The Myth of the Good War…

I told a friend about this blog on war veterans.

He lives in the States.

This is what he wrote…

I liked your blog entries.  I have a strong interest in WWII. For two years, as part of a project, as a member of a team, I interviewed World War II veterans. We started from the premise that there are three versions of history.

(1)  the official version, as recorded in the history books;

(2)  the popular version, such as what you see in movies;  and

(3) what really happened, as experienced by the men and women who were there.

Our goal was to get past the anecdotal stories so many veterans tell, the kinds of things they tell their kids and grandkids.  And we would push for details, the sort of things that get overlooked.

How big was the hut?
How was the food, the medical care?
How did the nurses treat you?

Sometimes the answers were surprising. The people we interviewed knew they were near the end of their journey and saw that we were taking it seriously. Some men declined, because the memories were too painful.  Sometimes we had to take a “time out” from the interview, to let the veteran regain his composure.

I interviewed two men who were prisoners of war;   one whose plane was shot down over Czechoslovakia on his first mission and who hid from German patrols with the aid of Czech partisans;  a woman nurse who was in North Africa and Italy;  a pilot who flew regular supply runs from California to the Pacific war zone – one night in a nice apartment in California, two nights later in Saipan dodging shells, then back and forth again and again;  a pharmacist mate who at the last minute was reassigned and ended up clearning wounds on Omaha Beach;  a sailor on a tanker describing the risky transfer of aviation fuel to an aircraft carrier at sea;  naval aviators (pilots) who flew close ground support for Marines;  a sailor who witnessed a Kamikaze attack;  an airman on a remote airfield in in the China-Burma-India Theatre who came down with some infection or disease that almost killed him; some seriously wounded, others not even scratched;  a couple of Silver Star recipients;  a soldier who when he was traveling on a train here just before going overseas met a girl that he later married, and was still married to her 60 years later;  many others.

He then added…

Juno Beach was a Canadian assault, if I recall.  I assume it had more than a few Quebecois.

And I told him about Jacques Pauwels’ book… The Myth of the Good War.

I am so glad I did.

Next time, what he told me about the book.

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2 thoughts on “The Myth of the Good War…

  1. The three versions of history comment was particularly interesting, and it is helpful to find you and others making an effort to create that third version before the participants all die out.

    At a local military museum where I volunteer an afternoon a week to help keep it open, there are two shelves of loose leaf notebooks created by veterans of at least three wars that range from letters exchanged between the veteran and loved ones to autobiographies.

    One person donated two huge scrapbooks full of newspaper clippings a family member snipped out of the local paper throughout WWII. Unfortunately, they are undated, though in chronological order (which you can tell by events mentioned), but you follow one small town’s personal experience with sons, fathers, uncles and nephews going to war, oftentimes with grand send offs.

    Many of these young men I knew or know as fathers of friends or as neighbors, but not as young guys going off to war. (I wasn’t born, of course, when they did!) It is humbling and inspiring to read their stories – this third version of history – as small articles in the paper.

    Doug

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