Striking a few bad chords ?

Tell it to the Marines
A Comment on Lang Lang’s Performance at the White House
By Ed Timperlake

Lang Lang's Jamming Session At The White House : "Diplo Speak" or "Diplo Gaffe" ?
 Credit photo: www.dispatch.com, January 26th, 2011


o1/26/2011 – Battle on Shangganling Mountain” : A Classic War Propaganda Movie
If one looks at the film segment of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) movie about their exploits in Korea, which theme song was recently played at the White House, it is a PLA propaganda movie.

Technically, it is much closer to the Soviet style of movies made for World War II : at the same time Americans were watching “The Bridges of Toko Ri,” or slightly later,  “Pork Chop Hill.” To be fair every country makes the type of film depicted by the song.

Technically, it is much closer to the Soviet style of movies made for World War II : at the same time Americans were watching “The Bridges of Toko Ri,” or slightly later,  “Pork Chop Hill.” To be fair every country makes the type of film depicted by the song.

The camera opens with the haunting playing of a flute and then we see battle weary apparently out numbered solders taking a moment of comrade and bonding. Longing pensive, but hopeful looks are being made by stalwart infantrymen as they listen to an attractive female singer in her combat uniform sing the lyrics.  Symbolically,  light filters into the guarded entrance of the cave. The move cuts away, while the song is being sung to show an emerging and industrializing China. Although it could be symbolic of their aspirations for Korea, the short segment was unclear.

Every fighting force has moments when music is played — some poignant some not. For example, the Mickey Mouse Club song being sung during the Battle of Hue City Vietnam at the end of “Apocalypse  Now” is very real. My USMC Basic School platoon at Quantico in 1969 use to sing it while marching. In America counter-culture and anti-war leftist  movies beginning in the late sixties tended to favor showing a guitar to introduce a musical interlude.

As an aside picking up on that symbolism, for real, leftist rebels in central and South America always appeared to pull out a guitar when news cameras were present. However, thankfully, the guitar as symbol died a violent death. The late great John Belushi ended all that foolishness by smashing a guitar in the movie Animal House.


The Song "My Motherland" From The Movie "Battle on Shangganling Mountain"
Credit photo: www.youtube.com


Tit For Tat ? Let us not forget the “Frozen Chosin”
Going back to the symbolism. If one listens to the song being sung with ears used to western music it sounds very high pitched and Chinese — and no one should have a problem with that. As far as musical taste, the PLA would probably cringe hearing Bag Pipes. However, being played in the White House is a different matter.

On a serious note high-pitched Chinese Opera is being used as a military weapon. When I was visiting a Taiwan AF F-16 Squadron in the late nineties, the Republic of China fighter pilots were complaining that the PLA was communication jamming all of their frequencies as they patrolled the Straits by playing Chinese Opera. They hated it and thought it was awful music — I guess Chinese Opera is an acquired taste for Fighter Pilots.

When I was visiting a Taiwan AF F-16 Squadron in the late nineties, the Republic of China fighter pilots were complaining that the PLA was communication jamming all of their frequencies as they patrolled the Straits by playing Chinese Opera.

Now the appropriate media fight is raging in America over the symbolism of Lang Lang playing the song from “Battle on Shangganling Mountain” (or Triangle Hill). It was rude no matter what the spin or nuance positions taken by individuals schooled in “Diplo Speak” — short for diplomatic language will say.

However, if the Pianist really wanted to play music that showed accurate deeds, then I rather he played the Marine Corps Hymn to remind the Chinese totalitarian dictators of what really happened in Korea. The movie is essentially a fraud. The PLA greatly outnumbered the American and UN forces. To claim as the central theme of the movie that the greatly outnumbered PLA rallied to defeat the imperialist aggressors is simply historically incorrect.

The great Marine combat leader  Major General O P Smith was the Ist Marine Division Commander in Korea. The Marines were out numbered around eight or nine to one by the PLA 9th Army. The 1st Marine Division was isolated cut off and given up for dead at a place called the Chosin Reservoir known forever more as “the Frozen Chosin.” The Marine’s battle cry announced by General Smith was “Retreat hell. We’re just attacking in a different direction“, as the Marines made their legendary fighting march carrying all killed  and wounded  to the Sea while chewing up and destroying an entire Chinese Army. The Marine Air/Ground team in Korean War became a true legendary force.

The fighting at the Chosin Reservoir was the most violent small unit fighting in the history of American warfare. No other operation in the American book of war quite compares with the show [the battle of the Chosin Reservoir] by the First Marine Division [and attached U.S. Army and British Royal Marines]“,  writes General S.L.A. Marshall, Prominent Army Historian of the Twentieth Century

So the next time the PRC Dictators visit the White House, the Marine Corps Band “The President’s Own” should simply play the Marine Corps Hymn, along with The Air Force Hymn since one cannot forget MIG Alley and the F-86’s Saber Jet Victories over the Mig-15.

Also remind them by playing – The Caissons Go Rolling Along — in honor of General MacArthur’s saying in his farewell address to Congress-“There is no substitute for victory.”

A rendition of Anchors Away would also be appropriate, because the simple question asked by the Admiral at the end of the Bridges of Toko Ri-“Where do we get such men”—now very appropriately it should be “where do we get such men and women.”

The PLA can talk the talk but haven’t walked the walk in a very long time. Finally, another cold dose of reality—if one looks at a night time Satellite photo of North Korea the entire country is dark and South Korea is filled with light and life — it looks like those PLA solders are still in their Korean cave fifty years later.

"If everyone is thinking alike, someone isn’t thinking."

—General George Patton Jr.

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