Dan Carlin's Hardcore History: Addendum - Wolf Pack Hunting with Hanks

It’s Hardcore History Addendum.

We told you when we first unveiled the Hardcore History Addendum feed that this was going

to be the everything else feed.

Anything that didn’t belong in the main Hardcore History feed for one reason or another will

end up here.

We knew there would be interview shows because compared to what we normally do, the big Hardcore

History shows, interview shows are simple, so we knew that there’d be quite a few of

those and that we would try to switch them up and do them differently like the one we

did recently where I was the one who got interviewed.

And then we knew there’d be some funky kind of shows that probably would upset some people

on the main feed but that some people would really like, like our Caesar at Hastings show

which we put on this feed.

And then sometimes it’s what probably could easily pass for a Hardcore History show but

for one reason or another it’s not the right time or place.

We have the one that we did on Alexander the Great’s mother that had we put it out

on the main feed, it would have interrupted an ongoing series, so we put it out on this


So I hope that over time when you look at the archives of the Hardcore History Addendum

show offerings, you know, en masse, you will have an eclectic grab bag of potential offerings,

you know, that looks pretty varied.

I’d hate to fall into any ruts.

Case in point, today’s offering.

There’s a new movie out that touches my heart in all the right places, as you know.

It’s about Second World War naval history, so it’s right up my alley.

Has to do with a commander of one of these escort ships guarding merchant men across

the Atlantic during the Battle of the Atlantic and trying to keep the U-boats off of them.

It’s called Greyhound, by the way.

It’s on Apple TV+, stars Tom Hanks, who’s done a lot of World War II history movies

or who’s been involved in producing them or executive producing them.

He’s a history fan, I think.

And by the way, I think he even did the screenplay of the movie.

It’s great.

You’ll like it.

You should check it out.

And in an unusual move, I think, that I hope will be part of that eclectic grab bag of

offerings when you look at our archives over time, you’ll notice, hey, they did a Hardcore

History Addendum with Tom Hanks.

And we did.

And here it is.

If you don’t know who Tom Hanks is, well, I don’t know where you’ve been hiding, but

maybe Google that.

In any case, ladies and gentlemen, Tom Hanks.

Mr. Hanks, can you hear me OK?

This is Dan.

I can indeed, Dan.

You can call me Tom.

And it is a thrill to hear your voice on something other than one of the many podcasts.

You, sir, are as big as Bruce Springsteen in our house.

I’m not quite sure how to react to that as a man who’s been watching since Bosom Buddy

did days.

So here’s the we were just we just drove from Los Angeles, myself and two of my kids.

We drove from Los Angeles to Twin Falls, Idaho.

During which we listened to the entirety of Ghosts of the Oast Front, which was just one

of. Oh, my Lord, I’ve learned so much from you and have been in your enthralled by you

for many an hour.

So thank you for your passion and thank you for your output.

And it’s a pleasure.

It’s a pleasure to be speaking to you now.

You know, as a guy who remembers pulling out my hair at like twenty five going, what the

hell are you doing with your career at this point?

To hear you say that is wonderful.

I’m sure, you know, because I was doing my research.

Let me start with this.

As a guy who would have thought of you as the great comic genius coming up during the

era when I was growing up, if you had told me back in 1980 that you were going to be

one of the great dramatic actors of our time and that you were going to have an IMDB page

that looked like you were an overachiever with some sort of some sort of inefficiency

attitude. I mean, I look at what you’ve been doing and you don’t look like you’ve lived

long enough to do all those things.

I want to ask you someday what the hell an executive producer does, because you’ve been

you’ve been an executive.

You tell me I can answer that.

Yeah. Yeah.

OK, there is a there’s a big there’s a distinct difference between being an executive

producer on a motion picture, which is literally a powerless title that doesn’t even

require your presence to be an executive producer on a television series in which you

get to impact the the final product as much as you wish to.

You can get involved in the writing.

You can get involved in the casting and the shooting, get involved in the editing.

You actually can run as long as you’re the executive producer of a TV, TV, anything on

television, TV, miniseries, series.

You get to run the quality assurance of that of that show.

You are you are literally what you are probably the you get to be the big boss man if

you decide to do so, meaning that, you know, you can if you think something is running

off the rails, you go in and put it back on.

Or if it’s something running incredibly smoothly, you just call up and tell everybody

they’re doing a slam bang job and keep an eye on it.

So two very different things.

So the things that I have been executive producer on on television, particularly the

miniseries, I’ve had I’ve had I’ve had a hand in the way I put it is assuring we’re

literally running the quality assurance on on motion pictures.

It doesn’t mean. Well, let’s talk about your choices then, because, like I said, as a

guy who thought you were going to be this great comic leader of a movement, basically

in our time period, I thought I thought I thought it was a brand new kind of comedy to

watch you choose the kind of topics that I would choose for a history show.

You know, we made this show originally with history fans in mind.

I feel like a history fan can can recognize one of his own.

You are a true fan of history, aren’t you?

I mean, in your own private time, in your own choice of of reading materials.

Tell me a little about what Tom reads at home.

I read history for pleasure.

Now, that being said, I’m not I’m not a scholarly reader.

I don’t I don’t read tomes.

I have a confession to make.

I’ve never been able to make it too deep into the rise and fall of the Third Reich just

because the numbers and the math start driving me nuts.

I I don’t think I need to invest in the wheat productions from Saxony during the

Weimar Republic. It ends up it ends up kind of like burying me.

When I started reading history, I ended up reading historical novels like Mila 18 or

Armageddon, things by Leon Uris that were, you know, turgid melodrama in a lot of

ways, but also ripped right out of the history books.

And so I ended up finding finding out and being enthralled by eras and moments and

periods of history. I now I read a lot of Don Miller’s work, the building of the

Supreme City, for example, which is about architecture in New York.

I have read an awful lot of an awful lot of World War Two stuff.

I read an awful lot about communism.

I read an awful lot about East Germany.

