'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare': A New Look at WWII's Hidden Heroes

In an exclusive interview, Nigerian actor Babs Olusanmokun discusses his role in 'The Ministry of Ungentlemanly Warfare,' which reveals the untold contributions of Africans in WWII and reshapes our view of history.

Released in theaters in April and coming to on-demand this week, “The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare” is an action-comedy based on the true, only recently discovered (2016) story of a special group formed during WWII by UK Prime Minister Winston Churchill to fight the Nazis. What had happened was: Churchill discovered that Nazis were refueling submarines on an island off the coast of West Africa, then known as Fernando Po (it’s now called Bioko.) Churchill’s genius but shady idea was to send a group of rogue, not-honorable dudes to infiltrate and hinder said ships with guerilla tactics, thereby cutting off the Nazi’s supplies. The move was kinda sorta illegal––hence the “ungentlemanly” part of the title––but Operation Postmaster ultimately changed how wars are war’d around the world.

Nigerian-born actor Babs Olusanmokun plays Heron, a spy who runs a jumpin’ casino and club on Fernando Po and collaborates with the good-but-shady heroes to help stop the Nazis. Though his character is fictional, Olusamokun says he symbolizes the ways Africans played a part in defeating the Nazis––a story we have heard little, if anything, about ever.

“Real history, as is taught in most educational systems, is untold,” he tells “Just to learn that not too many years ago there was a whole chunk of Africa being used for staging operations…the reality is, Africans are always there in one form or another.”

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He should know. Olusanmokun, who you’ve also seen in “Dune” and “The Book of Clarence,” is the son of a diplomat, and though born in Nigeria, grew up partially in Brazil, lived in Paris a bit, and then after high school, came to New York. His is truly a global outlook and perspective, giving him a unique lens through which he sees the world, Black identity, and of course history.

“We’re always a crucial part of history,” he says. “As somebody that grew up all over, that lack of conditioning and forced conditioning [Black people learn in America] was easier to escape. Even still, you read about the trajectory of slavery, about how as a Black man you could go to WWII and fight for the country and come home and still can't get a mortgage, how essentially Black people have to fight for every single thing.”

At least in “The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare,” Olusamokun gets to put his own smooth, struggle-free twist on an unsavory past. As Heron, Olusanmokun is debonair and fly; he’s dressed stylishly and gives off a sophisticated air. “I modeled him on Paul Robeson, Sidney Poitier, Harry Belefonte, great men of the past that carry themselves a certain way.”

In doing so he gives viewers a new type of Nazi-fighting hero: a proud, wordly African man with agency. He might be fictional, but Heron is absolutely based on real Africans who helped the British topple the Germans and ultimately change history––a story we never heard until now.

“Without a doubt,” he says, “we own this story too.”

“The Ministry Of Ungentlemanly Warfare” arrives on premium video on demand this week.

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