Tag Archives: World War II

Called and Chosen: Fr. Vincent Capodanno – A Documentary

“A true warrior does not fight because he hates what is in front of him, but because he loves what is behind him.” (G.K. Chesterton)

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Twentieth century Westerns were not my only film fare growing up, readers. I saw a lot of World War II movies as well. The Longest Day, Sands of Iwo Jima, and many others played across my parents’ television screen when I was young. The films taught me to love and respect America and the Americans that make up our military better than any speech or essay could have.

I loved watching these World War II films. The sense of unity, of purpose, the will to fight and defeat evil, thrilled me. But after 9/11, I learned that the modern world was nothing like the one I saw in those movies about the “Greatest Generation.” It has taken me long years of study to learn how the “Greatest Generation” turned into the generation which protested the Vietnam War, but I am no longer confused about the gap and the change in the way that I once was.

By this circuitous route, we come to the subject of today’s post, the EWTN documentary Called and Chosen: Fr. Vincent Capodanno. Fr. Capodanno was a Catholic priest and Navy chaplain during Vietnam. He did not begin his ministry in the Navy; in fact, joining the military was the furthest thing from his mind when he entered the Maryknoll seminary in New York at the age of twenty.

Inspired as a boy by the stories of martyred missionaries who had left Maryknoll to preach to the Chinese, Fr. Capodanno entered the seminary and was ordained a priest. He was sent to Taiwan for some years, returning home to visit his family after that missionary stint. To his dismay, he learned his next assignment would not be back in his beloved Taiwan but in Hong Kong, which was not then part of Red China.

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Desperate to return to Taiwan, Fr. Capodanno wrote letters to his superiors asking to be transferred there or to be sent home for another assignment somewhere else. He continued to do this even after his requests were rejected. So it was with some surprise that his superiors received an abrupt, new request from the priest: he suddenly wanted to become a Navy chaplain, and he wanted to be assigned to the Marines serving in the jungles of Vietnam.

Well, any request to go to Vietnam would be surprising back in the ‘60s, when the War was being manhandled by politicians and protested vigorously by the academics, the media, and their unfortunate cohorts of young believers across U.S. campuses. Nevertheless, Fr. Capodanno’s new request was granted and he underwent a year of chaplain’s training before being assigned to the Marines. He died in combat September 4, 1967, giving the Last Rites to the Marines who died when his division was ambushed by the Viet Cong.

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I will not spoil any more of the documentary for you, readers. You can find it on DVD through EWTN, Amazon, or Ignatius Press. Toward the end of the film, I had to sniff a lot to keep from crying. Fr. Capodanno’s story of love and sacrifice is moving on its own, but that is only part of the reason why this blogger had to hold back tears.

You see, even when I did not understand the stories about Vietnam completely, I did realize that the men who had served in that war were different than the “Greatest Generation.” Slowly, by degrees, I began to comprehend how they were abused by the public after they came home.

What really stymied me, however, was why they were treated like this. Referring back to the top of this article, you will recall my mention of movies about World War II. Several of these were made before the War had even ended, yet our soldiers who were fighting overseas were being cheered to the echo nonetheless. We didn’t know for a while there whether or not we would win, but the movies of that era never wavered in their morale-boosting narrative that victory was within our grasp.

The incongruence between the lionization of the “Greatest Generation” and the attacks on the Vietnam generation made so little sense to me that I did not pay very much attention to it for quite some time. Learning more about Vietnam over the years, though, I cannot convey in words the profundity of my ire for the academic/journalistic complex who mistreated our men when they came home, nor for the politicians who seized on their narrative in order to remain in power.

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Now, of course, some of you will start yelling about the politics and the reasons why the Vietnam War was wrong. The politicians and people in charge of fighting the Viet Cong did not run the war effort well, I grant you; I believe a number of them actually wanted us to lose it. Their “mistakes” also gave the academics and journalists ample opportunity to attack and demoralize our military, making matters even worse. But none of this means the War itself was wrong.

More to the point, to borrow Fr. Capodanno’s answer to those who challenged him about the War’s politics, the affairs of state were no excuse to abuse our returning veterans. Our men were fighting, bleeding, and dying in Vietnam’s jungles. They were far from home, in a place they didn’t want to be, fighting for a cause no one clearly explained (the defeat of the Communists in Vietnam to preserve freedom there and in the rest of the world).

Yet the populace who should have respected them for their sacrifice was encouraged – nay, goaded – into treating them like trash when they came back. Our men returning from the Hell that was Vietnam were subsequently hounded and derided as cowards, monsters, and demons when they came home.

They were told they were more hideous than the enemy that tortured, maimed, and killed their brothers. They were told that they were worse than the Communists who used women and children as human shields, that they were as evil and cruel as the beasts who used children as suicide bombers, spies, and soldiers. They were treated as ticking time bombs that might go postal on innocent bystanders at any moment because they had been to Vietnam, where you could not tell who was friend and who was foe. They returned from hell to face a new hell; a hell where their families, friends, neighbors, and total strangers tortured them with words, actions, or petulant, suspicious silence.

Never again. I never want to see this happen to our armed forces again. For the rest of my life I will read these stories, hear these tales, and watch these documentaries with tears in my eyes. Those tears will not just be for the suffering of our men and the South Vietnamese during the war. No, they will be for the treatment our men received when they came home, and for the retribution wrought by the Viet Cong on the South Vietnamese after we left them to the Communists.

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Vietnam was not a lost war. It was a war that was thrown away, the one war where we snatched defeat from the jaws of victory – we, who had saved the world in World War II, threw away a war we had won! “When I went under, the world was at war,” Cap said in The Avengers. “I wake up, they say we won. They didn’t say what we lost.”

We lost a lot. We lost a whole hell of a lot, readers. And we lost it because we threw it away.

The sense of shame I feel for what we did to our military and the South Vietnamese becomes so intense at times that it almost makes me physically sick. They did not deserve this abuse – not a one of them earned it. We went from a nation of heroes – a nation with “the Greatest Generation” – to a nation of indecisive cowards in the space of twenty years.

Never again, readers. We cannot – we must not – let this happen ever again.