And I’m I’m currently let me tell you this.

I’ve currently picked up finally.

I’ve had a copy of it for a long time.

But Howard Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States of America.

Because as a guy who has been reading history for pleasure and enlightenment and

entertainment, I’m 64, I’ve been doing I’ve been reading and like that really since I

was like 13, 14 years old, when I started reading for pleasure, I was reading history.

I was not aware, Dan, of the Tulsa Black Wall Street destruction in 1921.

Oh, yeah, OK. Yeah, yeah.

I had never been taught that in American history.

I had never heard about it.

I literally learned of it just last May in an article in The New York Times.

And I thought, this is a huge gap.

This is a this is a massive whiff, a miss of something that would have altered my

consciousness. Let me go back just a little bit farther.

When we when we took on doing.

David McCullough’s John Adams.

Yes. For HBO.

Graham Yost, who I’d worked with on two previous miniseries, he called up and said,

look, I can’t do this, but you might want to take a look at this, because I think

there’s a miniseries in this thing.

And really, John Adams with what the Tea Party and the Three Corner Hats and the

buckles on their shoes.

Haven’t we seen this stuff before?

He said, just read it, just read it, just read it, just read it.

So, OK. So I read it when I got up to the to the place where as as an attorney in the

Commonwealth of Massachusetts, John Adams took on the case of defending the British

soldiers that fired on the mob that became known as the Boston Massacre.

And nobody wanted that gig, by the way.

Nobody wanted the gig.

Nobody wanted to take it.

It was unpopular and everybody hated the lobster backs.

I love that term.

Right. John Adams said, if we let the mob rule.

We’re doomed. That is not the that that that is the very rule of law is based on

certain respects.

For each other, among other for authority, but it is the opposite of letting a mob

decide what goes on.

So he takes on that case.

I’m going to say there’s a dozen British soldiers who just want to excuse me, just

want to go. They just they just want to go home.

This cold, miserable country where everybody hates them.

Can we please can we please go home?

Not only does John Adams defend them, but he he wins their acquittal by way of the rule

of law. If I had been told somewhere, I think the first time I American history was a

subject that we had to take a requirement.

I believe I was 10 in fifth grade and then again in eighth grade at any other time in

the course between between then and now, if I had been told the future second

president of the United States, the future first president of the United States, one

of the authors of the Declaration of Independence had defended British soldiers

for firing upon a mob for being responsible for the Boston massacre and proved there

proved the circumstances that led to their acquittal and being sent home.

My head would have exploded.

It would have been it would have been it would have been an example.

Exaggeration of the very the very reason why certain things are written down on

parchment and accepted as these truths that we hold to be self-evident, the the

workings of we the people in order to make a more perfect union.

It would have it would have influenced me in a huge way.

And perhaps I would have been pissed off.

Hey, wait a minute.

British are the bad guys, right?

How can we how can we get why would we celebrate them getting up?

Because it’s a rule of law.

All right.

Take two to talk about this take to the representative of the United States of

America, first ambassador to the court of St.

James, a place where if things had been different, he would have been brought in

chains and hung by the king of England.

He now has to John Adams, future vice president of the United States, co-author

of the Declaration of Independence, father of another U.S.

president, father of another U.S.

president, both of them one termers.

Thank you very much.

He now because because we are no longer an English colony and protected not only

by the crown, but also by the crown’s empirical navy, the big empire of the

Navy. America now has to go and they essentially negotiate all the deals that

were already made by England because they’re their own country.

So one of the things he has to do is go talk to the Barbary pirates who have

enslaved American sailors that they take on the ship in North Africa.

Yes. In North Africa.

That’s where they did. They kidnapped a bunch of people.

They got tribute. And that’s how they make money.

They built in hostages.

They had built in kidnapping.

And the John Adams goes and speaks to the emir of the of Moorish North Africa.

And it says and he says, look, we are a poor country, your graciousness, we can’t

afford to keep buying our sailors out of your your kidnapping bondage.

So you’re going to have to we got to work something out here.

And the emir says, there’s nothing to work out here, you pay us the money.

And John Adams says, as I said, once again, we cannot afford it.

And secondly, we do not want to get into a fight with you.

And the emir of the Barbary pirates says, oh, listen, dude, you do not want to get

into a fight with us because we don’t play by your rules.

We don’t take prisoners.

We don’t negotiate.

We don’t surrender.

We don’t sign a piece of paper that says we’re done.

Let’s stop the fighting.

You win. We we don’t do that.

We’ll just keep killing you and terrorizing you till the cows come home.

And the end result, of course, is from the halls of Montezuma to the shores of

Tripoli, they they did have to mix it up.

Those two lessons alone, by the way, you know what they were you know what they

were enjoying at the time of that conversation between the ambassador of the

United States and the emir of Tunisia, the more I don’t know what they were

having a nice cup of coffee.

They were enjoying they were enjoying to find tobacco products from the state of

Virginia. They were enjoying the bounty of the new world right there between the

two of them over that brand of branded diplomacy.

So that’s the you know, you read that kind of stuff and everything comes alive

and it has absolutely nothing to do with the the bushels of wheat that was pulled

out of Saxony during the Weimar Republic.

It’s got some other stuff that’s attached.

No, but I think what you’re saying is and don’t let me put words in your mouth, but

I think it applies to all of us who are fans of history is that, you know, you grow

up with a two dimensional version of history, especially with our heroes.

We shrink them into into cardboard cutouts.

We we we we we sand off all the rough edges and all the unpalatable stuff and turn

them into symbols. And then when you are able, like adding water to restore them

again to their three dimensional human qualities, they become so much more

relatable and interesting.

And the fact that and, you know, this is the most obvious part that’s still the part

that you have to remember, the fact that they don’t know how it’s going to turn out.

Oh, yeah. You know, and for us, it’s such a safe thing.

We know there’s a happy ending.

We know he becomes John Adams at the end of this story.

