. In the 1960s “white supremacy” became a lurking, mostly imaginary menace used by organizations such as the SPLC and the NAACP to gain funds and sympathy.
While all the above was going on, it is interesting that Hollywood put out three excellent movies that unashamedly put white men and Western Colonial powers in a positive light. All three movies show a small detachment of white men who must fight off a much larger force of non-whites. All three movies are loosely based on actual historical events. All three movies also take place in a timeframe, 1879 to 1925, that was well within the span of a single lifetime. There is also something nostalgic about these films that contemporary audiences would have appreciated. As Europe’s Empires collapsed and the United States became increasingly drawn into the mire of Vietnam, it must have been refreshing to see white victories over massive Native armies on the Saturday Afternoon Matinee.
This author has always found these movies excellent. I’ve since come to feel like I have a personal connection to the movies also. When I was in the service, the book Defense of Duffer’s Drift — based on the battle of Roark’s Drift (shown in Zulu) — was required reading. One of the units I served in was involved in the Boxer Rebellion (shown in 55 Days at Peking), and twice a year, we would duplicate the forced march of our forbearers in that conflict. Afterwards drinks were served from a punchbowl crafted by Chinese Imperial silversmiths and made from silver given to the regiment by the Dowager Chinese Empress after the conflict. Every veteran I know who served in Korea or the Far East seem to have a special connection to the American sailors on the Yangtze River (as shown in The Sand Pebbles).
There are several lessons to be learned from these movies from an “Alt-Right” perspective.
1. White Western military force is unstoppable — but white Western military men have a difficult time making a Third World society function along Western lines.
Most people reading this will, of course refer to various defeats of white, Western armies. Indeed, in Zulu and 55 Days, there are two defeats respectively of white armies as major movers of the plots. Additionally, the reader no doubt remembers the various defeats of whites during decolonization, Vietnam, and elsewhere. However, in almost every case in the anti-colonial wars of the 20th Century, whites won victory after victory on the battlefield and then left due to political decisions in the metropolitan capital.
Victor Davis Hanson explores this theme in his excellent book Carnage and Culture (2001). Hanson argues (after a politically correct denial that race matters) that Western people have particular set of traits that started with the Greeks and continues on today. These traits grow out of the idea that a free Greek citizen was expected to bear arms for his society, but as a free man he was allowed to innovate, expected to survive military service, and not be called upon to fight indefinitely. As a result, Western arms has become highly innovative and lethal, Western armor actually protects the user, and the Western military seeks to finish wars quickly by a decisive battle. In a speech promoting his book Hanson stated, “The history of 2500 years of civilization is mostly a question of where the West wants to fight and under what conditions.”
Non-Western military operations are different. The 9-11 attackers knew in advance they were on a suicide mission. The hijackers came from a society where there was no advanced weapons development, hence the need for a kamikaze attack by guile with stolen aircraft. Osama bin Laden’s strategy to connect his decisive acts of terrorism with any achievable political goal required hopes for a cascade of effects stemming from 9-11, where every possible outcome would go the Islamist way. While the Middle East is unstable, it is difficult to see that the current situation is what Osama bin Laden wanted.
On the other hand, in Iraq a relatively small force of Americans completely defeated Saddam Hussein’s army on their home turf and drove his government from power. In 2003, the entire world knew the Americans were headed to Baghdad, and yet the Iraqis could do nothing to stop them. The question was, where the Americans wanted to fight, and under what conditions. The purpose and worth of the war is beyond the scope of this article, but like the whites in the three movies, the Americans beat the Baathist Iraqis very quickly in 2003.
The three movies show white, Western military excellence. In 55 Days at Peking, movie-watchers follow Major Lewis, USMC (Charlton Heston) and his small band of Marines as they, along with other Western and Japanese forces, defend the diplomatic area in Peking (Beijing). Major Lewis and his men, and the various foreign Powers allied with him, out-fight the Boxers through a mix of brawn, bravery, teamwork, and innovation. The siege is lifted by a coalition of Japanese and whites that fight their way into Peking using the same mix of military virtue. In Zulu, a force of British soldiers detailed to build a bridge, manage a make-shift hospital, and secure supplies beat off an enormous force of Zulu Warriors. The British win by use of their superior discipline and better use of their technology. In The Sand Pebbles sailors on the gunboat USS San Pablo defeat a Chinese Republican attempt to cut off navigation on the river.
