8 November 2010

Wartorn: 1861-2010, Exploring Combat and Post-Traumatic Stress - HBO Documentary

American Civil War doctors called it hysteria, melancholia and insanity. During the First World War it was known as shell-shock. By World War II, it became combat fatigue. Today, it is clinically known as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), a crippling anxiety that results from exposure to life-threatening situations such as combat.

The HBO special Wartorn 1861-2010 brings attention to the invisible wounds of war. Drawing on personal stories of American soldiers whose lives and psyches were torn asunder by the horrors of battle and PTSD, the documentary chronicles the lingering effects of combat stress and post-traumatic stress on military personnel and their families throughout American history, from the Civil War through today’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. The HBO Documentary Films presentation debuts on Thursday November 11th, only on HBO in the US.

The documentary shares stories through soldiers’ revealing letters and journals; photographs and combat footage.

“Combat fatigue” was considered a character flaw in World War II. In a famous story, Gen. George S. Patton slapped a soldier hospitalized with nervous exhaustion, ordering “that yellow SOB” back to the front. It took 50 years for WWII vets to be diagnosed with PTSD. Today, in the documentary, a group opens up publicly about their traumas for the first time. Al Maher, who was a Lieutenant in the Army Air Corps, laments the toll his war experience took on his family life – he became abusive and took to drinking. As a result, he has not spoken to his sons in 25 years. Abner Greenberg, a corporal in the Marines who lost two best friends in Iwo Jima, kept his wartime traumas pent up and never shared them with his children until he joined a PTSD group and discovered what was wrong with him. Former Army sergeant Bill Thomas remembers shooting four Germans, and being moved when the sole survivor showed him a family photo. “How do you explain the horrors?” Greenberg asks. “It consumes you.”

For more information visit the HBO site.

7 November 2010

Lost Between Worlds - A World War II Journey of Survival

Lost Between Worlds is based on a journal written between 1940 and 1945, by Edward H Herzbaum, when he was in his twenties. It is a first-hand account of his horrendous wartime experiences, both physical and psychological, that has just been published for the first time by his daughter: the journal had been lying in a suitcase for 65 years until it was discovered
and translated.

The book spans a period of history from the German invasion of Poland in 1939 to the end of the Italian Campaign in 1945. It recounts how Edward was arrested and interned by the Germans but escaped. He travelled to eastern Poland to avoid being recaptured, but there he was arrested by the Russians and deported to a Gulag, where he suffered starvation, brutality and horrific working and living conditions.

After Germany's attack on Russia, Edward and the other Polish prisoners were amnestied and released to join a newly-formed Polish army, under British command. They travelled through Middle Asia, Iraq, Iran, British Palestine and Egypt, eventually fighting in the Italian Campaign.

Edward writes at times with humour and irony and at other times with desperation, about his arduous journey and the awful psychological after-effects of the experiences which he and the other Poles had endured. The loss of family, friends and country and the feelings of loneliness at finding themselves completely displaced from their 'old world', with no knowledge of what their 'new world' might look like, even if they survived the war.

Edward Herzbaum, born in 1920 to Polish Jewish parents, was educated in Poland. During WWII he was arrested and escaped from both the Germans and Russians and then fought in the Polish Army. In 1946 he settled in the UK and became an architect. He died in 1967.

Available from:
Troubador Publishing

Aterrem em Portugal! - Landed in Portugal

“Aterrem em Portugal” was published in November 2008. It contains the history of dozens of landings from Allied and Axis planes that happened in Portugal during World War II. With the country lying between the routes that linked the United Kingdom to the operational theatres in the Mediterranean, Middle East, Africa and others there were over one hundred emergency landings during the six years of conflict.

About a dozen airmen from the Commonwealth and from USA that where in Portugal between 1941 and 1945, were interviewed for the book. From others, already deceased, it was possible to include information from diaries that family members still posses.

Several Portuguese witnesses also recount their versions about what they saw and lived during those years when war surrounded the country. It was also possible to put together documents from Portuguese, British, Americans, Australians and German archives.

Note that the book Aterrem em Portugal is in Portuguese. However, the fascinating website contains a large amount of information in English, including a list of all the planes that crashed in Portugal during the war.

Available from:
The Author - Carlos Guerreiro