Christopher Nolan’s “Dunkirk,” a dramatization of the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force and a number of French troops from the European continent in May 1940, is getting a lot of critical buzz. Brian Truitt, writing in USA Today, joins in the acclaim. However, he has one caveat in his otherwise glowing review when he mentions, “--the fact that there are only a couple of women and no Lead Actors of color may rub some the wrong way.”

A brief examination of the racial makeup of the armies at Dunkirk

Dunkirk took place when the German blitzkrieg had overrun northern France and had pinned the British Expeditionary Force and a large number of French troops in the port town with the English Channel at their backs.

The trapped forces would have been wiped out had it not been for a fleet of ships from England that ranged from Royal Navy destroyers to private fishing boats and pleasure yachts. The evacuation fleet was protected by the desperate actions of the Royal Air Force from the German Luftwaffe. The fact that so many men were spirited away to freedom was considered a miracle and a morale boost for the British people who had great trials ahead of them.

However, to answer Mr. Truitt’s points, gender roles were not what they are in 2017 back in the 1940s. No women were admitted to positions in the military that involved combat. To be sure, after the fall of France, women found themselves serving in non-combat roles in the allied armies.

The then future queen of England served as an automotive mechanic.

Northern Europe was not as multi-ethnic as it is now, The BEF, the French Army in that theater of operations, and certainly the German Wehrmacht were entirely comprised of white men. The men who operated the evacuation fleet were also entire Caucasian.

To be sure, a significant number of non-Caucasians, mainly colonial troops from the various European empires served in European Armies, primarily in North Africa, but none at Dunkirk. Hence, shoe horning in women or “lead actors of color” in the movie would do violence to history and would promulgate a lie.

The teaching of history

Truitt’s offhand remark demonstrates a serious problem in the American education system. Generations are being raised with either no or a distorted knowledge of history, informed no doubt by political correctness.

To be sure, the exploits of women and “people of color” in World War II should be celebrated on film. However, such depictions should be done in a historically appropriate way, not for diversity for diversity’s sake.

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