In all three movies the whites win, but in all three movies there is an ominous ending. In 55 Days, the Chinese Dowager Empress (Flora Robson) paces, worried about the future. After the Boxer Rebellion, the Manchu Dynasty was mortally stricken, leading to Chinese political instability and disasters such as famine, Maoism, the Korean War, etc. that Americans of 1963 were very familiar with. In Zulu, even after many Zulus were killed by volley fire from British Henry-Martin rifles, there are enough healthy survivors to sing a final salute to the British. In 1964, this would easily have reminded white South Africans of their existing demographic problem. In The Sand Pebbles, the protagonist Jake Holman is killed by a sniper and dies unsure of the purpose of all he’d been through. In more recent times, American military victory in Iraq has imparted no decisive change to Middle Eastern, Islamic society. Instead, the Middle East looks much the way it was prior to European rule, with savage bands of religious fanatics battling over women, oil, and territory.
2. Personal, intimate, involvement with Third World people is a bad idea which usually leads to personal tragedy.
In all three movies, there are whites who are intimately involved, including sexually, with Third World People. In Zulu, Reverend Otto Witt (Jack Hawkins) and his daughter Margareta (Ulla Jacobsson) are missionaries to the Zulu tribe. However, they’ve clearly never become reconciled with Zulu culture or made a true mark upon it. Margareta is uncomfortable with the Zulu marriage ceremonies, and when war breaks out the Witts must abandon the Zulus and head to the British for safety. Witt eventually becomes appallingly drunk at Roark’s Drift, and he is sent away. His ministry to the Zulus is over. One can’t help think that it would have been far better for the Witts to have set up a Salvation Army style mission in Cape Town or one of the South African mining camps to minister to the whites. Margareta could have easily found a husband, and Reverend Witt could have actually made a worthwhile convert.
The intimate involvement with Third World people in Zulu is still light, but increases in 55 Days and more darky increases in The Sand Pebbles. In 55 Days, one of the Marines, Captain Andy Marshall (Jerome Thor), has a mixed-race daughter, Teresa (Lynne Sue Moon) who he has left at a French Catholic orphanage. Teresa becomes a complication for Captain Marshall and Major Lewis as the story plays out. Even though she is rescued by Major Lewis in a dashing way with epic music playing in the background in the final scene we know she is not going to really be at home in Illinois after being raised in a Chinese orphanage. In my personal life, I know a great many people whose father was a career military man and whose mother is from the Far East, usually Korea. It seems to me that about half the kids of those combinations fail to launch, there is drug abuse, poor personal and career decisions, and other issues. Recently, several spree killers, such as Elliot Rodger, came from such a background.
Moviegoers also learn that Baroness Natalie Ivanoff (Ava Gardner) has had an affair with a Chinese General, causing her husband to commit suicide. She is now alone in the world with a valuable necklace her only wealth. She is haughty to her in-laws angry at her infidelities, but one can see her haughtiness is empty bravado. The Baroness is in dire financial straits and irredeemable social trouble. By the end of the movie she has pawned her necklace. The Baroness’ problems are solved by her death in the siege.
In The Sand Pebbles, the problem of personal, intimate involvement with Third World People is fleshed out more deeply. The deep personal involvement has three different layers. The first is institutional. On the USS San Pablo, the Captain, Lieutenant Collins (Richard Crenna) organized a group of Chinese as coolie labor on the riverboat. The Chinese coolies turn part of the ship into their living quarters and a no-go area for whites. The coolies cook the meals, launder the clothes, clean and paint the ship, and service the engine. The Americans do little but drill in their perfectly laundered clothes, argue over trifles, and drink. This institutional organization brings about serious problems as the plot of The Sand Pebbles thickens.
It is in the bars where the problems start to crop up and the second layer of problems arises: intimate sexual involvement. When being shown around the ship, Frenchie (Richard Attenborough), tells Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) that the Pharmacist Mate is the critical person to know, as many of the men are getting venereal diseases from visiting the Chinese prostitutes. Normally, sailors visiting Far Eastern prostitutes is not a big deal. In fact, such a thing is often a rite of passage for many young men in the military. However, Frenchie takes the situation further when he becomes involved with a Chinese woman named Maily (Marayat Andriane) who works at the bar the sailors like to patronize. The woman is at the bar because she is burdened with debts that she manipulates Frenchie into paying.
The third problem is wasted mentorship. This occurs when a white pours personal effort into increasing the skills of a Third World person. In The Sand Pebbles, this is involvement is a sub-function of the institutional problems described above. The captain of the USS San Pablo has painted himself into a corner. The sailors have it easy in China, where they are comparatively wealthy and can hire coolies to do all their work. However, the engine is being maintained by coolies who don’t really understand it. When Jake Holman notices problems, he causes the engine room coolie to lose face. I believe this scene is what makes so many American veterans of Korea immediately connect with The Sand Pebbles.
