Over the years, or decades, I suppose, many books, movie, films, and photographs have depicted the facts and the details of World War II. We have listened to interviews from soldiers who were there- the brave people who fought against Hitler and the Nazi invasion. Some lost their lives; others lived to tell the tale. We have seen movie after movie giving us a view from the soldiers’ perspective. Documentaries have taken us around the world to show us where these battles were fought. Books have been written, including The Diary of Anne Frank, so we could feel a little of what the children felt. All of these informative pieces are gripping, educational, and saddening. We love to watch and learn about the horrors of that time, and in turn, be thankful that we do not live it.
As wonderful as these pieces are, there is something missing- something real. For the casual observer or student, these may be enough. There are those of us, however, that want to dive under the surface. We want more than a quick view of where a battle was fought. We want to look at more than the equivalent of a basketball game planning chart to know how the troops moved in. We need more than fictitious stories of soldiers. We have seen all of that and we need more. We need experience. We want realism. We want it to come to life for us.
As a young girl, I remember being taught about the Trail of Tears. I remember thinking that it was really sad and that I was glad I did not have to experience that. I then went on about my life as if nothing happened until I went to visit my grandmother one day. For the first time in all of my visits, I saw a photo hanging on the wall that I had never glanced at twice. This time, the photo drew my attention. Something was so familiar about it. When I asked my grandmother, she told me the story of the woman in the photograph- a female ancestor whose parents had had to live her with a white family because she was too sick to make it on the journey of the Trail of Tears. The white family raised her and this is when the two bloodlines mixed in our family. I remembered then that this photo had been in one of the books my teacher had read to me. Up until that point, I could not have cared less about my ancestors. After history was brought to life for me in this photo, I drank up everything I could.
That is how many of us are today. We want to go beyond items that make us say, “Man, that’s awful” and then continue on with our lives. We want to feel the experience. We want to know what it was like to take cover in the fox holes, sometimes for days, to hide from the enemy. We do not want the dramatized version- we want the facts and the feeling. We want to experience the battlegrounds. How did the Battle of the Bulge actually take place? What was the enemies’ actual view from their side? The U.S. soldiers’ side? From the moment the soldiers heard the attack on Pearl Harbor, how long did it actually take them to cut through the shock and make it to their defensive positions?
As people continue to soak up the knowledge of World War II, it is my hope and desire that future films of the World War II battlegrounds dive beneath the surface, not a simple gloss over of the area. I hope that these films will truly bring this to life for those whose hearts yearn for a deeper connection. Let us lie in the fox holes, walk the battleground, see the attack positions firsthand. There are many of us who want a much deeper dive into the tragedy and victory of WWII.