WWII stories from the field
Special to the Daily
“The War: An Intimate History” is based on the film series produced by Ken Burns that is currently showing on PBS with the same name. Ken writes the introduction to this book as it is the perfect companion piece to his film series. Ken and author Geoffrey have worked together on past projects, most notably the nine-part film series on the American Civil War they put out about 17 years ago.
Ken quotes a sad statistic as part of the driving motivation for this project, that about 1,000 veterans of World War II die each day in America. Not only are the families losing their fathers and grandfathers, the world is losing the direct connection to those people who gave so much to shape the future as we experience it today. My uncle, Les Short, was a gunner on a ship in Pearl Harbor on that fateful day in 1941. He passed away a couple of years ago, but our family will always identify him with his experience in the war as he had shared it with us the best he could.
Les used to give a presentation in grade schools that he would always begin with the lights off, and in that darkness he would throw a pack of firecrackers into a metal trash can, creating total chaos. That is how he brought them into his experience and made sure that everyone, regardless of their age, hung on his every word after that. This insight into the lives of the people, their humanity, is what this book is about.
The other disturbing fact quoted as fuel for this massive project was the overwhelming number of high school seniors thinking that we had fought with Germany against Russia in World War II. This perhaps points to the insignificant place this war is given in current history texts. The role this book takes in helping us all to learn and remember is to tell the story of the war from the perspective of those who did the actual fighting and dying as well as their family members back home waiting for their return. The focus is on around 50 veterans and their families from Luverne, Minn., Sacramento, Calif., Waterbury, Conn.; and Mobile, Ala.
It does not really matter if you are a student of history or just find our collective human experience to be worth remembering, this intimate portrait of those who fought in World War II, told through narrative and a collection of photographs that is both beautiful and disturbing will leave the reader with an experience as if you had heard these stories from a member of your own family.
This book is available at Borders Books in Dillon. Larry Ebersole is available to discuss this review at the store or at Amentalengineer@cs.com.
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