PBS' 'War' Taps into Shared, but Undiscussed, History
Behe, Regis, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review
Clarence "Code" Gomberg, of Stanton Heights, witnessed so many things serving in the 3rd Army's 343rd Medical Battalion during World War II.
While he was crossing the Atlantic in May 1944, his flotilla of ships was attacked by German U-boats. Stationed in France, he worked in rolling MASH units, trains retrofitted to accommodate wounded soldiers. He traveled through France, Luxembourg and Germany, took photographs of Eisenhower, Montgomery and DeGaulle, and was in Paris on May 8, 1945, for V-E Day.
When he speaks to school groups, however, he's always struck by the fact students aren't familiar with what he and other foot soldiers did during the war.
"Books have very little about World War II and the actual experiences we went through, " says Gomberg, who is in his 80s.
"The War," a film by Ken Burns, will give veterans the likes of Gomberg a chance to voice their views of World War II. Debuting Sunday on WQED-TV, the seven-part PBS series looks at the conflict through the memories of the residents of four American towns: Waterbury, Conn.; Mobile, Ala.; Luverne, Minn.; and Sacramento.
Gomberg says he hopes the series tells stories "that need to be told. Half of the people you talk to, their fathers never told the kids, or uncles or brothers, what happened. It was something that was steeled inside of you; you didn't want to talk about it. Now, it's time to get it out in the open. That's why I go to schools and talk about it. Sometimes it hurts. I learned lately I can cry real easy, and it helps."
WQED is using "War" to reach out to area veterans. A multimedia campaign (posted on the station's Web site.) has solicited stories from Western Pennsylvanians who served during the war.
Some, like Julia Parsons, have been quiet for decades. She was one of many who answered a newspaper ad soliciting for women to enlist as Navy WAVES -- Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service. After studying at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., the Forest Hills resident, then 22, became part of the war effort beyond "saving aluminum foil," she says with a laugh. As a newly minted WAVE in Washington, D.C., Parsons worked on a top-secret project trying to decode dispatches created by the fabled Enigma machines and transmitted by German U-Boats.
"It was very exciting work," she says. …