Story would have ended differently had he been taken prisoner, you know, and and

beheaded by the by the head of the Barbary Pirates.

I mean, and he doesn’t know that’s not going to happen.

So for me, I think, you know, it’s there’s a great line.

I wrote it down. And every time I quote anything on the program, I have to be careful

because someone will say something like that’s actually not a real quote.

So I had to. But I wrote it down and it’s a Latin line from from ancient times.

It says it will give you pleasure to look back on this scene of suffering.

And it’s a reminder to me that it would be very interesting to go back and talk to

somebody, say, from the Second World War, say a refugee and go to them and say,

listen, you have no idea how many tickets we’re going to be able to sell to the

movie about the experiences you’re going through right now.

You know, I mean, I think there’s almost an obscene aspect to that.

Right. We’re going to be entertained by the most traumatic, terrible thing you’ve

ever gone through. And the only thing that makes me feel like we can get away with

it is that those people themselves were fascinated by stories from earlier times

that were based of the same sorts of components, you know, human beings dealing

with struggle and overcoming the many things that were thrown that way, not knowing

how it’s going to turn out.

And it is exactly rooted in today’s behavior.

History shows us the human condition as as we can observe it right now across the

street. The great novelist Alan First, who I’ve read, he writes essentially World

War Two era espionage books.

Fascinating, great stuff.

Novels, OK, but set firmly rooted in real places, real dates, real times, real

upheaval. All of his books, I’m saying all I’m I may not be 100 percent, but the

ones that I’ve read are all set prior to the Battle of Stalingrad.

Why? I heard him say this on the radio and it made me jump up and down in my car,

which I don’t recommend. But he said, why are all your why are all your books set

before the Battle of Stalingrad?

And he said. Until the Nazis gave up the ghost in Stalingrad, and this is why your

your ghosts of the Ost front really kicked my butt in all the one hundred and

fourteen hours of you talking.

That’s one of the shorter series, too, unfortunately, until the Nazis began their

retreat and were captured there at Stalingrad.

No one had any idea that they were beatable.

They had they had taken over their half of the world with relative ease and with

constant terror.

So. You tell me, Stalingrad, they they retreated from Stalingrad in nineteen

forty two, forty three, I think, by the end of it.

Yeah, but forty two is when the battle happened.

Yeah, absolutely right.

OK, so not until nineteen forty three.

So from September of nineteen thirty nine and actually prior to that, until that

moment, the Nazi war machine was invincible.

So until until you get a sense of, hey, wait a minute, they’ve lost there.

And I’m looking at the I’m looking at the map and I’m looking the way things are

going. Holy cow.

They could actually lose this.

They they are defeatable.

And as a matter of fact, they’re they’re they’re losing ground like crazy.

You know what? It might only be a matter of time until Nazi Germany is wiped off

the map, destroyed.

Wow. There’s actually hope.

Until that moment came, a human being, particularly in that sphere of the world,

had three options of how to conduct their lives.

They could either be a hero.

They could be a villain or they could be a coward, a bystander.

And I always whenever I’m in the midst of any of these sagas in any of the midst of

these journeys of history and enlightenment, I always ask myself, gee, what

would I be? Hero, villain, coward.

Wow, I’m not so sure of.

Look, I have hubris, but I’m not so sure of at the end of the push comes the

shove. Am I going to say, hey, look, these are the rules now, guys.

They took over. We got to, you know, do we become a member of the Vichy French or

we do one of the we become one of those kids that suddenly wakes up one day, the

French Republic is collapsed and you have either an option to stay or run down to

the beach, get in a rowboat and and cross the English Channel and keep the fight

going on. We all face moments like that every single day of our lives.

We have some, you know, maybe taken to a ridiculous extreme or maybe not to an

extreme at all of that choice between what our actions are going to going to be

and what how we’re going to view it in years to come.

You know, someday we’ll be all laugh about this.

I’m not. It could be that someday we never talk about any of this because we don’t

want the secrets to come out.

Or it’s too painful a memory.

You know, I used to say that when I talk to veterans, you can almost tell how much

combat and action they saw by how unwilling they are to get into it with you.

I wonder how much our fascination with these sorts of incidences would be

different had we actually experienced the incidences themselves.

I mean, if Tom Hanks had actually fought in the Second World War, as you have in

more than one film, how different then is Tom Hanks’s portrait?

In other words, how much is Tom Hanks exploring a subject that he’s interested

in? Because there is no answer, right?

We don’t know how Tom behaves in the Second World War versus.

And I think, you know, I was trying to think, you know, ahead of time.

It’s funny not to change the subject at all, but I was going trying to do my

research for this program.

And I went and saw interviews with you that you’d done in the past where you

talked about the celebrity mule train and all the and all the questions you

normally get asked. And so I wrote them all down and thought it would be funny to

just go through every one of those questions.

So actually, it just it but it’s funny because how many of them get into this

thing about what’s so interesting about this topic that you continue?

Because people ask me, my wife says to me all the time, you can’t even I have to

walk out of the there was the Jeffrey Epstein series was on the other day on

Netflix or whatever. And she’s watching and I have to walk out of the room every

two seconds because I can’t handle what they’re talking about.

And she says, how is a guy who talks about war all day long?

But you can’t you can’t you can’t stay in the room during this.

And I said, I don’t know what the difference is, but I think it has something to

do with unanswered questions about how we would be maybe in those situations.

You used to read about the veterans who always wondered about, OK, how will I

behave? Will I be a coward when the bullets first start out?

How how will that crucible in my life be when I hit the beach?

Had Tom Hanks been in these situations for real, as many of the Second World War

era actors were who then came back and had to portray the Sands of Iwo Jima or

whatever? How much do you think your portrayal would be different and how much

would you be still interested in exploring these questions?

Do you think it’s an unknowable question?

But, you know, there’s a I’ll tell you a story that that which I don’t know,

because, again, it’s a combination of hubris and desire.

