I indulged myself by watching the history channel’s broadcast of film made during World War II. I grew up with these clips, but this was the first time in a long time that I’ve paid more than superficial attention to these gems from the vault of history. I was struck by how young the soldiers were. When I was a kid, they were wizened old men. I saw them now as mere kids, many of whom were younger than my own son is today.
I couldn’t see very many ways in which these kids were different from kids today. They looked and probably acted like my son and his friends. They may have grown up faster on the front—they didn’t have much choice. And maybe they felt more like a part of something larger than themselves. Life was much more immediate and fragile. But you could see the same emotions, the same sense of self, the same youthful awareness.
What were their lives like? What was it like to be conscious of the fact that you were alive in the middle of Normandy or Iwo Jima? What was on your mind? Home? Survival? The guy next to you? Did you think about the future? Did the soldier you were pointing your gun at think about the same things? And what would the kid on the television screen be like if he lived today? Would that kid have the same thoughts today?
Tell your stories, if only so that people who live 60 years from today won’t be asking the same questions.