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tv   Matthew Rozell A Train Near Magdeburg  CSPAN  November 6, 2021 9:15am-10:01am EDT

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you can find books on all our podcasts on c-span now apps or wherever you get your podcast and watch about books anytime, c-span american history tv continues, you can find the full schedule for the weekend on your program guide or >> my name is khorasan, retired history teacher from upstate new york and this is my presentation regarding my collection of world war ii interviews i did over the past 20 years and one in particular about a train that was liberated by a tank battalion from the u.s. army in the closing days of world war ii and what the soldiers found and what led to 65, 70 years later. it is called the train near ghani and it is about
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eyewitness accounts of the holocaust and our world war ii generation. i am a retired history teacher, graduated from the same high school i up teaching at. i'm currently writing my ninth book, i write world war ii oral history. i also united states memorial museum teacher fellow from 2008-2009. i have 4 nephew awards, the organization of american historian in 2010 gave me the national award. i did a lot of extensive travel, awarded scholarships to study at the authentic sites of the holocaust. my own state, new york, the highest award for teaching of the holocaust and i studied in jerusalem for three weeks delving into the holocaust so this is a story that brings together things that i learned
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that i did write a book about it. i was also named the righteous human being by the greater glens faust community, jewish community in 2018, they gave me this nice, nice granite stone to commemorate my achievements in bringing together survivors of the holocaust with their american liberators. it is in our village park, really nice. i'm not buried under it yet. this is me, i started teaching in the late 80s and this is some -- i thought it was important to spend more than the required one or 2 days in the teaching of world war ii. in the late 80s i would invite these veterans to come into the class and one thing i found out was these veterans, they were
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ready to tell their stories. i encouraged my students to take a simple surveys, i bribed them, have your grandfather, your grandmother, your parents in some cases feeling these sheets and get them back to me and maybe we will invite them in and that is what we did. i'm going to flip through a couple of these sheets, i found the last night. i did a deep dive into my archives and this is probably late 1980s, this gentleman was 66 years old at the time and our world war ii generation is leaving us in droves so this is at least 30 years ago. he was a machine gunner in iwo jima, shot by a machine gun, more kept coming in. this gentleman was from the european theater of operations and was a medic, surgical
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technician, 75 at the time, was -- combat was seen, hit by german fighters from christmas eve through the month of january of 1945 so he definitely talked about the battle of the bulge here. i had a question at the bottom. what does it feel like to know you were part of a great historical epic, the defining event of our century, he wrote i'm glad i was part of world war ii. when the jets bombed pearl harbor everybody wanted to go. there weren't many left in our town. we felt it was our duty to fight for our country, i got a few these back. this gentleman was a machine gunner, northern france,
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involves central europe, was combat seen? yes. he was wounded twice. here is a man who was in the pacific, wanted to invade the philippines in december, was hit by a typhoon, lost three destroyers in the group we were with, los three men from our ship, one ashore and everything was calm and the japanese opened up with mortars. what does it feel like to know you were part of this event, it was a job to be done and we did it. pretty common response. i ended with this question, what experiences or advice can you share with young people today to help them make the second world war more relevant, if you're ever called up for service during that time, do the best you can and depend on each other, you have to survive. survival was what it was about, working together. another one, war is not a gung ho thing, war is hell. we lost almost half our company and didn't see as much fighting as other companies that lost
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most of their men. one company ended up with 17 out of 200 men left, we must live in peace. a message for young people. was combat seen? were you wounded? this man did not enter into combat because of the death of two brothers, the law stated as i received a letter from major general in washington dc and we've seen those telegrams, but those notices were delivered to the families. he continues with this when describing memorable experiences, what is your situation like? he said this experience i will never forget came when i was notified through the red cross of the death of my two brothers. i was at hickman field in hawaii. another gentleman, i thought this would be the war to end all wars. i'm zinke to find so many changes like unemployment and
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some veterans benefits, $250 bonus from new york. i never used the 5220 club, $22 a week for 52 weeks. this new generation is in for hard times, too much alcohol and drug abuse, my prayers are for my grandchildren to get a good education and never have to go to war. at the time of me partaking in the events of the time it was a hard time in my life, it was a patriotic feeling at the same time as it is now. he continues it is with my thoughts for the person young or old, a person of this great country of ours should be so proud they show up every day with life, the wars in this country, we had many of decades for freedoms many take for granted, many young men have given their lives for us that
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we can be free in this country and honor them in any way we can. one of the kids wrote their grandfather's response, there was a job to do and he did it and trying to forget it now. i like this one. 6 inked. damn glad when it was over. finally this is the one that struck me the most. i don't know how you can make the young people of today understand what it was like to go through a nightmare like world war ii. and that hit me. because i don't know. i wasn't there. i was born 16 years after the war ended. to go through a nightmare like world war ii, how do you make a person understand it? you really can't. i took this as a challenge. so i sent the kids out, into the community, to collect these
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oral histories while we could. the veterans, many types came into the classroom. we had big assemblies in the school library where they would collectively were individually tell their stories and they appreciated it, they made a bond with the younger generation that perhaps this bridge besides their own grandchildren they might not have had before and it was a mutual appreciation and i continued going on doing these interviews and one day in the summer of 2001 i was invited to go to a house, one of my students grandfathers was in town for the summer, retired new york state supreme court justice and he told me a story that would eventually wind up changing not only my life but his life, the life of his american combat veteran friends in the lives of survivors he
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came upon on april 13th, 1945. the interesting thing about this story, he didn't -- he almost didn't tell me the story. he was a tank commander in the 740 third tank battalion. i sat down with him to get his story from leaving law school in albany, new york to basic training, shipping overseas, to being the, quote, lowest form of life landing in normandy in july of 1944. one of the light tanks, working with infantry pushing through the battle of normandy into belgium. the battle of the bulge, crossing the sick read line and finally into germany. he told me ten months of stories and some were funny. he was a funny guy. his name was walsh, red walls. he was 80 years old at the time, very spry.
