For me, going on the WWII study trip was very impactful. The different sites we saw and stories we heard have changed my World view. The trip was led by Phil O’Conner who is a WWII enthusiast and extremely intelligent man.
Our first stop was the German WWII Cemetery. Here, there are 6 men buried to a grave. There is a very sad and dark feeling over the entire site. The picture below is of the memorial in the cemetery. You can see that the men are depicted as very young, sad & scared. This memorial broke my heart as most of the men buried here are my age. I could not imagine how scary and confusing this time was.
It was interesting to contrast this cemetery to the American one (below). I have never been to DC, but upon entering I felt like I was immediately back in America. Here, each fallen soldier is buried 1 to a grave, which makes the site seem so much bigger. The second picture below is in the chapel. Here, all the missing soldiers are listed. The final picture is the memorial sculpture. You can already see the contrast between the German and American sculptures.
In America we learn all about the USA’s involvement in WWII and only briefly cover other country’s involvements. The war for Italy started way before America intervened (which took a lot of convincing from Churchill). I know I didn’t realize how torn Italy was after the war-we mostly learn in school only about the Allies and Germany/Poland’s Concentration Camps. But, Italy was heavily affected by the war. Mussolini convinced Italy that siding with the Germans was right, but many Italians felt differently. This eventually led to Italy changing sides and fighting with the Allies to eventually defeat Hitler’s army (of course this is an extreme over simplification).
Something that I personally didn’t realize, but that I learned quickly, was how truly clueless America was during the first couple of years in the war. We really didn’t know what was going on and that millions of Jews, Gypsies, Homosexuals, and Christians were being shipped from all over Europe to death camps. I’d like to think that if we had known sooner, we would have gotten involved sooner, but that we will never know.
Although America is glorified as having ended the war, I think that it is also important to realize that Italy (and many other countries) in particular had an even bigger role to play. The men and women here were very brave & fought hard for their country and for human rights. I wish that WWII didn’t happen, but I am thankful for all the brave men and women who fought for what is right.
We stopped at a lot of other places (a museum, sites around the city where memorable instances in the War happened, etc.) but to the future JFRC-ers I don’t want to give it away. Go on this trip. You will not regret it.