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Glorious Amateurs

Published in the International Herald Tribune
March 18, 2010

Istvan Rev’s article about Quentin Tarantino’s film “Inglorious Basterds” (“An absurdist film that touches closely on wartime reality,” Views, March 15) referred to my Washington Times opinion article about this and another film.

The subject of my article was the distorted perception about the composition of O.S.S. personnel created by “Inglorious Basterds” and another recent film, “The Good Shepherd.” My objection to “Inglorious Basterds” was that Mr. Tarantino’s fictional Jewish O.S.S. commandos were depicted as little better than the Nazis they were fighting, killing them with baseball bats and then scalping them. Mr. Rev suggested I would be “surprised” to learn the history that he lays out about the fate of Karl Wolff, the model for the Nazi colonel in the film, Hans Landa. I am very familiar with this history, but it was simply not the subject of my article.

I did not discuss the scene in which the Nazi colonel negotiates the terms of his surrender with the O.S.S., the focal point of Mr. Rev’s article. (Had I done so, I might have mentioned the humorous fact that while watching the film on Martha’s Vineyard last summer, the audience burst into laughter when Colonel Landa demanded a home on Nantucket as part of his agreement.)

Mr. Rev discusses a different subject of which I am well aware: the negotiation between Allen Dulles of the O.S.S. and Karl Wolff that led to the surrender of German forces in Italy, ceasing hostilities, and saving untold thousands of lives.

Far from being “inglorious basterds,” the O.S.S. founder General William Donovan’s “glorious amateurs” — the term he used to describe O.S.S. personnel — should be remembered for performing, to use his words, “some of the bravest acts of the war.”

Charles Pinck, President
The OSS Society
McLean, VA