WWII and your perspective on the world


Have watched only bits and pieces of Ken Burns’ documentary but what I’ve seen is moving and makes me want to watch it all at some point. Just a couple things I noticed:

1. The issue of racism. John Hope Franklin’s bit on how he had everything to run a military office, including an Ivy League PhD but couldn’t because he lacked the right color–very interesting character!

2. How much the whole of the US was involved in the war. The ads telling people at home to ration gas so “the boys” will have gas for their airplanes.

3. PTSD. One man tells of a strafing run where his fellow gunner had a jammed gun. So, he could see the damage, destruction, and death he himself was doing to the Germans. His hand “froze” and he had to fly the plane back with his left hand. For years afterward, he would have nightmares of that day and wake up without the use of his hand. Somehow his wife could sense it and offer him his morning coffee to his left hand. I’m sure he never got to talk much about that in public settings. Though he is now in his late 70s, you can see it still is with him. This truly was the greatest generation!

4. Impact on my family. My parents were in their formative years (pre-teen to teen) during the war. I’ve heard stories about rationing, blackouts, and plane spotting against the threat of a German invasion. My mother still makes “hot milk cake.” This was described as an invention of the war to have a good tasting cake without the usual amounts of sugar and butter. Also, my wife pointed out that my mother still cuts both ends out of soup cans and then flattens the can with her foot, just like they did during the war.

5. Heritage and perspective matter. Listen to Miaken Scott’s reflections of being brought up German after the war: http://temple.whyy.org/tv12/thewar_fm_growingup.html

1 Comment

Filed under Cultural Anthropology

One response to “WWII and your perspective on the world

  1. Sue Penyak

    Phil, I watched part of the documentary the other night and had a personal reaction to it. The portion I happened to see was about action in the Solomon Islands and Guadalcanal. This is where my father served and it helped me to feel more connected to him and appreciate what he had been through. He was deeply affected by the war and was seriously wounded. As I watched the newsreel footage and listened to the man being interviewed, I wondered if he knew my Dad or if Dad was even in part of the footage. Ken Burns’ approach in the documentary is to show how the war touched everyone’s life at home and overseas. I can relate to that because of the way it impacted my own childhood even though I was born ten years afterward because of how it changed my father and made him who he was. It illustrates why knowing our history, both personally and as a nation, is so valuable. It is just like the history of God and creation and how the beginning still impacts today. Anyway, I guess I’m feeling a bit philosophical tonight. Maybe I need to write a paper.

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