When you watch the documentary, you will see that Fr. Capodanno understood what I am telling you right now. The Grunt Padre, as his Marines affectionately dubbed him, died making sure his men were safe. In a time when the American people largely regarded them as no less evil than the Communists they fought, one Navy chaplain made a difference by treating the Marines under his care as the human beings they were. You cannot listen to a description of his life in Vietnam and not consider him a hero, readers. Hero is too small a word to encapsulate what Fr. Capodanno did for these men – far too small.

I hope you get the chance to watch this documentary. At some point, I also hope to read and review the book about Fr. Capodanno, called The Grunt Padre, so I can learn more about this chaplain I admire so much. Knowing how much Fr. Capodanno did for those Marines lifts some of the guilt from my shoulders. It is good to know that not everyone in the U.S. hated the military during Vietnam; that there were those who treated our men with the honor, respect, and the love they deserved even when doing so was not popular.

It also firms my determination never to fall into the trap so many others landed in during the ‘60s and ‘70s. Attack the U.S. military at your own peril here at Thoughts on the Edge of Forever, readers. You will find that I do not accept such assaults. Period.

In closing I leave you with this video of the U.S. Marine Corps’ Hymn –

And with the prayer that God will bless you, the United States military, and the United States of America for many more years to come.

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Great Christmas Films To Watch This Season

Hey everybody! Christmas is coming up on us fast, which means it is time to deck the halls and set up the Nativity scenes. To spread a little more Christmas cheer, I thought a list of Christmas films was in order.

Here’s a look at the movies I like to watch to get in the Christmas spirit:

Related imageThe Muppet Christmas Carol

This is the Christmas film I have watched since I was a tyke. Christmas is never complete for me without at least one viewing of The Muppet Christmas Carol. It is a fun movie all around – and it is best viewed, in my ‘umble opinion, in the lead up to Christmas Day.

Related imageRise of the Guardians

Okay, technically, the story in Rise of the Guardians is set three days before Easter. It has nothing to do with Christmas except for snow, Santa Claus (North in the film), and a lot of presents.

Still, this is a great movie, and it is well within the spirit of Christmas. It may not be truly seasonal, but I feel I can recommend curling up with the family to watch this movie during the Christmas season – before or after Christmas Day. Either time in December works.

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The Polar Express

Now this film has a much stronger claim to the Christmas season than Rise of the Guardians. It is perfect Christmas fare. The songs for this film are also really good. My personal favorite is When Christmas Comes to Town.

Of course, children will not be the only ones to get a kick out of the The Polar Express. It is a pity they do not make musicals in live action films the way they used to; now, one has to look for great song and dance sequences in animated films. Do not misunderstand – I like the animated routines just fine. But what is wrong with live actors and actresses dancing and singing on screen?

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A Charlie Brown Christmas

My best memory of this show is when the Peanuts gang re-decorates Charlie Brown’s pathetic little fir tree. When Charlie Brown returns, the gang shouts “Merry Christmas!” and sings one of the best renditions of Hark! The Herald Angels Sing ever recorded. This is probably one of the reasons why that particular carol has always been one of my favorites. A Charlie Brown Christmas is one of the best films ever made for this season. But you needn’t take my word for it – just watch it yourself!

Image result for frozenFrozen

Yes, I know. Disney’s Frozen has an even slighter claim to the Christmas season than Rise of the Guardians. It takes place in the middle of summer, for cryin’ out loud! And everybody has already written practically everything there is to write about it!

All true, readers, but the fact is that I promised a friend I would list this film with my Christmas favorites. And Frozen is a great family film, so it will also be on many a Christmas entertainment menu this year and beyond.

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White Christmas

 I suppose it is no surprise that Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye’s White Christmas is one of my favorite Christmas films of all time. The movie follows Crosby and Kaye, whose characters are World War II veterans turned successful song and dance performers. The two meet a sister act who also have a song and dance routine and are headed to a Vermont hotel to work for the proprietor.

Almost right away, Crosby and Rosemary Clooney’s character fall for each other. But when the four reach Vermont, they find everything warm and sunny when everyone was expecting – naturally – snow!

At the hotel, Crosby and Kaye find their former general from World War II is the owner. What is more, the lack of snow has led to no customers for the former general, who is on the verge of losing his establishment.

I will avoid spoiling the rest of the film for you, readers. All I will say is that this is a fun Christmas movie, with great songs performed by some of the best singers from a golden era. White Christmas is essential viewing for the season, in this writer’s view. If you get a chance to see it, give it a try. I doubt it will disappoint!

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It’s a Wonderful Life

Anyone who has watched NCIS from the beginning knows that a viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life was a Christmas tradition in Very Special Agent Tony DiNozzo’s immediate family. I have only seen this film (all the way through, at least) once in recent memory.

Starring one of my favorite actors from Hollywood’s “old guard,” Jimmy Stewart, It’s a Wonderful Life tells how the owner of a small-town savings and loan company runs into severe financial trouble. At this crisis, the worst Stewart’s character has ever faced, the audience is shown just how much difference one life can make in the world. While Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is a reminder to the well-off and comfortable to use their gifts for the good of others, It’s a Wonderful Life reminds viewers of the importance of living, period.

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Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, with Matt Smith as The Doctor

Doctor Who is not among the top ten of my favorite shows to watch. However, I did develop a fondness for Matt Smith’s Doctor through these two Christmas specials. The first, Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol, retells Dickens’ classic as only the loony writers for The Doctor’s series can, while the next Christmas special, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, takes its name from the famous second book of C.S. Lewis’ Narnian ChroniclesImage result for Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol and The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe, with Matt Smith as The Doctor

Of the two, The Doctor, the Widow, and the Wardrobe has more laughs in it than A Christmas Carol. I definitely recommend you find and watch these shows, even if you are not a Doctor Who fan. I was not, and am not, a Whovian but I enjoy these particular shows no end!

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We’re No Angels

The original We’re No Angels with Peter Ustinov, Humphrey Bogart, and Aldo Ray is great fun. I will avoid giving you spoilers on this film, readers. Suffice it to say, do not buy or borrow the remake this Christmas. When it comes to this film, it ought to be the original or bust!

Well, there you have it, readers. These are some of my favorite films to view during the Christmas season. I have left out some great tales in this list, but I do not want to overwhelm anyone! It is a short list full of the Spirit of Christmas – small, and seemingly insignificant, but more beautiful than any jewel, and true as the Star that guides us all.

