Sep 12, 2010

War Stories

I have always loved to watch war movies or dramas.. especially the World War II and the Vietnam War.. I could remember all the old war movies that I watched with my dad.. films like Tora! Tora! Tora!, The Guns of Navarone, Von Ryan's Express, The Bridge on the River Kwai and The Great Escape.. My brother, who is 3 years my junior doesn't seemed to have this shared interest in war.. :p I know that it must be "uncommon"for a girl to like war movies, and to date I have yet to meet anyone from the fairer sex who shares the same taste.

In recent years, with the advancement in CG war movies have gotten more realistic, more bloody, more violent and more true to life.. I can still remember how amazed (I won't use the word "excited" although I did feel rather thrilled) I was when I saw body parts flying everywhere during that beach landing scene in Saving Private Ryan.. legs, hands, heads and guts got blown off and flew everywhere.. it couldn't get grimmer than that.. these must have been how the war zone REALLY looked like.. these are the reasons why grown men would became shocked and paralyzed by fear, suffered nervous breakdowns and maybe even got themselves killed in the process..

Personally I preferred The Thin Red Line than Saving Private Ryan due to the storyline and the "grimness" that it portrayed, which I think is closer to real life.. That is also why I liked Oliver Stone's Platoon, Stanley Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket (especially the last scene when the Marines matches on to the tune of Mickey was so surreal and ironic..), Mel Gibson's We Were Soldiers, Clint Eastwood's Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima, and Jarhead.

Other than war movies, I also loved to watch war related TV drama series and documentaries.. especially Band of Brothers.. not to mention Tour of Duty in the late 1980s that got me in many disagreement with my mum.. The recent HBO miniseries, The Pacific was good in portraying the realism of the war, the trauma and internal conflict suffered by the soldiers but I somehow do not feel much for the characters involved, maybe due to the lack of key characters linking each episodes.

So why the fascination about war stories?? Well, first of all, I like, or should I say I envy, the camaraderie shared by the soldiers.. they went to "hell" (of war, so to speak) together and back.. they had each others back.. nothing bonds a group of people more firmly together than going through the harshest of conditions, both physically and mentally.. either facing or try escaping from formidable enemies bonds a group of misfits together like no other circumstances will.. And only in the harshest conditions will one know what one is truly made of.. Only in extreme circumstances does one's true self emerge.. In a war, everyone has only one thought in their heads: getting through the day alive.. and maybe finally getting back home to their loved ones.. Sometimes that one belief was all there were to sustain them and allow them to keep their sanity and humanity amidst all the craziness of battle..

Most of the soldiers in WW II were volunteers while some were drafted in for the Vietnam War.. so their mentality were different.. The young ones in WW II were eager to go to war, anxious to see action and were ever so willing to sacrifice their lives for their country.. although I do think many regretted their imprudence when they saw from their landing ships the ACTUAL war... the ferocity and brutality of armed combat.. but they continued to bite the bullets and endured whatever crap that were thrown at them.. It was a different case for the Vietnam War.. some of those in Vietnam were forced into joining a war that they didn't support.. so cases of A.W.O.L (Absent WithOut Leave) and M.I.A (Missing In Action) happened fairly often.. and with the widespread usage of chemicals in this war, many, not just the soldiers, suffered the residue effects of it many years after the war...

History is written by the victor(s), no doubt about that.. there is no denying of the atrocities that the German Nazi, Japanese Imperial Army or the Viet Cong had committed, but I don't think the Allied forces are any saints themselves. Yes, they liberated the occupied territories, saved millions of civilians and prevent the "Evil Axis" from taking over the world, but I do think that many deaths, both civilians and military, were collateral damages, which to the generals or government were just numbers and statistics, but to the soldiers on the ground and at the war front, they were real and personal..

I do not envy those who had been through a war, although I do sometimes wondered what I would do if I had lived in those times of war.. Would I have volunteered? Would I be willing to sacrifice my life for the sake of a greater good?? I think I might.. Cos I don't wanna sit around waiting for other people to determine my fate.. Would I be on the side of the "good guys" (aka the Allied Forces in WW II or the Americans in the Vietnam War)? I supposed, but if I were born a German/Japanese/Vietnamese during those times, I would fight for "my" country.. Would I join the army, navy, marines or air force? Maybe the air force, flying a fighter plane or doing supply drops.. else I would wanna be a medic.. I don't think I could inflict any pain to anyone or kill anyone directly.. yet I don't mind risking my life trying to save those who are tasked to do that.. Would I have survived the war? I don't know, cos I think it is pretty much a lottery.. If you are lucky, you can survive any battles; if you are not, you could even get killed just by getting out of bed..

So what would you do?

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