At Esquire, Tom Junod tells the story (and writes the screenplay for the movie) of his father’s remarkable, somewhat bizarrely comic, and strangely happy experience as a GI in France after D-Day:
More than four hundred thousand American men died in World War II. This is a story about some of them--thirty of them--who didn't. They were spared. This is not in itself so unusual. Sixteen million Americans were mobilized for World War II. One in forty died. The instrument of salvation, though--well, that was unique. It would be easy to say they got lucky, but luck doesn't quite account for either their survival or the degree to which they enjoyed it. Anyone who lived through World War II got lucky. These men, however, did not just live through World War II; they had the time of their lives. In the crucible of war, some soldiers found out they were heroes, others that they were cowards. The soldiers in this story found out they were celebrities.
Basically, what happened is this: They put on a show. No, they weren't USO. They were GIs. They were in the infantry. They were artillerymen. They drove tanks. They'd landed in Normandy within a few days or weeks of D-day. Some had been in combat; a few had been wounded. They were all waiting to go to the front, and they were all pretty sure they were going to die. And then, at the moment each of them had been given his orders, at the moment each had been told to clean his rifle and get on that goddamned troop truck, an officer intervened and said, Get off that truck, soldier: The Army doesn't want you to kill Germans. It wants you to put on a show…
Read the whole article, The Time of Their Lives. It’s a doozy.
Photo courtesy of Junod and Esquire.