Merry Christmas, readers!

The Mithril Guardian

Four Chaplains – In Memoriam

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On February 3, 1943 the U.S.S. Dorchester was sunk.  This ship was an Army Transport headed for the American base in Greenland.  The Dorchester was part of a convoy that was supposed to protect it from roving Nazi U-boats.

Aboard the ship were four Army chaplains: Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed), and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic).  Around midnight, a U-boat discovered the convoy and fired upon it, hitting the Dorchester and damaging it badly.  The ship was sinking.  All nine hundred men aboad scrambled to get off.  Only two hundred thirty men survived.

Among those lost that day were the four chaplains who, on their way to safety, stopped to direct their fellow soldiers to safety.  Before they themselves could escape the dying ship, however, they each met a man who had no lifejacket.  The chaplains then removed their own lifejackets and handed them over to the four men who had no life preservers.  The men escaped while the four chaplains stood on the deck and prayed as they went down with the doomed vessel.

Today, these brave chaplains are barely remembered for their sacrificial heroism.  The American Legion still remembers them, as it works to make sure that no American soldier from any war is ever forgotten.  I hope this post will help to keep these courageous chaplains’ deeds in public memory in some small way as, around the country, others remember the four chaplains who gave their lives so others could live.

May they never be forgotten!

Related Articles:

http://www.legion.org/library/6245/bravery-four-chaplains

http://www.legion.org/magazine/225769/more-story

www.immortalchaplains.org

www.fourchaplains.org

A Review of Marvel’s Captain America: Civil War

Captain America: Civil War Opens to $200.2 Million Overseas

WHA-HOOOOO!!!!!! Readers, Captain America: Civil War has to be one of the absolute BEST Marvel movies ever!!!!

I will attempt to keep the spoilers out of this review, and start my character analysis posts somewhere in the middle of the summer, when more people have had time to see the film. But I will “spoil” one thing here: in the movie, NO AVENGERS DIE!!!  YAY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Okay, with the enthusiastic fan victory lap out of the way, we can get to the meat of the matter. Civil War is a movie so action packed it is almost too heavy on the fighting. Almost. The Russos just manage to keep Cap at the center of the whirlwind, despite the number of players within the story.

That being said, Tony probably takes second place to Cap in this tale. His arc is the most painful to watch, since his actions are the primary reason for the major conflicts in the film. Cap’s journey is much less agonizing; not once did he compromise his moral compass, even at the end of the climactic battle in the HYDRA base.

This was the best part of the film, second only in one other factor, which I will mention momentarily. In an era when the ‘intellectuals’ want Americans to ‘get with the times,’ and submit to the angst-filled, beaten, and beastly façade that they insist is the new America, Steve Rogers remains “bloody, but unbowed.” (This quote is from a poem called Invictus, written by William Ernest Henley. Invictus is Latin, and loosely translated, it means “undefeated,” “unconquerable,” or “indefatigable.” You can find the full poem somewhere on my blog if you wish, readers.) It is nice to have a hero who is so thoroughly American that it is impossible to ruin him – not without losing tons of money, anyway.

The second great thing about Civil War is that it has a hopeful ending. Notice I did not say it has a happy ending; that is up to the individual viewer to find, if they can. But it does have a hopeful ending. And as Napoleon said, “A leader is a dealer in hope.” And I have to say, in the United States of America, we never needed hope as much as we do today. The assaults are coming thick and fast from every conceivable direction – and even from some heretofore inconceivable angles. It is too bad Steve Rogers is a fictional character. We could sure use an American Galahad right about now.

But if we have to settle for one who dwells on the silver screen, I think we can live with that.

As for the other Avengers in this show, Hawkeye and Ant-Man do not really have character arcs within this film. That is understandable. Hawkeye’s arc was pretty impressive in Age of Ultron, and while I have my fingers crossed that we will get to see him in another film at some point, he proved again in Civil War precisely why I like him. 😉 His part was not everything I wanted it to be, but it was still great! (But can’t they refer to him as Hawkeye at least twice within the same movie?!? I do not mind calling him Clint or Barton, but he has a codename, too, ya know!!!)

Ant-Man’s character arc in his own film last year was so well done that we did not need much of an introduction to him this time around. Still, he does grow a little here (there is a pun in this statement). For a previously solo act in the super-powered sphere, he shows he can adjust to working with a team fairly well…. But he and Hawkeye still have some teammate issues to figure out.

Vision and Wanda’s character arcs constantly shift between active and passive. Some of their character growth is on the battlefield; other moments are in the serenity of the Avengers’ compound. As a side note, there is a visual reference to X-Men: Evolution near the end of the film for Wanda. If you do not spot it, then do not worry. I will do my best to make a mention of it in my next post about her. Remind me if I forget, please. 😉

Though we missed Pietro’s presence in this film, there were others we did not miss. Spider-Man’s character arc, while limited, adhered to his roots – for once. He shows he is greener than either Wanda or Scott Lang, but he has as much “heart” as either of them. I am not sure I buy the method Tony used to recruit him. Though it is quite Stark-esque, it almost grated on my nerves, since I wanted to see more of Cap and felt dragged away from him by the detour to pick up the webslinger!

Black Panther fans need not fear for his character. This longtime ally and friend of Steve Rogers came through the movie fantastically. In fact, one of the friends who watched this film with me came to admire him during the course of the story, when said friend had previously stated that T’Challa was “boring.” Bonus points for an already great part in an excellent film!!!

On the subject of characters who came out well in the movie, Natasha pulled through with flying colors. She may still be fighting the Soviet mold, but she proved that she can conquer it. 😉 GO BLACK WIDOW!!!

Let’s see – who did I miss? Ah, Rhodey! Other than his influence on Tony, Rhodey came across as rather dense in this film. His reasons for signing the Accords were beyond dumb. The U.N. is nothing like SHIELD, which is quite a compliment to the spy agency. But the World Security Council had plenty in common with the U.N. And the fact that Rhodey cannot see this is very sad and does his character no favors whatsoever.

Sam Wilson, however, has the sight of his codename. No way is the Falcon going to get hoodwinked that easily. Speaking of Falcon, his little drone, Redwing, is a very neat addition to the team. Too bad it’s not a bird, as it is in the comics. Sam’s character arc is fun to watch and harkens back to his days of Avenging as Cap’s particular partner in the older comics. He proves he is an able field commander and combatant in Civil War, and I think it will be hard for the writers to top his part in this film.