The Orient is a peculiar place for personal relationships. In the West, one calls a spade a spade. In the Far East this is not the case. In Korea, where the culture is structured on Chinese lines, there is a concept called kibun which has no corresponding word in English. One translator writes:
Interpersonal relations in Korea are dominated by recognition of each individual’s sense of being, or “selfhood.” A person’s inner feelings and his prestige, as acknowledged by others, combine to influence morale, face, and overall state of mind and heart. . . . In this context, kibun is more important than candor, because to unsettle another person’s kibun also hurts society in general. Considerations of kibun, then, are long-term, overriding the desire to “tell it like it is” in the moment.”
Holman has damaged the Chinese equivalent of the kibun of the Chinese engine room coolie.
Of course, telling it like it is can save lives, fix problems, and move things forward. It turns out that the engine is in a poor state of repair. Critical maintenance has been neglected. When th engine breaks down, the coolie is killed trying to fix it.
At this point Jake Holman, a competent Petty Officer, should have been given young American sailors fresh from boot-camp to train to operate the engine. Instead, the Captain orders that he train a new coolie named Po-Han. Eventually, Holman’s mentorship of Po-Han brings both of them into conflict with Machinist’s Mate Stawski (Simon Oakland). Holman eventually arranges a fight between the tough American sailor and Po-Han, and the Chinaman wins. Stawski is popular with the crew, so the fight alienates Holman from all but Frenchie. Meanwhile, Frenchie has married Maily.
As the story of The Sand Pebbles moves to its climax, the tragedy of intimate personal involvement between whites and non-whites starts to crystalize. Frenchie dies of a fever contracted by swimming off the riverboat to visit Maily. Maily is taken by Chinese militia and killed along with her unborn child. Po-Han is sent off the ship by the head coolie, and then Anti-American protestors capture Po-Han and torture him in front of the crew, forcing Holman to shoot him.
Far Eastern morality is also clearly shown. As soon as Frenchie has the money to pay Maily’s debts, her Chinese creditor seeks more money by auctioning off Maily’s virginity. Additionally, the Chinese Republicans simply lie about who killed who, declaring Holman a murderer although the Republicans themselves were responsible for most of the killing.
3. Christian missionary activity serves the purposes of Christianity, not necessarily white purposes.
In all three movies, Christian missionaries play an important, negative role. In Zulu, the missionaries pressure the British to leave Roark’s Drift. Reverend Witt causes a number of native soldiers to run away. His daughter causes confusion when she attempts to load the sick and wounded on to wagons. Of course, if the British leave their post, they must find another place to defend. Additionally, it is likely that the Zulus attacking from Isandlwana would catch up to the retreating British and kill them in a less defensible area.
In 55 Days, the missionaries are in the background of the story. The missionaries have converted many Chinese, and they and their converts are threatened by the Boxers. Since most of the powers in China are Christian nations, and the two most powerful, Great Britain and the United States, had enormous missionary lobbies, the various white governments were forced to support missionary activity that did not necessarily help the cause of the various national governments. The Boxer Rebellion itself was partially sparked by Chinese fears that missionaries were damaging Chinese culture. Thus the Europeans were forced to take sides against a genuine native uprising based on legitimate native concerns. It was a crisis those governments could have done without. In fact, it would have been better for the Anglo-American governments in particular to have simply focused on getting tax revenues from opium sales to China.
The lobbying of Christian missionaries had other disastrous consequences for US policy in China. For instance, the missionary-backed “China Lobby” supported Chiang Kai-shek, a Methodist, whose government was so corrupt and inept that it went from crisis to crisis dragging the United States with it. Vinegar Joe Stilwell, the famously dour senior military commander in China during WWII felt that the Chinese Communists would have been better partners for the United States. In 1972, after the so-called “missionary generation” had left the scene, President Nixon took Vinegar Joe’s ideas forward. Nixon’s greatest triumph was “opening up” China, thus allowing strategic flexibility for the Americans in Vietnam and eventually breaking up the Communist world.
