20 Pages


The Future of World War II Memory
ByJonathan M. Bullinger

This book’s thesis is that U.S. President Ronald Reagan adopted an emotionality for his World War II remembrance previously associated with Holocaust survivor testimonies which he combined with his preference for an imagined idealized past always populated with heroes and villains. While historian Stephen E. Ambrose popularized the use of veteran oral histories that fit nicely with Reagan’s narrative. While Brokaw greatly supported these efforts through his television work, director Steven Spielberg acted as a bridge between the somber emotion of the Holocaust (Schindler’s List) and this new way of presenting World War II memory (Saving Private Ryan). The events of 9/11 and the new wars in Iraq and Afghanistan made some people look to the Reagan, Brokaw, Ambrose, Spielberg, and Hanks version of World War II for clarity, while others saw no connection whatsoever. This version of World War II—one of stoic boy citizen-soldier heroes living, loving, fighting, and building during an era of unity against fascism—is too limiting, too nostalgic, and traditionally too dangerous to propagate. However, ironically, we may need to choose to believe it as the lesser of two evils against an administration openly supporting white nationalist sentiment.