I think the only hero I have not covered yet is the Winter Soldier. Yes, I called him a hero. He is an abused hero, but a hero all the same. It is odd; I actually related better to him in this film than I did in The Winter Soldier. He was someone to be pitied in that film. In Civil War, compassion comes into play more, as he gets to actually show some personality this time. He is not the same man he was in World War II, and he can never be that person again. But neither is he the coldly terrifying hunter of men we saw in Cap 2. On the whole, this portrayal of him is probably the best one yet.

Now, about those villains…. contrary to popular statements, I do not think Tony qualifies as a villain in this film. I would not even put him down as an antagonist. He sets off Civil War as he set off Age of Ultron: through childish hubris, an overly guilty conscience, and blind fear. A little anger is mixed in at the end of the film, rather understandably, making him emotionally revert to being a young boy again.

Cap’s treatment of him reflects that. The ending of the film is substantially different than the end of the comic book war, for which I am grateful. From what I know of the comic book conflict, I think I can say the film’s ending is by far the better one. I know I will not be reading the Civil War comics – the first collection or the second set Marvel Comics is preparing to release sometime soon – when I can watch this film! As painful as the fight between the two heroes is, for me, there is a slight sweetness amid the sorrow. Cap came through the fight bloody, but in one piece – physically, mentally, and morally. If only the comic book writers were willing to treat him so!!!

(How come the film writers keep doing better than the comic book writers? Seriously, how? Are they more in tune with reason and logic than the comic book writers? Someone somewhere within the Marvel comic book writing system is not firing on all cylinders. There is a malfunction in the writing department, because they are not telling stories anymore. They are partying like Ferris Bueller.)

General Thunderbolt Ross does not appear to be a villain in Civil War, as he did in The Incredible Hulk. He does not scream and roar, nor skate on the edge of an apoplectic fit, the way he did in that movie. But his goal is no different now than it was before: he’s a trigger-happy jerk who wants control of the best weapons he can find. And the “best weapons” he can “find” are the Avengers. The irate General turned Secretary of State just made my I-want-to-punch-this-guy-list; he has outstripped even Loki. Now that is a feat!

Helmut Zemo – no baron in this movie – is a complete villain. They try to win the audience’s sympathy for him throughout the story. But for my part, I saw nothing I was able to even remotely empathize with in his character, and their attempts were little short of window dressing.

If you want my opinion, Zemo was born with a soul as black as the pits of Hell. The guy is Evil, with a capital E, no two ways about it. He is not dangerous for his powers – he has no enhancements as of this film. He is treacherous simply because he is intelligent and pure evil. Zemo is a totally terrifying villain. I do not know how Thanos can possibly upstage him – but I suppose that he will, somehow, manage to do that.

If you can, readers, you have got to see this movie while it is still in cinemas!!! And do not forget to stay for the mid and end credit scenes! As a side note, I will be leaving my “Whose Side Are You On?” poll open until December 2016. So if you have not yet chosen a side, now is the time!

GO CAPTAIN AMERICA!!!!!!!!!

The Mithril Guardian

Book Review: Escape from Warsaw (formerly The Silver Sword) by Ian Serraillier

Warsaw, Poland. 1942. Germany has invaded, and for the Balicki family, this is very bad news. The family consists of Joseph, his wife, and his three children: Ruth, Edek, and Bronia. Joseph is taken to a Nazi prison camp called Zakyna not long after the occupation begins. He escapes back to Warsaw about a year later, only to find his home rubble, his wife taken to Germany by Nazi storm troopers, and his children assumed dead.

With nowhere else to go, Joseph decides to head to Switzerland. He and his wife had decided that this was where they would meet if they were separated, and the children know to head there as soon as they can. With the help of an orphan boy he meets prowling the ruins of his house, Joseph escapes Poland. But not before telling the boy, Jan, to keep an eye out for his three children. He also entrusts a silver letter opener he once gave to his wife, shaped like a sword, to the street urchin who found it in the rubble.

For the rest of the war Ruth, Edek, and Bronia manage to scrape a living from the ruins of Warsaw. Things become harder for the girls when Edek is caught by the Nazis and shipped to Germany to labor on their farms. It is not long after this that they meet Jan, who joins up with the two Balicki girls.

To keep herself busy, Ruth starts a makeshift school for the other Polish orphans living amid the rubble. When the war ends, Ruth begins searching for her parents and younger brother. She seeks help from the local Russian outpost and, when one of the soldiers comes to deliver supplies for her school, he tangles with Jan. In the process, Jan’s treasure box, which he always has with him, is smashed.

Out falls the silver sword, sending Ruth into a fit of tears since she recognizes the letter opener her father gave to her mother. Jan reveals that, with the intervening years, he had forgotten his promise to their father. But, now that he remembers, he is willing to help the two Balicki girls find their parents.

Thus begins the trek of the three children as they head to Switzerland in search of Mr. and Mrs. Balicki. They pick up Edek, who has contracted tuberculosis and is in rough shape, along the way. The four endure many deprivations and hardships, but also manage to make a great many friends on their journey. Ruth manages the four of them, protects and leads them, and is the only one who can handle the kleptomaniac Jan.

Throughout their adventures, friend and foe alike are impressed with the Balicki children’s determination to find their parents. This fidelity to a mother and father who might well be dead inspires many to help them, even at great risk to themselves.

Escape from Warsaw is a good story, and I quite enjoyed reading it. It is easy to read. If you know someone who is a World War II buff, then this book would not be a bad recommendation for them, whether they are adults or children.

It is important to note that Escape from Warsaw puts Poland in the spotlight, highlighting much of what it and Eastern Europe endured during World War II and its aftermath. While the details of Communist treatment of the Polish are not dwelt on in this story, it should be noted that the Balicki children left Poland before the U.S.S.R. had cemented its control over the country. Given their determination to reach Switzerland, I do not blame any of the characters for deciding to stay in that country rather than returning to a Poland under Soviet rule.

Until next time,

The Mithril Guardian

Four Chaplains

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Today (February 3, 2015) is the anniversary of the sinking of the ship U.S.S. Dorchester.  The ship was an Army Transport headed for the American base in Greenland in 1943.  Word War II was raging and the ship was part of a convoy that was supposed to protect it from roving Nazi U-boats.

