The American experience in the final year of World War II in Europe is the subject of a trilogy of films that will be presented by the Union County Carnegie Library, Friends of the Library, and the Elks Lodge of Union beginning in June.
‘The American Road To Victory” trilogy consists of “The Americans On D-Day,” “The Americans On Hell’s Highway,” and “The Americans In The Bulge.” The films follow the American experience in three battles that took place in the last year of the war in Europe, including the D-Day invasion of Europe, “Operation: Market Garden,” and “The Battle Of The Bulge.”
The trilogy, which was purchased by the Friends of the Library, will be presented by the Union County Carnegie Library as “Living History Night” at the Elks Lodge of Union with The Americans On D-Day show on June 7, The Americans On Hell’s Highway shown Sept. 27, and The Americans In The Bulge shown Jan. 10, 2013.
“The dates they will be shown correspond to the dates the actual battles were fought,” Library Director Ben Loftis said Tuesday. “We’re hoping to be able to have a discussion about the battles afterwards. The director, Richard Lanni, will attend the showing of the first film. Admission will be free for each movie with the Friends providing refreshments.”
D-Day was the code name given the allied invasion of Normandy, France, on June 6, 1944. A synopsis released by the library states that The Americans On D-Day “provides a real-time look at one of the most momentous battles of World War II. Shot at the actual time each event took place, each scene also features a digital clock the time of day or night when the action described took place on June 6, 1944.
The subject of The Americans On Hell’s Highway is Operation: Market Garden, which the library’s synopsis describes as “one of the most controversial and misunderstood major offensives of World War II.” The movie gets its name from “the infamous road leading from the Belgian/Dutch border to the city of Nijmegen in the Netherlands. Included in this segment is the graphic account of the Waal River crossing, as told by Capt. T. Moffatt Burriss of I Company in the 504 Parachute Infantry Regiment, who was in the first wave of the assault.”
Finally, there’s The Americans In The Bulge which “examines the bloodiest and most costly campaign ever fought by US Forces.”
Lofis said the idea for presenting the films was based on the successful experience of other libraries.
“We received an email a while back about the series,” Loftis said. “Just seeing some of the positive reviews from other libraries that were able to attract large numbers of people convinced us to show the films. They are very popular, especially with veterans and that’s one of the groups we are hoping to focus on like the American Legion or the VFW. Once they’ve been shown as part of Living History Night, the DVDs will be added to our collection and be available to be checked out.”
Loftis thanked the Elks Lodge for its cooperation in the presentation of the films.
“They’ve been very, very generous in donating the lodge space,” Lofti said.
Loftis said the documentaries were produced by Columbia-based “Living Battlefields,” which he said took a unique approach to telling the story of the three battles chronicled in the trilogy.
“The director had compiled hours and hours of interviews with veterans and he combines those interviews with footage of the tour guide as he takes viewers through the sites where the battles were fought,” Loftis said. “It combines archival footage, interviews, and narration from the present day locations to help recreate the battles.”
Each documentary is hosted by Ellwood von Seibold who Loftis said works as tour guide for some of the some of the World War II battlefields in Europe. Loftis said that for his efforts to keep he history of World War II in Europe alive for today’s generations, von Seibold has given the honorary rank of captain in the US Army.
Despite his age (63), Von Seibold is not just a passive guide or narrator as the synopsis provided by the library makes clear, stating that in the course of the three films he “literally runs, climbs and crawls through Europe.” His willingness to follow in the footsteps of the soldiers, both American and German, gives the viewer a better understanding of what the experience of those soldiers was like. In The Americans On D-Day, by “looking over von Seibold’s shoulder,” viewers “get a new appreciation for the close proximity that between American soldiers on a featureless beach and the German bunkers from which fire and death rained down upon them. And when von Seibold stands in a shell crater deeper than he is tall, it is easy to imagine the fear German defenders must have felt as large naval shells exploded close to their positions.”
Von Seibold also helps clear up some misunderstanding about Operation: Market Garden in The Americans On Hell’s Highway. He explains that while the operation “ultimately failed … American objectives for the campaign were achieved despite its high cost.”
The high cost of turning defeat into victory and the difficult conditions under which it was achieved are also explored by von Seibold in The Americans In The Bulge. Taking the viewer from “the frozen Ardennes Forests to Malmedy, St. Vith, and Bastogne, von Seibold shows both the unimaginable conditions these soldiers endured, as well as their heroic efforts to foil the Nazis’ plan to encircle and destroy the Allied Forces.” In telling this story, von Seibold “runs across the fog-shrouded hills and jumps into the foxholes, providng a unique soldier’s point-of-view. In the process he untangles what is perhaps one of the most complex offensives of WWII, and makes it easy to follow and understand.”