I will never be a student of battle tactics, never really interested in the nitty gritty details of exactly which way a battle had unfolded, minute by minute, decision by decision. I am, however, very interested in the experiences and stories of the individual people who were there.
The Little Ships: The Heroic Rescue at Dunkirk in World War II is exactly that. A story about individual people. This particular book is fiction but is based on true events. And as the author, Louise Borden, says, “it could have happened. Maybe, indeed, it did.”
This story, told through the eyes of a young girl who sailed with her fisherman father to Dunkirk, to rescue Allied forces from the German advance, is an excellent introduction to an event I did not know about. A little research into the event tells me many of those battle details which make my eyes glaze over. This book, though, brings the individual human element into the large-scale resue operation.
“This beach was wide and flat, its sand covered by…the wild mess of an army on the run.”
“My father… stood at the helm, holding the Lucy steady in the water, against…everything that soldiers leave behind when they can take only themselves.”
The watercolor pictures and the words help tell the story of the miraculous evacuation. Winston Churchill and other military leaders initially hoped to be able to save 25% of the soldiers but through the dedicated efforts of both military and civilians in an incredible armada of 861 ships dubbed Operation Dynamo, over 338,000 men (and almost 200 dogs!) were rescued. The small boats played a key role in the operation by ferrying the men from the shallow waters at the beach out to the larger ships anchored in deep water. England called and her people answered.
These are the war stories that I prefer to learn about… the stories of people sacrificing and working together to achieve great things.
Learning through books and movies
As I’ve said before, kids’ picture books are a terrific way to discover a story. Through the words and pictures you get an introduction and overview that piques your interest and makes you want to learn more. Or at least that’s the way it works for me!
While books can provide information, a movie can immerse you even more into what it may have been like. I mentioned the Normandy beach scene in Saving Private Ryan in my post about the National D-Day Memorial as an excellent example of that immersion. A movie has also recently been made about the Dunkirk evacuation.
Here’s a trailer of Dunkirk.
I think I need to add this to my watch list. I’m sure my husband won’t mind watching it with me. It’s definitely much more up his alley than the Hallmark Movies I’m always wanting to watch.
The other thing I might need to do is research those rescued dogs mentioned in the book! You can see the other books I’ve found about dogs in war here… Books For Veteran’s Day.
And one of these days I’ll write up my most recent visit to the Marine Corps Museum where I saw an excellent War Dog Art Exhibit.
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