Aboard the Dorchester were four Army chaplains: Reverend George Fox (Methodist), Jewish Rabbi Alexander Goode, Reverend Clark Poling (Dutch Reformed), and Father John Washington (Roman Catholic).  Around midnight, a U-boat discovered the convoy and fired upon it, hitting the Dorchester and damaging it badly.  The ship was sinking.  All nine hundred men aboard the ship scrambled to get off.  Only two hundred thirty men survived.

Among those lost that day were the four chaplains who, on their way to safety, stopped to direct their fellow soldiers to safety.  Before they themselves could escape the dying ship, however, they each met a man who had no lifejacket.  Each chaplain then removed their own lifejackets and handed them over to the four men who had no life preservers.  The men escaped while the four chaplains stood on the deck and prayed as they went down with the doomed ship.

Today, these brave chaplains are barely remembered for their sacrificial heroism.  The American Legion still remembers them, as it works to make sure that no American soldier from any war is ever forgotten.  I hope this post will help to keep these courageous chaplains’ deeds in public memory in some small way as, around the country, others remember the four chaplains who gave their lives so others could live.

May they never be forgotten!

The Mithril Guardian

Related Articles:

http://www.legion.org/library/6245/bravery-four-chaplains

http://www.legion.org/magazine/225769/more-story

www.immortalchaplains.org

www.fourchaplains.org

Captain America: Civil War, Trailer 1

 

The first trailer for Captain America: Civil War is out, readers! I have been thinking about this trailer a fair bit, obviously. This is not a prognostications post, like the ones I wrote for Age of Ultron. It is more of a free flowing speculation post.

I have to say that this Civil War trailer is very good, with lots of high-powered action. But it is also a painful thing to watch. I literally had to swallow tears watching it the first few times. Occasionally, it still leaves me depressed and upset.

For those out there who crassly sneer about this, reminding me unnecessarily that this movie is dark and going places the other Marvel films “feared to tread,” I have a reminder for you. It is not good to revel in another’s pain. We are too often tempted with that, sadly. I see no reason to cheer on the war of wills between Steve Rogers and Tony Stark.

As I have said before, I am firmly on Captain America’s side in this war. Tony has a rather lousy moral record; he has been known to socialize with weapons dealers like Ulysses Klaue, as well as being a debaucher and a self-centered jerk with an ego the size of the moon. He is not someone to support on matters of such importance.

In contrast, Cap has never faltered. His moral compass has never wavered, and despite the chatter on the Internet, I do not believe he ever will, even in Civil War. The Russos have actually supported my gut feeling, since they have stated the obvious: Cap’s sense of morality is part of his superpower. If it was just his super soldier serum which made him so interesting, he would hardly be more beloved than any other Marvel hero. And we all know that he is the most beloved of Marvel’s characters. Even Spider-Man falls just shy of the affection most Marvel fans have for Cap. Spidey is just easier to market than Cap is these days.

One of the most important things revealed in this Civil War trailer is that Cap does not want this war. Having never read the comics, I cannot vouch for those, but he does not want a civil war in this film.

What makes me so sure he does not want a Civil War? A little line which made it into the trailer. “I’m sorry, Tony,” Cap says. “You know I wouldn’t do this if there was another way. But he’s my friend.”

Cap does not say with these lines that he is throwing away his new friendships for his old one with Bucky. He is choosing both. He sacrificed his life to save the world at the end of WW II, and he will live with that sacrifice for the rest of his life. But Bucky’s life was stolen from him. And, in Civil War, people are trying to take his life away from him again. As his friend, Cap will not stand for that. He will not let Bucky’s life be stolen from him a second time, especially for a crime he did not commit.

Tony’s response to Cap’s statement, however, is absolutely horrifying. “So was I.”

Was. Was! Cap did not say, “You were my friend, Tony.” He said, “I wouldn’t be doing this if there was another way.” He is not rejecting Tony’s friendship; he is not discarding him or the Avengers for Bucky. He is trying to protect them all, as well as give his childhood friend a chance at making a new life for himself in relative safety.

But Tony does not see it that way. He is discarding Cap, along with his desire and attempts to keep them all together and free, rejecting his friendship. His three word line immediately made my throat constrict and my heart sink. Of all the mistakes Tony has ever made in the films, this has to be the utter worst. Cap understands that friendship and freedom trumps everything. Tony does not, and it is going to cost him.

From what we can see in this trailer, it appears that Bucky is framed for a murder, and thus he is being hunted down. This, along with some international incident following a battle involving the Avengers, will be what kicks off Civil War.

Well, I think it is possible that the international incident and Bucky’s supposed crime happen at nearly the same time. It appears that Civil War could open in medio res, or in the middle of things. Avengers: Age of Ultron did the same thing. If Civil War opens in the African market we have seen clips and set photos of, then the international incident may take place in Wakanda.

If that is the case, then “Bucky’s” target could well be Wakandan King T’Chaka, father of soon-to-be Black Panther T’Challa. T’Challa is said to “be in the beginning phases of taking on the Black Panther mantle” in Civil War. The title of Black Panther is passed down through the Wakandan royal line. Every ruler of Wakanda, as I understand things, has worn the title of Black Panther. The role of the Black Panther is similar to the role Cap played in WW II: protect the nation from outside aggressors.

Why?

Wakanda, from what I know of it, is a postage-stamp sized fictional African country in the Marvel Universe. It is highly advanced, more so than any first world country, because it is built smack-dab on top of the biggest – and possibly the only – deposit of vibranium on Earth. The Wakandans’ understanding of vibranium is what makes them such a technologically advanced nation.

It is also why they are xenophobic in their contact with the outside world. As we know, vibranium is the strongest metal on Earth (equaled in the comics only by adamantium, which is heavier and more easily acquired). In fact, for most of Marvel history, the world had no idea Wakanda existed until around WW II. Knowing how dangerous vibranium is, the last thing the Wakandans wanted was the metal falling into the wrong hands. They take it very personally when someone steals even a sliver of the metal. How Klaue made it out of Wakanda with as much vibranium as he had in Ultron borders on the magical; he should not have been able to get that much vibranium out of the country. No wonder they branded him “Thief” in such an unpleasant manner.