You know, I would like to I would like to seduce everybody by saying, oh, I know

exactly what I had no idea.

But here’s a here’s a great story.

And I some of it is apocryphal.

I’m sorry to say, but this is a fact.

My friend Ron Howard was was in a movie.

But Lee Marvin and there was gunplay involved.

Lee Marvin was a great guy.

He was he was hilarious.

He was a gregarious. He got the drill.

He knew that it was, you know, part leaning into the truth and part a racket.

You know, the movie is the movie biz.

But he was a great guy until the night gunfire scene came.

And he was not the same man, perhaps because he had been drinking, but he was

not the same man when it came down to shooting this stuff, the gunfight, the

muzzle flashes, the bang.

I got you because he says, oh, you’re all pretending here.

You’re all pretending with your little guns.

Now, that’s one story that I know for I heard that from the horse’s mouth.

Here’s a story that I’ve heard in in happenstance.

And I’m just going to assume that it’s true.

All right, Lee Marvin is on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, right?

Yeah. And, you know, he’s funny and he’s Lee Marvin and he’s intimidating and he’s

all that and he’s been in the Dirty Dozen and he’s been in all these big red one,

all of those. He’s Lee goddamn Marvin.

All right. So Johnny mentioned something about being a hero.

You know, somehow the word hero is mentioned.

Johnny Carson says, well, you’re a hero.

Lee, you’re a war hero.

You served in the Marines.

And he says, I’m not a I’m not a war hero, Johnny.

I’m a guy who got shot in the ass.

But I will tell you who is a war hero.

I believe it was Iwo Jima, forgive me if I’m wrong, but just say it’s Iwo Jima

because it can stand in for Peleliu, Guadalcanal, Okinawa.

Pinion, Kwajalein, it could stand in for all of those island battles in World War

Two. But he was a Marine and he did get wounded.

He did get shot. He got a purple heart, et cetera, in combat.

And he said, I’ll tell you who’s a hero.

The beach master at Iwo Jima was a hero.

That was a man who was unarmed and his job was to stand up on the beach under fire

from the from the defending Japanese forces, waving red flags in order to guide the

landing craft in to their appropriate landing sites.

So that the invasion could continue, disgorging their attacking Marines and then his

job as the beach master was to communicate with signal flags, with semaphores to the

pilots of these small boats all under fire.

He said, now, that man was a hero and that man’s name was Sergeant Bob Keisham.

Do you know who Bob Keisham is?

Isn’t he the Captain Kangaroo or something?

He was Captain Kangaroo.

He was Clarabelle the Clown on Howdy Doody.

Oh, my gosh.

That’s some therapy working itself out after the war right there, isn’t it?

Well, it is it is some aspect of that generation who says, hey, first of all, we all

signed up for for the duration plus six months.

There were a bajillion of us.

Secondly, all of us saw if you were in combat, you all went through something.

You all saw something, etc.

And thirdly, there’s that great there’s that great line from the best years of our

lives when Dana Andrews has been pulled down out of the derelict B-17 that’s being

demolished and turned into material for model homes.

And the guy says, hey, you get down from there.

And Dana Andrews comes out just reliving it.

Oh, yeah. Well, when you fly boys are up there doing it, I was down on the ground in

the tanks. Dana Andrews said, hey, listen, brother, I’d love to hear your war stories

if I have if I ever have the time.

They all had war stories.

And theirs were no different than others.

And those guys that did indeed, you know, faced it, you know, I don’t want to mention

the names, but I know I know of actors, veteran actors who passed away, who killed the

enemy with their bare hands.

In foxholes.

Because they had to keep moving, how do you go through that and then come back and

either tell about it or laugh about it or view it as some sort of anecdote?

That is that is from the past, it’s just or an entertainment vehicle, right?

A crowd pleaser, an audience applause, a prompter.

You know, that’s one of the things and I was having a hard time coming up with specific

questions about your wonderful film Greyhound, because I didn’t want to give away any

spoilers and everything I was going to ask about sort of led to a spoiler.

I do want to say, though, one of the things that really grabbed a hold of me and that I

got right away was because and you just alluded to it was that, you know, we celebrate

and always have the guys who hit the beaches at Iwo Jima and everything.

But but, you know, always in war, they talk about the snake, right?

The head of the snake or the combat troops, the tail of the snake or all the people that

it takes to keep the combat troops, you know, with bullets and food and all the things

that they need to do their jobs.

And the more modern the warfare, the longer the tail of the snake gets.

The number of people that it took to get the Second World War soldiers to where they

could fight and be the head of the snake, you’re playing the role of one of these people

that essentially is, for lack of a better word, one of the many millions and millions of

functionaries who kept the I mean, the book that the movie is based on, the novel is

called The Good Shepherd.

And that’s what the destroyer escorts are for these convoys.

They are shepherds.

They are people who who who guard the logistical supply train, and they’re not the

people you normally think of as hitting the beach at Iwo Jima.

It’s a different kind of heroism, isn’t it?

It is. It’s delivering the mail through.

Yes, yes.

That’s what it is.

Through through a maelstrom that that could take your life, that you make the wrong

turn, you make the wrong decision, you make the wrong assumption if you’re if you if

you’re so foolish as to live by assumptions.

Guess what? You have made the critical mistake of your life in that.

Now, our movie is set in nineteen forty two.

There is there is a couple of major buys in it, one of them being that there’s a

there’s a there’s a ocean liner that’s been converted and there’s five thousand, you

know, fresh troops to it.

And this is all historical.

That happened a lot. Yeah, yeah, yeah, it did.

And at any given moment, there would be 40 convoys crossing the North Atlantic, not

just one, not just two.

They didn’t have all their eggs in one basket.

They were all different sizes made up of ships from all the Allied navies, the Poles,

the Norwegians, the Canadians, anybody who had a ship that you could load up with

anything from bayonets to raw iron ingots, coal, cans of tinned beef, screwdrivers,

socks, anything that was desperately needed, not just by the the populace of Great

Britain, but by the soldiers that were going to someday take on take on the Nazi

hordes themselves, was delivered there by these ships, slow, rust, buckety ships.

