My dear departed father Frank De Felitta (1921-2016) spent much of the 1960s as a writer/producer/director of documentaries at NBC news. I’ve posted them all on Youtube and I highly recommend (natch) taking a look at them. One of the best is ‘The Battle Of The Bulge’, shot in 1963 and aired on the twentieth anniversary of the eponymous battle. In it, he interviewed veterans of the battle along with General Omar Bradley, General Anthony McAuliffe (the guy who said ‘Nuts’ to the Germans when told of their insistence that he surrender–click here for his wonderful Wikipedia entry) and (a bit astonishingly) Nazi General Hasso Von Manteuffel. The film runs just under an hour and is far from a drab, academic ‘talking head’ documentary. My father’s cinematic instincts were strong and artful and its a hell of a good watch.
And by the way, he was a veteran. He served in the Army Air Corps as a pilot in the 94th Troop Carrier Squadron. I was always so proud of this part of his life but he really didn’t discuss it much unless he could find some way to make an amusing anecdote out of an experience. It was only toward the end of his long life that he began to grapple with the experience in a quiet, somewhat haunted way. So many veterans of that war seem to have had the same reaction. They were released back into a world that welcomed them as heroes and then quickly moved on, urging them to assimilate and get back to ‘life as usual’ without much contemplation about the extraordinarily awful experience they’d survived. About five years before he died I asked him to write a memoir about his war experiences. I told him he needn’t worry about publishing it. It’s mere existence would be an extraordinary gift to my son on the 100th anniversary of D-Day (in which he participated) which will be in 2044. In that year my son will be forty years old and he would have in his possession a first hand account of the mission. Imagine a one-hundred year old first hand soldier’s account Civil War diary being given to a descendant in1965 for instance. My father seemed to like the idea and said he’d give it ‘serious thought’. But he never sat down behind his Royal manual typewriter (on which he wrote numerous screenplays and all of his novels) and wrote it. The fact that he didn’t told me the whole story; it was simply not an experience to be relived, even seventy plus years later.