Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Disappearing Stories

(The bulk of this information is from an article in the USA Weekend publication from this past Sunday.)
In September, Ken Burns, the legendary war documentarian, will release a World War II documentary on PBS. This special will be different than other war documentaries in that it will only be interviews with veterans. No war footage, no propaganda, no pretenses; it will only be the voice and memories of those that were there. To get the interviews, Burns sat down with over 500 people that included veterans as well as their spouses. The unique thing about these interviews, is that for some of these men, this was the first time they talked about their time in the war. Ever. Those men weren't part of the "talking is healing" generation, and some never even shared their stories with their wives. They went to war at 18 or 19 because it was the right thing to do (or so they were told,) and then came home and went back to their lives. They saw their friends die and they caused others to die. And they didn't want to talk about it.

Since movies of any genre have more tape than they ever use, only forty of the interviews are used in the documentary. Besides the ones that didn't make the cut, I have to wonder how many more stories are out there in homes across America? According to Burns, there are an estimated 2.9 million WWII veterans and about 1000 pass away every day. And many of them are taking their stories with them.

Both of my Grandpa's served in World War II. My Dad's dad died almost eight years ago. I would have loved to talk to him about the war. Unfortunately, my parents told us from childhood never to ask, it would only upset him. That most likely could have been true, and I understand why they told us that. But my Grandpa and I had a good relationship and I have to wonder whether he would have shared his stories with me. I never had the nerve, or took the time to ask him so now I'll never know. My Mom's Dad is still alive but not doing well. I know he'd talk about whatever I asked him, but now it may be too late. Their stories will be dead with them.

Ken Burns left the article with one question. More of a plea, actually. We are living in the You-Tube age and it seems that everyone has a video recorder. So since almost all of us know at least one WWII veteran, we should take advantage of the time we still have with them and let them tell us their stories while we record them. This needs to be approached with a certain level of tact, but you'd be surprised at how many old people would love to just sit and talk. I want to buy a video camera just to do this.

If you love your freedom, thank a vet. Happy Birthday America.


Blogger Sweet Peripety said...

That's exciting news. We like KB documentaries here. MY gpa served in WW2 and my dad in Vietman.

11:35 AM  
Blogger Adrienne said...

My mom's dad was in Italy during WWII. He was a POW. He died when my mom was 13 and had never discussed it.

A few years back a gentlemen from New York contacted my mom asking for permission to use her dad's name in a book he wrote. She's kept in touch with him and he sent the book and we've read it.

They were best friends and prisoners together. They didn't meet until they were captured. He talks about how "Bud" would share his cigs and snacks with him and just, I don't know, the little things that make it so much more than a couple of countries fighting!

3:24 PM  
Blogger Sam said...

Amy, have you ever sat down with either of them and just let them talk about it?

3:39 PM  
Blogger Eliza Osborn said...

I hadn't heard about this before. I can't wait until it's released. Thanks for this post.

7:36 PM  
Blogger Unknown said...


I couldn't agree more :)

12:21 PM  
Blogger Kimmy said...

You have been tagged.

Also, love Ken Burns stuff here. Thanks for the info!

1:02 PM  

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