I think I think your top speed, you could only go as fast as the slowest ship in your

convoy. Captain Krauss and Greyhound are protecting thirty seven ships in a convoy.

The slowest of them can probably only manage about 14 knots, so that’s the speed

which which they are crossing the North Atlantic, heavy seas, wintertime, nighttime,

twenty four hours a day, zigzagging in order to hopefully either to not be not be

found out or to evade the Nazi submarines, of which there are dozens and dozens and

dozens out there looking looking for targets in order to sink every time they sink

any ship. It’s a plus for them to sink a ship with with troops.

Great. Sink a ship with a jeep.

Great. Sink a ship with tires or barrels of castor oil, whatever.

Great. That’s a that that’s a win.

So the guys who are in charge of that are over on board, the cook on board that one of

those ships, the guy who does the laundry.

The African-American messmates who, because of segregation, are relegated to those

duties, except when General Quarters are sounded and then they run off and man their

posts. All those all those guys are literally floating potential casualties that

could disappear in the wink of an eye, drown, be blown up, never be seen ever again.

And what have they been doing for how did they serve in the war, daddy?

Well, I made sure that there was enough potatoes served to our crew if the seas

allowed us to boil them in hot water, which often was not the case.

That that look, I’m never I usually when I get something from the marketing

department, they say, oh, here’s the tag line for for your movie.

I kind of go, OK, all right.

That’s there’s a little hyperbole in there, guys.

I think you I think you’re ratcheting it up a little.

But in this case, you know, it is it was let’s not you can argue more dangerous than

the front. Let’s just say as dangerous as your your your the odds of you dying at sea,

just being a guy on a boat whose job it is to protect a bunch of other slow moving boats

was the same.

It’s somewhere somewhere between wildly out of your favor and possibly in your

favor. You’re not a combat soldier until you are in that situation.

Right. So so let me talk a little bit about the screenplay, because you wrote that.

And and let me say as a guy who who my dad used to say he could he could always know

how the movie was going to go because he could tell how it was cut.

And there’s always there’s always a mad lib quality to these kind of films where you

could almost write a template for how they’re going to go.

And yours wasn’t like that.

You caught me off guard several times.

One thing when I was trying to learn how to write columns once upon a time, they used

to talk about how you should take out every word that you didn’t need.

And by the end, you had this very tight sort of thing that says everything you want to

say doesn’t diminish the story at all, but is is as few words as possible.

I thought this was an amazingly snappy script.

I remember when it ended, I turned around, said I couldn’t believe that we’d already

gone through. It didn’t drag for a second.

And if this was a wine and you were talking about the notes of chocolate and a little

bit of oak, I mean, this was this had overtones of sink the Bismarck to me.

And some, you know, run silent, run deep, but also some of some jaws mixed with some

of this idea of I mean, you were able and this is what I thought was so snappy.

You were able to take me into these.

And we love doing this on this history show, too, where we’ll talk about the moral

quandaries and and and awful choices that people are put into because they’re just

sort of trapped in the gears of history.

Normally, there takes a lot of setup to really get to that moment.

And you put me in that moment three or four times in this film.

And I found myself in it without any setup at all.

I mean, the genius of being able to write it.

So I was in this moral quandary and all you had to give me was look in the distance.

Your character sees something in the distance.

We look into your eyes.

It would have taken me 15 minutes of conversation and thousands of words to set up

that same scene.

Do you enjoy the screenplay parts?

Because I’m getting tired of all of your talent.

Actors, screenplay, executive, I mean, it was you took this from a novel, right?

Not to steal one of your four questions from the celebrity mule train list, but tell me

a little about coming up with this and deciding you wanted to write the screenplay.

I mean, it was a novel, right?

A C.S. Forrester piece.

Yes, I purchased I purchased the novel from a bookstore that has since gone out of

business on Madison Avenue in New York City because it was it was a used bookstore and

not a used bookstore, but it had collectibles, you know, in the front window.

And I saw this thing, C.S.

Forrester, I was aware of from Horatio Horn.

Right. Okay.

Which I never read any Horatio Horn.

Was it? Oh, that’s a guy who wrote Horatio Horn.

And it was the original cover and it was a painting, a drawing of this very old

gray haired guy on the railing of a ship with his tie askew, the wind blowing in his

face, his jacket undone.

He just looks bent.

Beaten on the horizon behind him, a ship is tilting up, smoking and sinking beside him

was some formless figure in a helmet that is sending out a signal on a on a signal lamp.

And I I said, who’s that?

Who’s that guy?

Who is that guy?

I’m used to.

That, you know, the trope of the some some some form be somewhere between Don Amici and

Robert Mitchum as being the guy in command of the boat.

Yes. Some battle between Burt Lancaster and Clark Gable.

You know, I’m used to that, that that I’ve never seen some old silver haired guy who

looks like he shouldn’t friggin be there.

So picked it up.

As of page two, I was enmeshed in Forrester’s book that tells the tale of these of these

the sequence of days from inside Ernie Krause’s head.

All of his thoughts, the math that he does in his head, the geometry, the the the

sensibility of when he has to call off the general quarters so that sailors who have

been in their posts for the last five hours can go to the bathroom, maybe get some rest,

have some hot food if it’s possible to serve hot food.

What it means as far as the time goes, how much time do they have to straighten up the

column? Because not all those ships can make the zigzags at the same time.

Do you know when when when the convoys the convoys were were told when to make a zigzag

either by a prescribed moment of time or by seeing the certain proper signal flags rise

up on the mast of the Commodore’s ship.

That’s how they weren’t said, OK, convoy, time to make the turn that that did not

happen. They just understood that, oh, we have to make the turn now.

So 37 ships making a turn to the left or the right by a certain number of degrees is a

recipe for chaos.

It is literally sheep in a field following the cue of each other.

