Let There Be Light

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to care for him who shall have borne the battle

Abraham Lincoln

During World War II director John Huston produced three films for the US government.  Let There Be Light was shot for the Army Signal Corps.  It covers the treatment of 75 US soldiers traumatized by their combat experiences in World War II.  The film is narrated by Walter Huston, the academy award-winning actor father of John Huston.  The Army brass did not like the finished product, thinking that its focus on men who suffered psychological damage from their service could be demoralizing to the troops, and banned the film on the grounds that it invaded the privacy of the soldiers featured in the film and that the releases they signed had been lost.  (This reason was pretextual, but as a matter of law I would not place any reliance on a release signed by someone undergoing mental treatment standing up for an instant in court.)

The ban was lifted during the Reagan years.  The film is now in the public domain and is regarded as a minor classic.  This movie reminds us that after “the tumult and the shouting dies,” and “the captains and the kings depart” the brave men who fought sometimes have a difficult time making their way back from the hell they experienced.

“You know, you never get over combat. I don’t think you ever do.”

Audie Murphy, most decorated US soldier in World War II

4 Responses to Let There Be Light

  • Let there be light to know, to love, and to serve the Lord, the Lord, Who made all persons and keeps them in existence.

    The men, even in their most disarranged mental condition, never committed a crime, never broke the law. The men stayed honest and decent. Giving these men a job would never be a risk, but an appreciative thank you for their service and their suffering.

    At 35, there is an hypnosis of a young man. Be aware that this kind of viewing can cause some of the audience to be hypnotized, or so I have heard, and may be part of the reason that the film was not immediately released. I am not any kind of doctor, and I knew the doctor would bring the patient into the present and the doctor did, all the better for it.

    Audie Murphy wrote a book: TO HELL AND BACK about his WWII experience.

    An after thought. Soldiers are known as Government Issue, G.I.s. The government commandeers the soldiers’ time and energy but the government cannot own the soldiers’ sovereignty, the soldiers’ personhood. Government can commandeer the soldiers’ time and energy in the pursuit of Justice and Freedom, but does not own the soldiers’ conscience. This film explains this and is timely when Obama is imposing martial law on the civilians, as though he owns us.

  • Mary.
    I think you will find that G I stands for General Infantry – the Ground Troops – the foot sloggers- the Grunts, as they are called in the US Army, I believe.
    Down our way, during WW II and since, our infantry were known amongst the troops as the PBI – the Poor Bloody Infantry , because of all the difficult and dangerous work they had to do on the ground.

  • I have always liked the term Poor Bloody Infantry Don, as it perfectly describes both the gripe and the pride of the average dogface.

  • Actually, its interesting that you do this post on WW II at this time. I am presently typing up for our family, my father’s diary that he kept spasmodically during his time in Italy during WW II. He was in the 27th.Machine gun Battallion, attached to the NZ Maori Battallion, and on the 6th.Sept. 1944, they had moved near to a village called Mondolfa (his writing is difficult to read after nearly 70 years.) near the Adriatic coast. At this time, they are preparing for the Battle of Rimini.

    “15th.Sept.1944. Our bombers and fighters are passing overhead constantly, have seen numbers of formations of approx. 50 bombers at a time. Went for a swim. Only 10 mins. walk from the beach. Swimming around, decided to have a spell, and came to rest on a bloody mine. Did I get moving. (I remember Dad telling us of this when I was a kid – reckoned he made a huge bow wave to the shore :-) )”

    “Sat. 16th.Sept. Moved up through the Gothic Line today. The towms and bridges are well bashed about. Bivvie (bivouac – pitch shelter) within 10 miles of the front line. Could see the shells landing on enemy territory. One long range enemy shell landed in the village 1/2 a mile away. Climbed some high ground after tea and watched artillery duels – could see strikes on the enemy held ridge overlooking Rimini – an attack was going in and was an unusual sight.”

    Its fascinating reading and typing what my Dad was doing this day 66 years ago and stating it in his usual understating style, and a bit emotional. Dad died on the 11th. December 2005 – the same day my youngest grand-daughter was baptised – aged 93 years. A few months after this diary entry, Dad suffered a back injury from lifting heavy ammunition cases, and was later re-patriated, and had an experimental spinal operation which left him having to take pain relief for the rest of his life.
    (This comment got a bit out of control, didn’t it. :-) )
    Rest in the Love of God, Arthur Hamilton Beckett.

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