Tuesday, December 9, 2014

I Recommend...

Omaha Beach, 06 June 1944
(Photo from the National Archives)
The other day I found another historical mini-series on Netflix which now has me enthralled. It's World War II: The Last Heroes. This series covers the war in western Europe from D-Day to the end of the war.

As I mentioned the other day in my Pearl Harbor post, 1941 was 73 years ago. A man aged 17 then is now 90. D-Day was 70 years ago. The men who fought that war are leaving us at an ever increasing pace.

Growing up I heard a lot about the war, from my parents, uncles and aunts and grandparents. Three uncles fought in the war, two were infantrymen, both were wounded, both were decorated with the Bronze Star for valor in combat. Both survived the war, both are gone now.

My Dad's oldest brother was in the U. S. Army Air Forces (the predecessor of my own service, the U. S. Air Force). Uncle Louis was on Okinawa after its capture, maintaining aircraft just as I would thirty years later.

Dad was too young to join up until 1945 when he turned 17. Dropping out of high school to join his brothers overseas, the war ended before he got out of training. He spent three years in Berlin as part of the occupation. He was an eyewitness to the Berlin Airlift.


World War II in Europe ended exactly eight years before I was born. When the 20th anniversary of D-Day came around I was 11. Most of the men who made that landing were still young men in their late 30s and early 40s.

Many of the men I worked with in the machine tool industry in my home town were World War II veterans. They had stories, not about combat, usually about military screw-ups, good times and the stunts they pulled while on active duty. Though they made it sound like a great time, there was always a dark undertone. Sometimes there was a hint of tears as they perhaps remembered a buddy who didn't come home.

So for me, World War II is not ancient history.

This mini-series reminds me a great deal of Band of Brothers and The Pacific. Interviews with the men who were actually there, interspersed not with scenes played out by actors (as brilliant as those two series were) but by actual footage from the war. Much of that footage I haven't seen before, which is startling because over the years I have seen a lot of World War II footage.

I highly recommend this mini-series.


World War II: The Last Heroes

Now please excuse me, as I have to watch another episode...

20 comments:

  1. Thanks for the tip, Sarge.

    That first image is interesting. Lots of carbines, looks like one Garand, and one Springfield. Probably not infantry. Wonder who they are and where they're headed.

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    1. Yeah, that opening photo is pretty nice. Original caption says it's on Omaha Beach on the 6th of June but that's it, no unit, no circumstances. There are far too many carbines for that to be an infantry platoon. I'd speculate but not before I did some digging through some TO&Es, which I have somewhere...

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    2. Might be. I'm still digging through my archives.

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    3. I love the "No Smoking" stencil on the LCVP Bow Ramp. That had to occasion just a little sarcasm when the tracers started to fly.

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    4. Yeah. I'm sure the GIs obeyed that sign.

      And I'm sure the coxswain would notice.

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  2. So for me, World War II is not ancient history.

    It's not ancient history to me, either. As a child I used to hide at the top of the stairs and eavesdrop on the Ol' Man and his buddies in the late, late evenings at parties when they would tell war stories. The Ol' Man never talked about his war with me until he was on his death bed and then I heard a few stories from him. I only wish I would have had a tape recorder going during those few times he opened up.

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    1. I had a feeling you'd say the same.

      I recall you mentioning the stories you heard from your Dad at the end.

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    2. The last of the Cardwell brothers pass a couple of months ago. My Uncle Carl, the youngest, was in the 82nd passed first 20 years ago. The middle, we called "Uncle Brother" because his brothers had trouble with Reginald served in Indo-China. He joined his brothers at the clearing in the glen this pass fall. My Dad was a combat medic in the 120th Regiment, 30th Infantry "Old Hickory" Division. They never talked about their experiences much if at all. My Dad's unit had reunions in August every summer for as long as I remember until many were not able to travel. Being formed from the National Guard Units of Tennessee, North and South Carolina most returned and didn't travel far from home. I gave my Dad Band of Brothers right after Ambrose released it. Later I asked him about it. He said that this was exactly what he experienced as he moved thru France into Belgium and the Battle of the Bulge. Years ago I came upon a book of the Charts of the ETO. I ask him to look thru the book and mark his journey thru the war. It awaits me in NC for when I move back. All the guys of this generation are my heroes. I never pass up an opportunity to walk and shake the hand when I see them. Love them all. I wonder often what type of man would step forward today if we need such huge numbers in a global conflict.

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  3. Like so many WWII vets, Art Vella has passed. I cherish my talks with him. He was a Combat Engineer at Normandy, and his company was the forerunner to the one I served in 1963-66 in Germany. An uncle ended the war in Koblenz on the Rhine River. When a lifelong Rocky Mountain man talks about how cold it was, you just know it was really cold.

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    1. So many have passed.

      My company has had Iwo Jima vets on hand for our Veterans Day celebration for a number of years now. Used to be 7 or 8 of them.

      This year, I think there was only one.

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    1. It's pretty intense. I can't watch an episode every day. What those guys went through!

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  5. We're losing the few left at 1000 a day... sigh

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    1. I suppose that was inevitable.

      While that era has passed, it's sad that the ones who defined the era are passing so rapidly.

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  6. I had to wait to comment.
    For me the war will always be present.
    I have the 48 star flag that was presented to my mother and grandparents at Jefferson Barracks.
    Ancient history ...I think not.

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    1. Not when you were touched personally by that war. I get that.

      Your Dad is one of the guys who gave his future for us. He and the men and women like him will always be my heroes.

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    2. Sarge. I tell them they are my hero every time I see one. They need to know that. Their faces brighten when I say it.

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    3. Roger that. (I do the same for Vietnam vets.)

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)