The U.P. Recalls the War is a Michigan made documentary capturing interviews with veterans of WWII from Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, the movie utilizes extensive archival footage to further illustrate the stories told by the men and women who served our country.
The U.P. alone sacrificed nearly 1,500 soldiers in a war that saw over 400,000 American lives lost. The region gave soldiers to every branch of the Armed Forces, who ended up in nearly 60 countries, and fought in every major battle.
Much of the interview material focuses on the contributions to the war effort from those back home. Some of the U.P. residents interviewed discuss being in grade school at the time, scraping up enough pennies to buy war bondsto help out. People recycled, endured food and gasoline rationing. Women entered the workforce in large numbers to take up where the men at war left off. Iron ore mining in the U.P. was considered vital to the war effort. Many men stayed on the job in the mines since the government exempted them from the draft due to the importance of the industry. Gliders for the war were manufactured in factories converted for the war effort.
The revelation of 6 P.O.W. camps to hold captured Germans soldiers in the U.P. was something most Michiganders probably would be shocked to learn about. The lumber industry was suffering a manpower shortage like most other industries, and the war increased the demand for wood products substantially. The Geneva Convention prevents forced labor of P.O.W.’s, but a large number of German prisoners volunteered to go to work in the forests of the U.P. for the duration of the captivity. The news reel propaganda films show healthy prisoners working, eating adequate food, wearing clean clothes, and even smoking cigarettes bought from the proceeds of the 80 cents per day that they earned in the camps. No former German P.O.W.’s were interviewed, so first-hand accounts of living conditions in the camps were not represented (which would make for an interesting story on its own).
Note: Answering the Call is a 2010 documentary about Michigan veterans of WWII that was filmed by Jim Huston, and edited by Jewly Huston Warren and Scott Warren (Analog Mutant) at theGrand Rapids Community Media Center and broadcast on Grand Rapids Public Television.
U.P. Remembers the War is available on dvd at the Grand Rapids Public Library