Originally created 05/27/01

Movie attracts veterans



ATLANTA - Georgia veterans gave an enthusiastic welcome Saturday to Hollywood's latest effort to honor the sacrifices of Americans who died fighting for their country during World War II.

"It was absolutely magnificent," said retired Army Sgt. Maj. Lyman Pressley, of Conyer,s after a special screening of Pearl Harbor arranged by U.S. Sen. Max Cleland.

Mr. Pressley, who entered the Signal Corps in 1940 and served in the Caribbean theater during the war, said he related even more to the new movie than its predecessor, Saving Private Ryan, because he's from Tennessee, the home state of the best friends who serve as the film's main characters.

"I'll never forget being a young squirt from Tennessee and not knowing where to go," he said.

Mr. Cleland, D-Ga., wasn't able to attend the Saturday morning screening at a mall theater in Atlanta's Buckhead section because he was in Washington casting a vote in support of a 10-year, $1.35 trillion tax-cut package.

"He wanted to say, 'Thank you,' to members of the greatest generation," Bill Chapman, the senator's state director, told an audience of nearly 300, referring to the tag NBC news anchorman Tom Brokaw gave the World War II generation in his book.

There were no survivors of the surprise Japanese attack on the American fleet in Saturday's audience. About two dozen already had attended a screening earlier this week at the same theater, arranged by the Pearl Harbor Survivors Association.

Most of the crowd were younger veterans and their families, including a number of activists in veterans issues.

Charles Barrett, of Smyrna, said the World War II movies and Mr. Brokaw's book are helping build public support for a World War II memorial on the Mall in Washington. He said one reason such recognition for World War II veterans has been long in coming is that groups such as the American Legion were concentrating on Vietnam veterans.

"People from Vietnam felt they were being disregarded," said Mr. Barrett, who served as an air traffic controller for the Air Force during the Korean War. "We erected the Vietnam Memorial to show them we appreciated what they did, even though it was a thankless war."

Augusta lawyer John Bell, who brought four children to Atlanta for the screening, said he's gratified that Hollywood at last has brought so much attention to the sacrifices of a generation of Americans. But Mr. Bell, whose father fought in North Africa and Italy, is worried that with so many World War II veterans aging and dying, stories are being lost.

"I hope we can get all the stories told ... the individual adventures of millions of lives," he said.

Bobby Boss of Loganville, the commander of American Legion Post 233, said movies such as Pearl Harbor might be the only way today's young people learn about the war.

"They don't teach this in the schools," said Mr. Boss, who was stationed at Pearl Harbor during a four-year stint in the Navy during the late 1940s and early 1950s. "All they want to teach is ancient history. They ought to cover things that happened the last 40, 50, 60 years."

Reach Dave Williams at (404) 589-8424 or mnews@mindspring.com.