And on the periphery are the dogs that keep them in and in order, the good shepherds,

the good shepherds.

So all everything that happened in the it’s right down to the quality of of a cup of

coffee or or the frustration that he doesn’t get to have a full bite of what a

sandwich is or of his wolfing down a meal in a matter of three minutes because he knows

that if he doesn’t have the calories in his body, he’s not going to be able to think

clearly. And when the time comes up, he won’t be able to do the math or respond.

Along with that came comes the fact that we know that we know we won the war, right?

Yes. And we have seen many, many times a sonar guy saying, wait a minute, what is it?

I think I hear something or radar coming on, going bloop, bloop, bloop, that’s showing

us where something is. Radar, particularly in 1942, ridiculously complicated and and

glitchy. Yeah.

Sometimes sometimes all you saw was the crest of the waves, the 20 foot waves on your

radar screen. You saw nothing else except patterns of these waves, even down to the

depth charges that in 1942 were bulky, nearly boxy.

They were not streamlined.

So each one of them sank at a varyingly slow rate.

Later on, they had streamlined depth charges.

They had hedgehogs and all these other all these other weaponry.

But in 1942, they had essentially they were dumping explosive garbage cans into the

water, waiting for them to float down to a certain depth and then exploding and maybe

damaging something that could be there, could not be there.

I’ve listened to sonar recordings, training, training records, literally 45 records

that you put a needle on for and from from the era.

And it sounds something like this.

Example six.

A engine running at 14 knots, screw noises.

Example seven.

Torpedo on approach.

And you’re going to tell me that in primitive 1942 headphones, earbuds, a la, you

know, FDR’s era, that you’re going to be able to figure out what that is over a over a

hydrophone that’s also fighting waves and and what have you.

The the inaccuracy of all of this stuff preyed on Colonel on Ernie Krause’s mind, and

he had to take it all into account.

So in the book there it was.

So adapting it was a fever dream for me.

I just said, OK, I’m only doing this for myself because, damn it, no one else would

take the job. It’s very, very frustrating.

I don’t want to do this homework.

You know, I don’t I don’t I don’t have to sit around and do all this.

I was hoping I was going to get one of my, you know, my great writer pals to take one

look at it and just say, oh, turn me loose.

First of all, nobody wants to do any anybody else’s work but their own.

And no one wants to be, by and large, they don’t want to be locked into the procedure of

adapting something that you have to stay pretty adhered to.

So I ended up taking off and I said, I am going to pick every cherry off this tree that

I’m in love with and I’m going to put it down here on paper.

And it was thick.

It had animation.

It had mind’s eye demonstrations.

I wanted to try to to to communicate somehow that Krauss was thinking about where

these submarines could possibly be by having swastikas dancing on the waves of where

he thought they might be.

Oh, that’s interesting.

Now, the problem with that is, is, first of all, it blows the budget up because that’s

just our special, our special effects budget here.

You know, when you’re trying to make all these ships in the sea and everything look

like photo reality, that requires a fidelity that ain’t cheap.

So that was one aspect of it.

But coming also into anybody else who read it, to me, it was like, don’t you see?

That’s like, that’s like the imagining.

That’s that’s what that’s what’s haunting Krauss himself.

And almost to a to a to a person, everybody who read it down at the office, as well as

Aaron Schneider, who was the director, director of it, he he said this, you’re

giving it away, you’re showing the shark.

Yeah, yeah, totally.

And I went, damn you to hell with your logic of of all this.

So there was that there was an awful lot of things.

And the paring away of all those things is what is required when you’re making the

leap. I went, I adapted a book and put it in into a hundred and twenty some odd page

screenplay that remains only a blueprint for what has to be the cinematic narrative

that is visual and that has to be.

I was lucky in that we got to be as cryptic as we are.

Because the uninitiated and let’s just call that let’s call the uninitiated any

executive at the studio who sees the movie will say, can you help us understand a

little bit of what the danger is here, what the stakes are?

And of course, you know, I have to bite my tongue saying, do you honestly not

understand what the stakes are?

We just want to know what what what the jeopardy really is here.

Can you flesh it out a little bit more?

Can you can you give us some hints as to what the conflict is?

This war is a big thing.

This is a big war, right?

We’re talking about. Yeah, yeah.

So I would say, oh, yeah, you know what?

We’re going to add a we’re going to add a line so that one of the lookouts will say

this. Captain, there’s a U-boat on the surface, they might be trying to sink us with

one of their torpedoes.

And I said, OK, we’re not going to have those kind of lines.

We had, you know, I was schooled in a lot of this stuff by other directors that I

worked with and Ronnie Allard on on Apollo 13 when we were putting it all together.

There’s this concept of gimbal lock.

Gimbal lock, you do not you do not want to command module on the way to the moon to

experience gimbal lock.

It’s a really bad thing.

It essentially negates all of your navigator.

You can’t tell where you are if the three gimbals lock gimbal lock.

Bad thing.

Ron said, how are we going to know that’s a bad thing?

And we said, because we’re going to say it in a real serious manner.

Hey, do anything.

Make sure you don’t make sure you don’t go into gimbal lock.

That’s all you need. We don’t have to talk about the three gyros that handle the X,

the Y and the Z.

Actually, we don’t have to go through.

We don’t have to go break down and do show schematics of the navigational propulsion

system in the command.

So we were able to enjoy the same sort of faith in in in being cryptic, as well as

letting the nomenclature and the procedure define itself as we went along.

The truth is about the pilot house under these circumstances is the only two people

that move around on who are permanently on watch is the commander, the captain and

the talker who follows him everywhere.

The talker communicating by the most primitive form of electronics imaginable.

He plugs in his headset into an outlet wherever he is standing and stands right

next to the captain to repeat everything he hears over his headphones and then to

repeat into the headphones anything the captain says to him.

Now, that means you end up hearing stuff from sonar.

You end up hearing stuff from the radar.

