23 Mar 2013 - Updated at end.
Caught Emperor (2012) Saturday night at the River Oaks theater and was surprised to find a packed auditorium for an independent film with almost no advertising. Admittedly, it's a pretty small auditorium, being one of two that the original balcony was divided up as, after being walled up from the main auditorium below. But, still ...
Matthew Fox (left) & Tommy Lee Jones (center) as General Bonner Fellers
and General Douglas MacArthur respectively. From mysanantonio.com
24 Mar 2013 - A commenter noted "By the way, that is NOT Matthew Fox in the picture above!". He's right. See correction below.
The official storyline ...
A story of love and understanding set amidst the tensions and uncertainties of the days immediately following the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II. On the staff of General Douglas MacArthur (Jones), the de facto ruler of Japan as Supreme Commander of the occupying forces, a leading Japanese expert, General Bonner Fellers (Fox) is charged with reaching a decision of historical importance: should Emperor Hirohito be tried and hanged as a war criminal? Interwoven is the story of Fellers' love affair with Aya, a Japanese exchange student he had met years previously in the U.S. Memories of Aya and his quest to find her in the ravaged post-war landscape help Fellers to discover both his wisdom and his humanity and enable him to come to the momentous decision that changed the course of history and the future of two nations.
Ok. When I heard that Tommy Lee Jones was playing Douglas MacArthur, I knew I had to check it out.
He does just fine; handling his Texas accent the same way Sean Connery handled his Scottish accent when playing a Lithuanian captain of a Soviet submarine in "The Hunt for Red October" and Arnold Schwarzenegger handles his Austrian accent when playing anything: with an attitude of "Accent? WHAT accent?!!!".
I really liked this movie; which the Philadelphia Inquirer dismissed as "an unsatisfying history lesson" (probably because of the interwoven love story which was used as a device for exploring the differences between Japanese culture and ours).
My biggest gripe (and the reason for the title of this post) comes during the end credits. As with many historical dramas, they show pictures of the real people involved, with a short blurb about their fate.
In the case of General Bonner Fellers, the blurb notes that he was demoted to colonel by General Eisenhower, without a single word as to why, leaving you to wonder if Fellers screwed up or something.
I did a little research to confirm that what I thought may have happened was really the case.
What happened was that the war was over, and we no longer needed the huge army we had built up. The army doesn't hang on to officers unless there is something for them to command; a command appropriate to their rank.
Excess officers can either leave the army, or accept a lower rank for which more commands may be available. In October 1946, Fellers reverted to rank of colonel as part of a reduction in rank of 212 generals.
A total of about 16,000,000 Americans served in some branch of the armed forces during WWII. The U. S. Army had risen from a strength of just 190,000 soldiers in 1939 to a peak of 8,290,000 in March of 1945.
But, until the advent of the Korean War and the Cold War, the U.S. had a history (and a doctrine) of not maintaining a large standing army during peacetime. Thusly, by the end of 1948 that force had been reduced to 554,000, approximately one-sixteenth of its earlier size. Whole divisions and brigades ceased to exist except as placeholders in the organization structure (Order of Battle). Simply a case of "too many chiefs and not enough indians".
Fellers retired from the Army on November 30, 1946. In 1948, his retirement rank was reinstated as brigadier general.
I do not believe for a moment that the end credit slight was deliberate, but just a lack of thought by whoever worked up the end credits sequence. But if any of Bonner Fellers family is still with us, they deserve an apology.
Hence, the title of this post. :(
Update 1440 CDT 23 Mar 2013 - My site meter shows this modest little post getting lots of hits, from all over, by people who (like me) were curious about why Fellers was demoted and were sent here by google and other search engines.
I hope they are satisfied with the explanation I have offered, as I feel it is accurate. I place absolutely no credence on some rumors of bad feeling between Eisenhower and Fellers (they had both served under MacArthur) as the cause. If there's anyone for whom Ike may have had some animosity, it would have been MacArthur himself, having remarked once that he "had studied dramatics under MacArthur", probably considering him a self-promoting showboat.
Correction 1035 CDT 24 Mar 2013 - A commenter noted "By the way, that is NOT Matthew Fox in the picture above!". He's right. The source for the picture identified him as such (as did many other sources using that same picture).
BUT, while I thought it looked a bit like him, the problem is the insignia on his collar.
A brigadier general wears a single silver star there. I couldn't get enough resolution on that picture to really make out the insignia, but it is definitely gold. I thought it might be the gold oak leaf of a major, but it appeared too wide for that. The best guess I can make is the "Rising Eagle" of a warrant-officer.
Here's a picture that really is Fox (no longer "LOST") as Fellers ...