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Friday, July 21, 2017

Dunkirk Brings WWII to Life

Written by Jon Williams

May, 1940. With World War II in its early days, the Battle of France raged. As the month wore on, the advance of the German military left a group of Allied forces cut off and pushed back to the sea near Dunkirk. Thus began Operation Dynamo, a British-led effort to evacuate the Allied soldiers, so crucial to the already tenuous war effort, from their perilous situation. Because of the shallow waters in the area, only small craft could be used. Nevertheless, the eight-day action resulted in the successful rescue of more than 300,000 men.

This is the story told by the new epic war movie Dunkirk, in theatres this week. It’s the latest from filmmaker Christopher Nolan, who’s known for his trilogy of Batman films (Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, and The Dark Knight Rises), as well as movies like Inception and Interstellar. Dunkirk stars Batman alumni Tom Hardy and Cillian Murphy along with Kenneth Branagh and pop star Harry Styles in his acting debut.

Patrons interested in the story behind the Battle of Dunkirk are in luck, with a wealth of materials examining this momentous event. To go along with the movie, historian Joshua Levine has taken a fresh look at the lives of all those involved in the battle for a companion audiobook. Walter Lord’s 2012 work The Miracle of Dunkirk was based on extensive interviews with the battle’s survivors. And in 2004, the BBC put together a three-episode docudrama that broke the battle down to show how it progressed on a day-by-day basis.

With the end of World War II now more than seventy years in the past, it won’t be long before it fades from living memory. However, there is no shortage of media that will preserve its legacy for future generations. One of the most valuable contributions is from acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns, whose documentary series The War deals primarily with the perspective of Americans on the home front. Along similar lines is WWII in HD, which uses immersive footage to depict the front lines. Also produced by the History Channel, The Third Reich examines the rise of Nazi Germany. On the other side of the world, War in the Pacific and Hell in the Pacific look at the war as it took place away from the Atlantic Theatre.

There are also plenty of dramatized accounts; as Dunkirk shows, World War II is always fertile ground for stories to be told on the big and small screens. Saving Private Ryan and Band of Brothers come immediately to mind, as do The Dirty Dozen and The Bridge on the River Kwai, as well as Schindler’s List for the Holocaust. The miniseries The Winds of War, based on Herman Wouk’s novel, follows a far-flung American family as they get caught up in the war along with the United States. On the Pacific side, Clint Eastwood’s duology consisting of Flags of Our Fathers and Letters from Iwo Jima is hard to beat.

There are literally hundreds more documentaries and movies which delve into World War II and its various aspects. To find more, simply SmartBrowse World War II on our website, and please let us know about those you’ve found to be interesting and/or popular at your library in the comments section below.