There is also a mystical element to the Black Panther mantle. Becoming the Black Panther, after having received the title properly, means that the person using the title gains all the strength, agility, speed, and senses of a real panther. T’Challa’s ability to keep up with – and apparently outpace – Cap and Bucky is probably related to this.

Also, T’Challa’s suit in the film should be made almost entirely out of vibranium. I do not know if it is an entirely vibranium suit in the comics, but it would make sense if it was. It is the strongest metal on Earth in the films; it is only reasonable that the Wakandans would use it to make a suit for the person charged with protecting their country and its deposit of vibranium.

In the comics and cartoons, T’Challa’s suit has claws built into the gloves. These claws are made of vibranium and are able to scratch through anything, just like Wolverine’s adamantium-coated claws. Vibranium and adamantium are two of the Earth metals that can harm the Hulk in the form of blades. T’Challa also has a series of vibranium daggers hidden in his suit in some cartoons. He may not have these in the film, but it is possible that he might have a set of vibranium daggers in Civil War.

If Bucky is blamed for T’Chaka’s assassination (or attempted assassination), then it would make sense for T’Challa to join up with Tony in Civil War. He wants justice, or revenge, for his father’s death. This means we will very likely see T’Challa facing off against Cap, and since vibranium is the only thing that can harm itself, it is possible that Cap’s shield will have some scratches put in it during the movie. However, since T’Challa is prince of the nation which owns all the vibranium on Earth, he can repair it once everything is sorted out at the end of Civil War.

I do not know exactly why Natasha has sided with Tony Stark in Civil War. I know she was on the pro-Registration side in the comics, but her motivations there are also a total mystery to me. Especially since she was apparently a non-combatant in the comic book war (how did that happen?).

The Russos have said that Natasha is trying to keep the Avengers from being disbanded. This makes sense, considering the fact that, if the Avengers were disbanded, she would have nowhere to go. Being an Avenger grants her a certain amount of immunity. At the end of Winter Soldier, she faced down the D.C. bureaucrats and told them how many buns make a dozen. They did not like that, and they have the power and ammo to bury her well below six feet under. So not only does being an Avenger give her purpose, it protects her from powerful people who see only her dark past and would gladly lock her up to die in the “Pit of Despair,” if you will. So siding with Tony would seem to her, perhaps, to be the best way to save the Avengers and herself. Self-preservation could very well be her motive for joining Team Iron.

That does not mean she is not conflicted during Civil War. She and Cap are good friends, and where Tony appears to believe that Cap is abandoning them all for his old war buddy, Natasha does not seem to share that sentiment. After all, she has been in Steve’s shoes. Her best friend was mind-controlled into helping Loki invade Earth. She would have gone through Hell to get Hawkeye back. Can she expect any less from Cap, who has proven that not only will he go through Hell to get Bucky back, but he will let Bucky beat him nearly to death as well?

As an added dilemma, Hawkeye sides with Cap in the upcoming war. The why is easy to guess: he worked for SHIELD only as long as his family was kept out of their files, and he has stayed with the Avengers in order to keep his wife and children safe. Someday he will have to let someone else have his job – one of his sons, or a stranger. But until that day he will fight to protect his family and the world they live in. Registering with the U.N. means that they will want to know everything about him. And it is hard to believe that the U.N. would not put his family in a database somewhere once they learned about them.

Clint does not want that. He will stand up to those in authority when they begin abusing their power, and these fictional Sokovian Accords are a blatant abuse of power. If the government can tell the Avengers who to target and who not to target, then they will end up with the same situation they faced in Midtown Manhattan in The Avengers. The World Security Council, likely a committee from the U.N., was quite willing to wipe out NYC with a nuclear warhead in The Avengers. Now that the latest weapons are people with super powers or “specific skill sets,” they are trying to make them the new “nuclear deterrents” completely at their command.

Except the Avengers are people, not weapons or tools. And people do not like being enslaved, under any circumstances.

Remember when I said that Clint had issues with authority in the comics? Well, it looks like he is about to take a very great issue with the government in Civil War. He has already proven he will break with his orders when he believes those orders are wrong. That is why Natasha is even alive, let alone an Avenger. And if he accepted SHIELD’s offer of a job only on condition that Fury erase his family from digital and analog existence, then Fury either wanted him in SHIELD very badly, or Clint is one hell of a negotiator. And by that, I mean he told Fury, “If you want me in SHIELD, then you had better make sure no one finds my family. Because if they do and something bad happens to them as a result, I will not only hunt down and kill those who hurt my family, but you, too.”

We do not get to see much of Hawkeye in this Civil War trailer, but I did notice two things about him in the brief scenes where he appears. One, when Cap and his team are apparently staring down Team Iron, Clint does not look happy. Neither does Cap, interestingly. Normally they each wear the expressions of men ready to wade into the fight fists swinging. This time, Cap and Clint both seem thoroughly sick at the idea that they will be going up against their friends and fellow Avengers. They do not want to, but their friends are not going to give them a choice.

Second, in one of the scenes following Team Cap charging into battle, two people can be seen running across what might be an airport tarmac. Since one of those people is holding a bow, it is safe to assume that person is Hawkeye. The second person is, on closer inspection, shown to be the Scarlet Witch.

This raises some interesting points. We know that Clint and Wanda established an understanding in Age of Ultron, but we also know her older brother died saving Clint’s life in the same movie. It is possible that Clint now feels responsible for Wanda, that he believes he should stay close to her and take care of her, since her older brother died to save him and is no longer present to see to her welfare. He might feel like he owes Pietro this and will therefore try to keep an eye on Wanda in Civil War.

Where this will lead, I can hardly guess. It has been suggested that Wanda may go a bit berserk in this movie. Elizabeth Olsen, the actress who portrays her, has dubbed Wanda a “wild card” and says the Scarlet Witch is “conflicted.” She says Wanda feels like she is connected to the Avengers, but at the same time, they are not her family. She certainly has a rapport of some sort with the World’s Greatest Marksman, and a bond with Captain America. And she has been an Avenger long enough now to get to know Falcon, War Machine, Vision, and Black Widow fairly well.

