Shameless free advertisement for History Channel here. The recent WWII in HD special, a 10-hour series of full-color, restored WWII footage, was simply amazing. The series follows the lives of 12 men and women who served in the 4 years of America’s involvement. Everything is beautfiully interwoven and a master upon master of story telling.
I believe as writers we can learn from films and movies because in today’s world, that sort of story telling is what readers expect. This series used each soldier, pilot, nurse and seaman’s story to illustrate the major battles of the war, from Patton’s campaign in North Africa to Iwo Jima and D-Day.
Aside from the beautiful footage, narrators read diaries of the soldier’s own words. How real it all becomes when you hear the emotion through such brave men and women.
One of my favorite stories is of the B-17 pilot, Bert Stiles. He dreamed of flying the P-51 Mustang fighter and hated each of his bomber missions. As an aspiring novelist, he wrote down his experiences into several stories that were published. Of the hundreds of B-17 raids over Berlin, many planes never returned. At one point, he wrote, “If I ever have to return to that bomber, I’m going to beat my brains against the instrument panel.” He persevered and after completing his required missions with the B-17s, he had the chance to go home. Instead, he remained in Britain and was able to finally fly the coveted P-51. On his first dogfight with German Luftwaffe, he made his first kill. You’ll have to watch the series to hear the rest of his story.
Another story that stuck with me was of Nurse June Wandrey, a fiercely patriotic woman who enlisted right after war was declared. She served in North Africa and up through the invasion of Sicily, France and the push into German. Her memoirs were published in “Bedpan Commando: The Story of a Combat Nurse During WW2.” She wrote with so much emotion, with such poignancy.
“What do you do, when you have no more tears?”
She felt for every wounded soldier and sometimes all she could offer was a smile. She was part of the medical teams that tended to concentration camp survivors, where she was unprepared for the horrors and loss of life. Still, her bravery and service never wavered.
The other 10 stories are equally moving. These are the stories we all need to hear. The stories we can never forget.
I encourage you to check out this series. It is not yet available on DVD, but you can be sure I’ve got my name on the list! It is available through Historychannel.com or on Amazon for around $20. As a warning, many of the images are quite graphic, but thus are the realities of the war that changed the world.