You end up hearing stuff from all over the ship that comes out of the voice and the

face of the actor who is playing the talker.

Everybody else stands stock still.

The helmsman does not move away from that steering wheel, the telegraph operator, the

guy who operates the engine, who sends the, you know, forward back speed all ahead

two thirds. He stands right next to the engine telegraph, the the guy who writes

down the plot, who keeps the right.

Nobody moves for four hours at a time.

And the nomenclature that goes off, the dialogue that goes back to when they said,

how can how can how do we know what a con is?

How can they how can they keep saying, I have a con, you have a con?

What does that mean?

And he said, you will you will figure out over time that one of the most important

things for everybody to know on the bridge is who’s in charge of steering the boat.

So when someone comes on, when the captain comes on and says, Mr.

Harbert, I have the con, that means they don’t listen to anybody else except the

captain. And when the captain says, Mr.

Harbert, you have the con, Mr.

Harbert says, yes, sir, I have the con.

So everybody knows you listen to Mr.

Harbert for all those.

Right. So there’s never a question.

And that’s the kind of stuff that becomes number one, the language of it.

I hearken it back to seeing like the Seven Samurai, Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai in the

original Japanese. And you’re reading the subtitles, but about three minutes and you

think you’re hearing the Japanese.

You know, you think you speak Japanese because it’s all it’s all matched up so

perfectly. It’s the same thing with this.

You figure out that, oh, oh, I actually understand the rules now a little bit

better. What’s going on outside of that?

God bless C.S.

Forrester. He had absolutely no backstory whatsoever.

He did not go and he doesn’t go to the Admiralty to show those people pushing around

the little model boats as they take messages from all around.

There’s no scene in Washington, D.C.

There’s not even a scene on the Commodore’s boat or on one of the submarines.

It all takes place, if not in Krause’s head, on board the bridge and the decks

inside of the Greyhound itself, which is actually a code name for a ship called the

USS Keeling.

But you’d be amazed at how troublesome it can be to refer to the one ship in your

movie by two different names.

So it all just they all just became code names.

This is the Greyhound. One of the one of the great things that I did not know, I did

not know this until I read it, was the talk between ships.

You don’t want to talk on the radio when you’re when you’re at sea like this, you

don’t want to be constantly getting on the radio and say, hey, I got a problem with

this. And can you hurry up and get to me there?

And where are you? You don’t want to do that because the enemy is listening to

anything that comes in.

But how do you have that instantaneous conversation between the four shepherds, the

four ships that are that are tasked with this?

Well, it was a little thing called talk between ships.

Yes. Which was it?

Which was a radio.

Very short language.

It was VHF line of sight, meaning that if a ship was on the other side of the horizon,

you couldn’t talk to it.

So you got on very quickly, you spoke in a more or less an abbreviated code, go back

to station. What is your status?

Things like that. So that even if and by the way, the Nazis were listening, they were

sitting around on their radios when they were up on the surface, just going back and

forth across the VHF spectrum to find a wavelength that the talk between ships was

using. And then they’d land on that, listen in for as long as they could.

And then they would periodically change in order to in order just to in order to to

monkey around in order to make put in some some guesswork.

I didn’t know that.

I thought it was just, you know, Dan, we the average American knows most of its naval

terminology and and strategy from watching episodes of Star Trek.

Oh, I wish you said that.

I almost brought that up.

I said there’s a little bit of Star Trek in this one of the real combat episodes, you

know, hailing frequencies, Mr.

Chekov. Romulans coming.

Yes. Romulans, we have this, you know, there’s Spock over his little blue light visor

thing saying, hmm, he’s got the sonar and the radar report saying it might be this.

It might be that it might be over here.

The Romulans use a cloaking device.

We’re not sure where they are.

Here’s another thing. Here’s another thing.

And this is, again, nobody knows this stuff because we we have been accepting the

tropes of the cinema of this in which is just too hard to explain something as basic as

this, except for probably Wolfgang Peterson’s Dust Boat, which is the granddaddy of all

these things. You watch Dust Boat, you realize that, oh, my God, man, they had to take all

that food with them at any given time.

One of the toilets was filled up with bread and sausages.

That’s right.

They did not have a lot of room in this place.

One of the things that we that is so hard to communicate was incredibly important is

that when a Nazi submarine went down under, went under the water, it slowed down to to

only six knots.

They couldn’t manage much more than six or seven knots.

So on the surface, they can keep up with a ship.

They can keep up with a convoy.

They just got to stay out of sight.

They just got to stay on the other side.

They got to stay muted.

Anytime they go underwater, they can only go about a third as fast as they could on the

surface. Nobody knows that.

Everybody thinks, oh, they just, you know, that’s how they got there.

They went underwater and they found, no, no.

Once they sighted them, then they started going back up and down.

And they could not stay underwater for very long.

Why? Because their engines were powered by batteries.

They were the you know, there’s a famous submarine plant in the United States.

It’s called the Electric Boat Company because they were electric boats.

When they went underwater, batteries, electricity powered their screws and drove them

through the water.

Batteries go dead, especially, you know, World War Two era Nazi batteries from 1939.

I’m not, you know, I don’t know how long they could tune in the radio.

Eventually they have to be recharged.

And the only way to recharge them is to go back up to the surface where your exhaust

from your diesel engines can not only power your boat, but also power the generators that

recharge your batteries.

It ends up becoming such a convoluted thing that if you want to ignore it, you can.

But you’re cheating the authenticity of all the serendipity of the one damn thing

after another aspect of the drama.

So there’s what what could we throw into the mix there dialogue wise that would

communicate somehow that submarines, when they go underwater, have to go really slow.

There’s one line that Aaron and I and Stephen Graham came up with when we were doing

it, when we were mapping out, how do we communicate this stuff?

And Ernie Krauss says to Charlie, you know, can you plot a course on this heading at

six knots and give us a point of intersection?

All right. This much time going this, them going this speed, us going our speed, we

should be able to find them in, you know, like six miles.

