I have a friend who is very familiar with the horror genre. He’s familiar with several different subgenres of horror (psychological thrillers, spiritual horror, monster horror, survival horror, ‘slasher’ horror, and probably more that I don’t even know about), from the written word to the screen, both large and small. He’s read everything from Poe to Lovecraft to King, and seen everything from Hitchcock to Romero to Raimi. He once told me what he thought was the most horrifying scene he’d ever seen in a motion picture. Hint, it wasn’t from a ‘horror’ movie.
It was the first twenty minutes of the movie Saving Private Ryan.
When asked why, he said it was because it actually happened, and there were men still alive who endured it and could confirm the accuracy of the reenactment of the action of the movie. When you consider that the action at Omaha Beach on the morning of June 6th, 1944, actually occurred over several hours, and was not limited just to that particular beach, and that thousands of young men (American, British, Canadian, and free French) died that day, the scale becomes even more tragic and horrifying.
People who are familiar with me, and are familiar with my writing (especially Ragnarok) know that I have a soft spot for “the greatest generation” and the Second World War. It comes from my father, who, as a tanker in the 3rd Army, saw combat in France, Belgium, and Germany. He did not go ashore that day in June; he landed well after the beachhead was secured (I don’t remember if he’d just arrived in England at the time, or if he was still en route). Yet, he too confirmed the reality he saw on that screen, with the comment to me that it was indeed realistic, but it was not like being there. Being there was far worse, he said.
I’ve heard criticisms of Saving Private Ryan as being too jingoistic, or too “pro-America”. I don’t know about that; maybe they saw a different movie than I. I’ve found that the most effective anti-war movies are those that simply show what happened, that show the reality of war. That way, you don’t need to rely on hamfisted preaching. The point of the movie was to show what these men (and women) went through in order to liberate Europe, and the world, from the clutches of evil men. It demonstrated the sacrifices they made, and that it is nothing to take for granted. It showed that liberty was bought and paid for with blood, the blood of young men whose lives were cut tragically short.
The point is to honor these men and the sacrifices they made. They were called by their county, their republic, their king (in the case of the UK, Canada, and commonwealth nations), to put their lives on the line, and they did. Today, June 5th, 2019, I want to honor the heroes of D-Day. May their memory live forever in the hearts of free men.