Friday, May 25, 2012

Something for Memorial Day

We often think of Memorial Day as a time of remembering the dead, which it primarily is of course. I would argue that Memorial Day should also be a time of remembering those who, though their physical body may have survived a war, their mental state did not.

The National Film Preservation Foundation has released for public online viewing a film that was originally censored and classified for many years, not released in any form until 1980. It was originally filmed as a documentary at the tail end of World War II.  The was directed by John Huston, who was the director of such Bogart classics as the Maltese Falcon and Treasure of the Sierra Madre. There is a bit more history on the film here.

The documentary is an hour long and is basically footage of interviews done with veterans who were suffering from what the terminology of the time called "shell shock." We now know more about it and refer to the condition as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In World War II, virtually nothing was known about it, much less how to deal with it from a clinical, pastoral, or counseling standpoint.

The National Film Preservation Foundation has it available online and for download, both for free, at their website here. It is just under an hour in length, and the film's style and content might be considered pretty tame by modern documentary and cinematography standards, but it was originally decades ahead of its time.


Even by today's standards, some of the interviews are extremely sad and disturbing.

We often don't think of World War II veterans as having this problem, thinking instead of Vietnam or veterans of later conflicts. I would recommend taking the hour to watch it though because Memorial Day should encompass not just those who died but those who survived and had to actually live with what they saw on the battlefield.

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