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we got to the end of our interview, 2 hours long, great conversation with the man and his daughter chimed in, she had been very quiet in the background, did you tell khorasan about that train, he said no, i didn't a so he started to tell me this story that would wind up changing probably thousands of lives at this point. his friend on the right and his other buddy with his arm around his shoulder was george gross, they were both in the 740 third bank -- tank battalion, the book won battlefield commissions. they each committed their own light tanks. april 13th, 1945, the 740 third tank battalion which is attached to the thirtieth
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infantry was pushing toward the yelp river. they and their manger were pulled out of the tank column. somebody said there's a train stalled up by the tracks and we need to figure out what is going on because there appeared to be individual civilians wandering around the train. the major's name was clarence benjamin from oakland, california. he jumped in the jeep with his driver, had these two tanks, gross's tank follow him on a scouting mission on their way to fight a major battle in the city of magdeburg which would take a couple days later while the final battle was on the yalta river. the redding and the other side, americans pushing through central germany, this train is in the way. so the major pulled up, he stands up in the jeep and
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snapped a photograph for his after action report and you can see the drama in this photograph. he showed me the photograph and told me i should get a hold of george gross in california, still alive, retired professor, university of san diego, because gross had a camera too that day. there is the photo and the after action report which is buried in the national archives and this photograph remained buried until it was shown to me by walsh and gross. several photographs taken by doctor gross. he gave me permission to put this story on our school website because by this time i was taking these interviews. the kids were helping me transcribe them and we were putting them up on a world war ii living history project page
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which got 2 or 3 hits a day and doctor gross wrote up a beautiful narrative of his remembrances. his tank stayed with the train overnight, walsh's tank was ordered to continue on. they had a battle to fight and one of the reasons walsh, for him it was just another day in combat as you can hear from him later in this talk, not to make light of it, he says but so many things were happening, he almost forgot to tell me this story so the photographs went up on our school website and unbeknownst to me, at the bergen bills memorial, the notorious concentration camp in northwest germany for today there's a moral there, the gentleman there, had found my photographs and they were literally sharing these photographs that doctor gross gave me permission to put on
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the school website with survivors who were actually on that train and out of the blue one day i was attached to my classroom, i think it was 2006, four years after i put these stories up, the photographs, i got an email from a woman in australia, you see her picture here, she was a 7-year-old girl that day on the train and she said when she saw the website and the photographs of the day of her liberation, she fell off her chair and started to cry, she got on the phone and she found doctor gross and i put her in touch with karen walsh, and today lexi and her family are close friends with the families of walsh and doctor gross who has since passed away. i got really excited. i should a tear or two sitting in front of my computer when the kids were taking the test,
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when i got that email. less than a month later i heard from another survivor, by the following fall i heard heard from two more. these people were very highly educated professional men, on this train were probably 450 or 500 children, they were families in a special camp, you don't see the striped pajamas type uniform prison outfit. but i got thinking, i said you know what? walsh is right here, it is september of 2007. i know two of the guys, one lives in new jersey, the other one is a physicist at brooklyn college in new york city and the man on the far left, doctor peter lantos is coming to visit, he was a brain surgeon
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from kings college in london so very highly educated men. and they came to the high school. i arranged so they could meet their liberator. i had a friend who worked at the associated press out of albany and he came up and did a story, but before it went live he said i got to tell you you better get your secretaries ready because i think this story is going to go viral and this was in 2007. viral meant a different thing back then but he was right because that is exactly what happened. they met in our school auditorium for the first time, we had a lovely breakfast, students were everywhere invited to breakfast. obviously they were in the audience listening to the testimony of all these men and they left and went on their way but we recorded everything and
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the newspapers, the newspaper article when it hit the wire got picked up all over the place. the next morning which was a friday, september 14th, 2007, i went shopping for a new computer at staples. the salesman was trying to get me to buy a monitor to go with it, he pushed a button, the monitor flickered to life, and this was the home screen and it was the front page news on the yahoo news page back when yahoo was a thing and there is walsh, the picture the ap photographer took in my classroom and it did indeed go viral. it literally shut the servers down in the school over the weekend. i broke the internet. by the end of that weekend, i had her in from 60 more survivors, the united states, israel.