In The Sand Pebbles, missionaries are also shown with considerable circumspection. Shirley Eckert (Candice Bergen) is portrayed as a bright, idealistic, and tragically naïve American in China. Her boss, reverend Jameson (Larry Gates) is a fanatic anti-colonialist who is organizing and supporting Chinese Republican militias. Jameson is doing this despite knowing that Chinese self-government has been a disaster. For example, Chinese justice consists of trial by ordeal, and Chinese society has drifted into disordered warlordism. When missionaries are killed in Nanking, Lieutenant Collins orders the gunboat to rescue reverend Jameson and Shirley Eckert. Of course, the missionaries are pursuing their own religious interests which are separate from that of the whites. The missionaries don’t wish to leave, and virtue signal enough to cause the deaths of Holman and the USS San Pablo’s officers. The missionaries have stirred up the Chinese against the Americans, and ironically, against themselves.
1. Victor Davis Hanson Speech on CSPAN’s Book TV. 15 Sep 2001, Fresno, California https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wHlSTkja8xc&list=PLmLlaNoL1WVv_1ObSfdROn75K20EMQs-k&index=7 (11:55-12:03)
2. http://abclocal.go.com/three/kabc/kabc/My-Twisted-World.pdf Spree shooter Chris Harper Mercer was also of mixed racial origins.
3. http://translationjournal.net/journal/43korean.htm I believe that all Koreans have their kibun damaged by Americans in some way due to our directness. I believe that the Virginia Tech Shooter Seung-Hui Cho was partially motivated to carry out his rampage due to his damaged kibun. This damage added a layer of complication to his already serious psychological issues. Although none of his American classmates felt that he had been bullied or insulted, it is apparent that Cho felt something his inner soul was harmed. Kibun explains why a person who’d lived a comfortable life could say, “Do you know what it feels to be spit on your face and have trash shoved down your throat? Do you know what it feels like to dig your own grave? Do you know what it feels like to have your throat slashed from ear to ear? Do you know what it feels like to be torched alive? Do you know what it feels like to be humiliated and be impaled upon on a cross? And left to bleed to death for your amusement? You have never felt a single ounce of pain your whole life. Did you want to inject as much misery in our lives as you can just because you can? You had everything you wanted. Your Mercedes wasn’t enough, you brats. Your golden necklaces weren’t enough, you snobs. Your trust fund wasn’t enough. Your Vodka and Cognac weren’t enough. All your debaucheries weren’t enough. Those weren’t enough to fulfill your hedonistic needs. You had everything. (unclear) crucified me. You loved inducing cancer in my head, terrorizing my heart, and raping my soul all this time. When the time came, I did it. . . . I had to.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seung-Hui_Cho http://www.nbcnews.com/id/18195423#.V3GA1qI4Fjg
4. I believe that the HBD argument, that East Asians have some sort of IQ edge over whites is not entirely true, or missing some critical aspect of measuring intelligence across racial lines. It seemed to me that the situation related to the engine room between Jake Holman (Steve McQueen) and the coolie points to something deeper. Holman states to the Captain, “It’s all monkey see monkey do.” Americans stationed in Korea call the place “The land of the not-quite right.” I started to suspect that Koreans didn’t understand how things worked shortly after arriving in Korea, when Korean workmen were comfortable with repairing water main pipes without first shutting off the water. They’d take the backhoe, start digging, and sewage would flow everywhere, into buildings, private rooms, etc. This happened all the time, and I presume it still does.
They seem to have no true mastery of most complex things. I believe this is partially due to kibun interfering with an instructor’s ability to be direct. Examples of the lack of true mastery on the part of Koreans include:
- The crash of Asiana Flight 214, which occurred on July 6, 2013 in San Francisco occurred because the pilot didn’t really know how to land a Boeing 777.
- KAL007, the Korean airline which was shot down by the Soviets, nearly causing WWIII, occurred because the pilot had made a critical error in basic navigation and was blithely flying over restricted Soviet Airspace. If a North Korean airliner made the same mistake flying over Alaska, no doubt the Americans would have shot that aircraft down.
- In 2014, the MV Sewo a Korean ferry which capsized leaving hundreds dead is another example of a lack of true mastery in Korea. The ship was modified, making it easier to capsize as the center of gravity was raised (lack of mastery in naval architecture), it was severely overloaded (failure of mastery on the part of the load-master, captain, and regulatory agencies), and the crew gave the wrong instructions to the passengers as the shipwreck occurred thus increasing the death toll (failure of mastery of basic seamanship). The captain of the MV Sewo was the first to leave the ship and first claimed to just be a passenger after being rescued. (An example of kibun over-riding telling it how it is.) This was also not the first time a ferry capsized due to this incompetence. The MV Seohae also sank due to overloading causing a similar number of deaths.
5. In actual history, many young American Protestant missionaries were martyred by the Boxers. http://www.phcmontreat.org/BoxerRebellion-Presbyterians.htm