Wow, that’s a lot of math.

If you really had to explain it outside of a couple of visuals, you know, we show

literally a grease pencil and a protractor and a ruler on a map.

If you had to really get into it, my gosh, it would just take absolutely forever.

And so I said, we we do it and the audience, the audience will catch up.

I’ll tell you where you kicked my rear end.

And it’s it’s not a place that it would have kicked my rear end if I was watching

Platoon in the 1980s and I was a 20 year old.

Right. You kicked my rear end when I’m watching it.

And the the captain, of course, is almost a father figure.

But the the sailors on this ship, so many of them look like kids.

You really can.

And what was great about that is after it punched me in the gut and I was thinking to

myself, I still want to know where my 18 year old is.

You know, at midnight, I want a phone call.

And these people on this ship are no older than that.

And you’re looking at them like as a dad going, if that’s my kid.

And, you know, it was like like flying with the World War two guys.

They’re all like 23 years old.

If you told me my pilot on my on my Delta flight today is 23 years old.

I’m not going on that flight.

And I’m watching this captain and he is like these these children who turned out

to be our grandparents, you know, 45 years later are there on this ship.

And they’re looking to this one guy who’s on his first mission across with the

convoy to protect them and to make the right decisions when he caught between a

rock and a hard place.

That’s almost the transcendent.

That’s the historical experience right there of people put in the crux of the

moment, isn’t it, where there’s no good decisions and they’re worried they

screwed up. And when they screwed up, people die.

Not to quote that Jack Nicholson line, but but I mean, that to me in that movie

made made that person, that captain of that ship, the everyman for me.

And and this could be you.

And what would you do in this situation?

And how many times would you replay it in your head for the rest of your days?

You know, you really made me feel that the that that that gray haired old man

that I saw on the cover of the book is what she is.

Forrester wrote. Ernie Krause graduated from the United States Naval Academy in

the early 1920s when there was no war.

He has been in the Navy ever since, and he has never risen above fitted and

retained that.

That’s what every one of his promotional ratings have been.

Well, here’s the good news.

You’re staying in the Navy.

The bad news is you’re fitted and retained, meaning you’re not getting an extra

stripe. You’re not jumping up a pay grade.

You’re staying exactly where you are.

So Ernie Krause has written a desk, carried a briefcase to him, served on maybe

some ships, but not in a wartime capacity.

He was probably in charge of keeping track of an awful lot of things.

So at the top of the top of the movie, we do have we do have a one, quote, unquote,

flashback scene, which is right after Pearl Harbor.

A guy who is on his way out of the Navy, probably because of lack of need as well

as lack of opportunity, instead is suddenly one of the most important men in

uniform. He’s got he’s got close to 20 years of naval experience.

As well as rank.

So he is now going to be given his own ship because they need a guy in charge of

it. He’s going to have to go and drill a crew in training tactics.

A bunch of other people who, a bunch of other kids who have just signed up.

They signed up the day after Monday, December 8th, 1941.

They went in and joined up in the Navy.

They’re all kids. He is in, you know, I’m let me just say this.

I play somebody who’s like 48.

All right. He is not just a if you were 28 years old in the armed services in in

World War Two, you know what they called you?

Old man. They called you pop.

Yeah. So when they’re making references to the old man on board Greyhound, they

are literally talking about an old man.

And not only is he an old man, he’s an old man who’s never done this before.

All of this stuff has only been theory in his head.

Theory in schoolwork, classroom work, book work.

He’s been at sea to a degree, but not like this and not not charged like that.

Aaron Schneider, the director, the conversations we always had was we wanted

to have I wanted to have four different watches.

We had three because I believe it was a watch was made up of everybody who was

crewing their position for four hours, four hours on, eight hours off, four hours

on, eight hours off, four hours on, eight hours off.

And so we needed fresh faces to help communicate, number one, how how much time

has passed. But number two, to escape that Star Trek trope of every time Captain

Kirk walked on the bridge, it was always the same crew, Uhuru and, you know,

Ensign Chekov. We needed guys who looked different, like the faces of the talkers,

them themselves. And we have I think we have two or three different talkers, the

guys who are the helmsman.

So we needed a parade and they were all look, I don’t know how old they actually

are, but they all looked like they were 13.

They did. They did.

And and that is accurate.

I think there’s, you know, Rob Morgan, who plays George Cleveland, one of the

Messmates. He is a he is a career Navy man.

He is an African-American who’s been in the Navy probably for, you know, he’s

probably going for if he doesn’t have his 20 years already, he’s going to stay in

it because it’s a great job.

You know, Charlie Cole, my executive officer, he’s older.

He’s a career Navy man and and probably the doctor, you know, the ship’s doctor.

You know, he went through medical school.

So he’s an older fellow.

But everybody else on board the ship.

It’s probably average age has got to be 24 years old, and that could be as young as

18 or even as young as 17 for somebody who cheated on their enlistment, which a

lot of people did. Yes.

Listen, man, it’s it’s what a joy.

I appreciate you coming on.

And it’s a great movie.

And if we could ever help you promote anything again or or for whatever reason,

keep my keep my contact handy in the Rolodex, the old digital Rolodex.

Would you? I will do that.

Indeed. Thank you so much for having this first time caller on your show.

I really enjoy it. Take care of yourself and thank you so much.

Take care, Dan. Bye bye.

My thanks to Tom Hanks for coming on the program, he really does sort of live up to

his reputation as the nicest guy in Hollywood and the movie is great.

Greyhound, you can catch it on Apple TV plus and you can follow us, by the way, at

Hardcore History on Twitter.

We’ll keep you updated any time we release any history content and, you know, hope

you all stay safe in these wonderfully uncertain times we’re living in.

Thanks for listening.

Wrath of the Khans, Punic Nightmares, Apache Tears and, of course, Ghost of the

Ostfront, just a few of the classic hardcore history titles available from Dan

Carlin dot com.

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