I grew up on stories of World War II–real ones. My maternal grandfather served in the US Navy, mostly in the North Atlantic. He made numerous runs between the US and the United Kingdom. And he told me many tales of dodging Messerschmidts and “wolf pack” U-boats.
There was never really a modern movie done about his war, though. There have been lots of movies about combat in the South Pacific and in the Middle East. There have been many, many films about D-Day. Not so many about the perilous North Atlantic runs between the United States and England.
That’s why I’m especially looking forward to seeing the next World War II movie from Tom Hanks, Greyhound, which is all about my grandfather’s war—naval combat in the North Atlantic.
My grandfather won’t be here to see the film, of course. The ranks of the surviving WWII vets grow thinner every day.
That’s a sad thing—albeit an inevitable thing.
The last verified veteran of the American Civil War, Albert Woolson, died in 1956, at the age of 106. And Woolson was just a teenager when he enlisted in the US Army in 1864. The last American veteran of WWI, Frank Buckles, passed away in 2011.
Someday—probably around 2030, give or take a few years—it will be reported that the last American veteran of WWII has passed, too.
Again, the passage of time, the passage of generations….these are inevitable things.
Nevertheless, I feel honored that I had so many chances to hear about WWII firsthand: mostly from my grandfather, but from other veterans as well. (This past year, I met a man in his late eighties who served as a navigator on B-29 bombing missions over Japan.)
This was a truly heroic generation. Their stories are worth telling and retelling; and that will be true even after they’re gone.