But they are not her family. In that respect, she is adrift in the world. Pietro was her anchor to reality, as she was his anchor to calm and reason. Despite the nobility of his sacrifice, she will feel Pietro’s loss keenly, and therefore may be inclined to leave the team. Also, Olsen hinted that the Scarlet Witch’s powers have grown since Age of Ultron. In the comics, this was one of the factors which led to her loss of sanity. Even with her brother alive, she ripped reality apart and rebuilt it. She also killed Hawkeye in this event. Twice.

All this could spell danger for Hawkeye in the upcoming film. Hopefully, Wanda will not roll off the deep end in Civil War and hurt him. Olsen’s statements, however, hint at some mental unsteadiness for the Scarlet Witch, and this opens some rather worrisome doors in my mind.

We also see in this trailer that Falcon is still “doing what [Cap] does, just slower.” In the trailer he says to Cap, “I just want to be sure we consider all our options. ‘Cause people who shoot at you usually wind up shooting at me, too.”

I think what Sam is really saying here is this: “Look, I am with you all the way. But are you sure there isn’t another way out of this mess? Because when things go bad, you won’t be the only one getting shot at. You’ve got me (and the others) watching your back. We’re going to get shot at, too, and we’re going up against the other Avengers at the same time. The Law of Averages says someone will get hurt or killed. You can’t make this decision based on sentiment and emotion. Have you really thought this through?”

Of course, Cap has. And barring a miraculous light bulb exploding into brilliance over Tony’s genius head, he has no other option but to go up against Iron Man. Sam and the others know that. If they choose to follow him, then they will all be in the same boat.

And, short of some unexpected betrayal in Cap’s ranks, this proves that Team Cap is made up of people just like Steve Rogers. Sam and the others on Team Cap all value friendship and freedom uber alles, or over all. They will follow Cap through Hell if that is where the battle takes them, because they are his friends. It will not be just because the U.N. wants to run their missions. It will be because they value Cap’s friendship, and friendship is based on loyalty, which means that you stay faithful to your friend no matter what. “And say my glory was I had such friends.” – William Butler Yeats

Then there is Bucky. Bucky is certainly an appealing, sympathetic character. And he is in an interesting – and precarious – position in Civil War. As a former HYDRA operative, Bucky naturally has an enormous amount of intel on the organization. In the hands of the U. S. government and the Avengers, this information could bring the plague-like organization down.

HYDRA has to know this. They also have to realize that the government, or the sensible people in it, would want Bucky captured and alive in order to gain all the information he has on HYDRA. There is no way, under normal circumstances, that U.S. military leaders would want Bucky dead. He is too valuable as an informant on HYDRA, even in his current beleaguered state.

Hence, it appears that HYDRA has assassinated someone in Civil War and pinned the murder on Bucky. They thereby instigate an international manhunt for him so that he will be brought in dead and useless to their enemies. It would be great if they could get him back and make him their tool again, but they might have already tried that and found him less than docile. Crossbones is said to taunt Cap with the fact that Bucky remembers him in a different trailer. To me, this suggests HYDRA has tried to get Bucky back and failed.

So that leaves them with only one option: eliminate him.

Sebastian Stan has been asked what Bucky will be like in Civil War, and he has said his relationship to HYDRA is a complicated one. That Bucky sort of owes them for saving his life. Not really, I think, since they simply saved him in order to turn him into a weapon. They stole from him, and while that certainly does not make them like his second family, it does mean they have a relationship.

This, of course, raises the question of what type of relationship. I do not believe it is a happy or a familial relationship. Bucky has turned his back on HYDRA and on being a weapon. However, even with his mind control and brainwashing broken, old habits die hard. He is not going to forget the skills HYDRA taught him. He simply cannot. They are built into his muscle memory; if he is fiercely attacked, even by run-of-the-mill thugs, his muscles will react automatically because of his training and years of experience as an expert assassin.

This also means that, like Wolverine, his instinctive reaction in a pitched battle will be to go for the jugular. As long as he keeps his emotions in check and maintains some rational control of himself in combat, Bucky should be able to keep his attacks from ending in the death(s) of his opponent(s). He can rationally choose not to follow through on a blow, making it a knock out or an injuring hit rather than a killing strike.

But he is not yet emotionally and mentally stable enough, it appears, to keep complete control of his instincts in such a conflict. If he is incensed to the point that his emotions and instincts override his rational thinking, anyone attacking him is courting death, the same way they would be if they sent Wolverine over a mental cliff.

This theory is given some credibility in the scene where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor. It does not matter that the arc reactor no longer supports Tony’s heart, it still supports his suit. And if it gets fried while being yanked out, it could short out the suit in such a way that Tony is badly injured or even killed. This could be what happens to Rhodey, though it is hard to tell from the trailer whether he is alive, dead, or injured and unconscious. (Someone suggested War Machine’s arc reactor was ripped out mid-air, because he is seen lying in a crater in the ground. It may be that the Scarlet Witch, Falcon, or even Vision is responsible for Rhodey’s apparent crash in that scene.)

There are probably several ways to take out Tony’s suit with Bucky’s particular skills and assets, while at the same time not hurting Tony. But Bucky’s immediate act is to go for the most vital place in Tony’s armor. His first instinct is for the jugular.

And thanks to HYDRA, he will be battling this instinct for the rest of his life. Just like Wolverine, his instincts can be tempered and controlled. However, due to his conditioning, he will remain highly unsociable and appear cold to others. He has experienced too much pain for mild annoyances like broken toasters and stubbed toes to set him off, but at the same time, he has also had much good ripped out of his hands.

And so his attitude in pleasant surroundings or events will remain gruff, distant, and always guarded. Past experience with HYDRA has driven home to him the fact that happiness is fleeting and fragile. It only takes one evil person to kill many, and he will always be on the lookout for evil, even if it does not show up. He knows it exists. He has seen it many times and he will therefore remain vigilant and ready for it to strike, something most civilians do not consider.

Thanks to HYDRA, Bucky knows safety is an illusion at worst, a veneer at best. It can be ripped away in seconds by a bullet or a knife. He is a target for both. He can be happy, but he will always guard that emotion carefully, so that if the world goes to hell in a hand basket, he will be ready for it.

This is the legacy of HYDRA’s manipulating him: in some respect, they will always own part of him. And there is absolutely nothing he or his friends/allies will ever be able to do about it.

