Today marks the 70th Anniversary of the Allied Normandy invasion in Vichy France, otherwise known as "D-Day", and while not many veterans are here to tell their story of that day, Akron native Curtis B. Hall is. He recently shared his experience landing on Normandy beach that day with the Akron Beacon Journal. Every year, people commemorate its anniversary, and we hear stories and speeches from surviving veterans and world leaders, including our very own President, about the importance of today and the lessons we continue to learn about World War II.
While we remember those who have served and those who continue to serve, one thing we have forgotten is that, until Pearl Harbor, America was reticent to participate in World War II, and even after we put our hat in the ring, there were still people who wanted us not to get involved with what was happening in Europe and Asia. Those people were called isolationists, and their main group, America First, was well fronted and well supported by the likes of Charles Lindbergh and Walt Disney. Still, with America with its hat in the ring, the entertainment industry was called to show their support for the troops, advertise war bonds, and boost morale. One of the films that managed to put this all into context was 1942's Mrs. Miniver.
The film stars Greer Garson, Walter Pidgeon, Teresa Wright, Dame May Whitty, Reginald Owen, Henry Travers, Richard Ney, and Henry Wilcoxon. Based on the novel by Jan Struther, the film is about a British family who lives in the fiction town of Starling, outside of London. We first meet Mrs. Kay Miniver (Garson) when she is out shopping, and her friend and train conductor, Mr. Ballard (Travers) wants to show her a rose he grew that reminds him of her, and to which he honorably asks to bear her name. As she returns home, her son, Vin (Ney) has returned from university from the summer, and attends a local neighborhood function, where his family meets Lady Beldon (Whitty) and her niece, Carol (Wright). Carol and Vin do not get along at the beginning, because they openly disagree with each other about class issues, but it is not too long after they fall in love with each other. When Germany declares war of Great Britain, Vin decides to do his part and enlist in the Royal Air Force, where he becomes a fighter pilot. He is stationed near his parent's house, and silences his engines every time he flies over to ensure he is alright. Soon, Clem (Pidgeon) is told to volunteer his boat to assist in the Dunkirk evacuation to help get Allied soldiers out of the Mediterranean through the English Channel. Worried and can't sleep, Kay goes downstairs and is startled when a German flyer (Helmut Dantine) is in her garden. He holds her at gunpoint, the demands that she feed him and give him something to drink. When she asks where he comes from battle-wise, he tells him. He then tells her that the Third Reich will overpower the British and soon invade the land. She tells him that she won't see that happen, and see more innocent lives killed. She quietly disarms him, and he goes. You will have to see this film to find out how it ends.
This film was made not only to give perspective to Americans of an ally's struggle with Germany, but as a rallying cry to join up, invest in bonds, and support those in battle to keep Germany, Italy, and Japan at bay. To the American mind at the time of the film, not even a year after Pearl Harbor, it resonated and educated by putting us in the mindset of people like us overseas during the war. So, as we commemorate D-Day, pop this film in and see.