All this leads to one point: Bucky will have to die in Civil War. Now since Sebastian Stan has a nine picture deal with Marvel, I do not think his death in Civil War would be real. It would probably be faked, so that he could go underground and try to make a life for himself. Doing this would get HYDRA and the government off his back – for a space, at least – and give him time to try and do something good with his life.

It would be interesting if he was “assassinated” in place of Cap, who in the comics was “killed” at the end of the Civil War story arc. (His “death” in the comics even made the actual six o’clock news.) He could wear Steve’s uniform and be “killed” in his place in Captain America: Civil War.

Who would “kill” him is open to debate; Hawkeye and Black Widow both have the skills to make sure the shot appeared real. Bucky could certainly pull off a convincing death scene after that. But Crossbones or Baron Zemo could be the ones who plan to assassinate Cap – though what they would gain by making a martyr out of him, I have no idea. This would mean the Avengers would have to somehow ensure the HYDRA bullet did not actually hit its mark, but make it appear that it did. I am sure they could all work something like this out, if the writers decided to go with this plot. It is how they saved Fury, after all.

Speaking of our villains, we have not seen Baron Zemo in any of the trailers so far. Since he is playing the HYDRA heavy, we all know where Crossbones will be in the movie: he is the muscle-bound goon and the public face for HYDRA’s foot soldiers.

People keep asking where Zemo is. I think the answer is rather obvious; he is the man behind the curtain. We know from The Winter Soldier that HYDRA did not simply infiltrate SHIELD. They wormed their way into the U.S. government. Senator Stern was a HYDRA man. And just because the World Security Council threw wine in Pierce’s face does not mean that the U.N. has the same spine. In fact, that scene was the first hint that anyone on the WSC even had a spine.

Zemo and HYDRA could very well be the force behind the U.N.’s Sokovian Accords. Cui bono – who benefits from a civil war between the heroes? Cap and Tony are not going to get much out of this war, which like all such conflicts, is anything but civil. The answer is as plain as day: in an Avengers’ Civil War, only their enemies benefit. And HYDRA is the main enemy for the Avengers in these films. They have the most to gain by registering the heroes and binding them in red tape.

It has also been revealed that Thunderbolt Ross will be the U.S. Secretary of State in Civil War. The Russos have said he has gone from hating the Hulk to hating all super-powered people in general. That is not a great leap of logic, really; Bruce and the Hulk were untouchable as long as they stayed with the Avengers. Bruce and “the other guy” helped save the world. Who could hunt down a hero like that without suffering a huge amount of political and popular backlash?

I would guess that Ross has it in for the Avengers in part because they shielded the Hulk and Bruce for so long. Though Bruce is once again on the lam, if he were to go back to the Avengers, he would still be “safe” at first base in popular opinion. So Ross’ interest in taking the Avengers down and putting them under the government’s thumb may be a tactical strike: take out the Avengers, and there is no safe haven for Bruce. Popular opinion, fickle as it is, cannot protect him if he has no base and friends to put a roof over his head and food in his mouth.

There is also the slim possibility that, in his hatred for the Hulk and now the Avengers, Ross has made the proverbial deal with the devil. He could now be a HYDRA man, too. In the “mainstream” comics and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes cartoon series, Red Skull briefly hid in the U.S. government as the Secretary of State Dell Rusk (Red Skull mixed up). If Ross is Secretary of State in Civil War, then it is quite a nod to these stories and could be a great hint at his role in the film. Ross may be doing the political heavy lifting for Zemo in the U.S. government, nipping at Tony’s heels and hemming the team in on all sides politically so Zemo and HYDRA can strike the finishing blow.

There is one last thing to say about this trailer. As with Age of Ultron, fans are trying to raffle off certain Avengers for death in Civil War. Whedon sideswiped everyone with Quicksilver’s noble sacrifice in Ultron, but it is getting increasingly hard to suggest which Avenger could die in Civil War. The four “main” Avengers in the film – Iron Man, Cap, Black Widow, and Hawkeye – all have contracts which bind them to several future Marvel movies. None of them could convincingly be killed off, unless Marvel wanted to play the “mostly dead” or resurrection cards on their film audiences. They would have to play those cards very believably; Coulson is so far the only character Marvel has seen fit to resurrect, and fans reacted by saying, “Well we knew he wasn’t dead!”

That leaves the other characters in a bit of a pickle, right? Maybe not. Tom Holland, our new Spider-Man, is contracted for three films beside Civil War. Anthony Mackie fought hard to get into the franchise; he will not be giving up his role as Falcon anytime soon. Elizabeth Olsen has no idea whether she will be in future films or not, though she has hinted that Wanda survives Civil War. People are suggesting that Vision will be in the next Guardians of the Galaxy movie, and I find it hard to believe that the writers would kill him off so soon.

I have no idea how expendable Rhodey is. That clip of him with his arc reactor ripped out does not inspire confidence in his survival. But it could be a trick of editing; he might survive after all. Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man has a sequel in the pipes, so he is not going to die. And T’Challa has a solo movie coming out in 2017.

Hawkeye’s family could certainly be killed in the movie, however. There is a precedent for this in Marvel’s Ultimate comics, in which Natasha Romanoff murdered his family in cold blood. It does not seem likely that she will be responsible in the movies if this were to occur, though as with all things, we cannot rule anything out until we see the film. Even if she is not the perpetrator, that does not protect Clint’s family. Of course, maybe Sharon Carter will be the one to die.

Although, someone did slow down the trailer at the part where Bucky goes to rip out Tony’s arc reactor and they read his lips to try and find out what he was shouting. Now, the fan who did this would not say what he thought Bucky was shouting, but he felt it confirmed Steve Rogers’ death. We all know Steve’s coming back in the Infinity War films, so it is possible that Cap’s death in Civil War is a set up. A set up Bucky and Tony might be in on. But we will not know what exactly is up until we see the film May 1, 2016.

So raffling off particular characters for death is rather foolish, in my opinion. It does not prevent me from wondering about who may die. I just cannot see any way to safely guess who the unlucky superhero might be.

Well, readers, time to go. These are my thoughts and speculations about Captain America: Civil War. More may be revealed in the forthcoming trailers, and Marvel may yet tip its hand. That is unlikely, but it is possible. So until the next trailer comes out…

Excelsior!

The Mithril Guardian