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over the course of the years that followed we heard from hundreds of holocaust survivors who survived and went on to live because of this. we hosted three reunions at our high school, 2007 the first one, 2009 abc world news came up, we were there persons of the weekend we did a final one at the high school in 2011. we also did one in israel, a big one, and we had a lot of unions. i became an official lay member of the 30 fifth infantry division world war ii association. i met frank towers, the president, who happened to be the liaison officer with the 743 tank battalion and frank was the soldier, in his mid-20s, the man who took these
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people on saturday, the fourteenth of april 1945 and got them out of harm's way. and abandon german liftoff -lutwaffe base, there were german nurses, german doctors, this is where the people stayed for six weeks and the russians ended up taking over the site. i wrote the book, the train to ghani. it took me ten years and it all came together about this time in 2016 and i tried to tell the story of the holocaust and as part of the presentation today the story of what the soldiers went through, their end of it fighting through normandie to belgium, battle of the bulge, the rhine river and the
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liberation scene and then the actual liberation day and the book concludes with the liberators and survivors meeting each other. we have a documentary in the works, it should be on pbs in spring of 2022. i knew i had to get this book out but i have a lot of questions. for example, how many people were murdered in the holocaust? you probably know the number if you are an educator like me, you think you know the number but what does the number look like? can you picture 6 million did jewish people? how many camps were there? that's a good question and an ongoing one as you will see in the next slide. put together, who is responsible for the biggest crime in the history of the world? how do you make 6 million people disappear in the course
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of 4 and a half years? was it hitler alone? we know the answer to that which raises more questions. how were the people in his train a snapshot of europeans persecuted by the nazis and others, researching the story i found most occupants of this train who were from a particular exchange camp and this camp was set up so these jews could be used as bargaining chips when times got tough and they were getting really tough in april of 1945 they had certificates that indicated foreign governments were interested in the well-being so they were used as bargaining chips, that was the plan. can i make people care today about what happened nearly three generations ago? i should add while most of the
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people on the train were of on gary and dissent we had polls, people from the netherlands who knew and frank, we had people from all over europe, they all have stories and they all fit into this big picture called the holocaust so we are collecting this testimony but then you have to ask yourself why is it important to listen to those people who were the first witnesses. what happens when these stories are no longer with us? once people have absorbed the stories do they have a moral responsibility to act on the lessons? is there such a thing as being a witness when you yourself were not there, if you listen to this testimony, allard abuse else's yes. 3 years before i finished the book and 12 years after i met judge walsh, retired new york city in court justice this
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article came out in the new york times, the holocaust just got more shocking. 42,500. did you know that number? this is from an article that is 8.5 years old, the scholarship began right around the time i interviewed judge walsh and it is continuing to this day, the research catalogs 42,500 nazi ghettos and camps throughout europe, the figure is so staggering that even tell holocaust survivors had to make sure they had heard correctly. the new numbers are unbelievable. that's a hard work, unbelievable because some people say it never happened. this is not believable because it can't be true. it is so fantastic. when you study the holocaust you realize how much you don't know. you might think you are an expert but believe me, that changes.
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bergen belson was was one historian called the final stop determinist of the holocaust. by 1945, the springtime, americans are closing in on one side, the british, the americans, the french, the soviets, maps from april 18th so this map shows you some red dots that are concentration camps. this is a book from the 1980s, probably 300 dots here, the bigger red are the bigger camps in poland in the east, the major killing centers. this is where many of these prisoners from these other camps were being shipped to, to stay out of the way of advancing allied armies. by the time the british liberated the camp on april 15th, the train transport had left the week before, they
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found 60,000 people will hear, 10,000 who were dead. 800 died today the british eleventh armored division entered the bergen-belsen camp. 800 people. got to see their liberators and died. 13,000 have since died, this billboard type thing was put up in the camp and probably 2 or 3 weeks after the british came in so it was quite an experience to visit. this is the first monument that was put up by the jewish community. i went there with a bunch of teachers in 2013. we were studying the holocaust and this particular trip was set up originally by survivors of the warsaw ghetto and they
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took it to the bergen-belsen first so i got to see this. there is a photograph because you have to remember when the camp was liberated these people had nowhere to go, number one, number 2 no country wanted them so many of them stayed in bergen-belsen, and it became a whole different thing after that. for five years some of my friends were here, children who spent teenage years waiting to come to canada, the united states or australia to hear some of the people died then. a very peaceful place today, very beautiful, here is our class, we were out walking in nature looking at the parks. this is the scene in the woods in april of 1945 taken by the british. this is what the british soldiers walked into and this is what survivors of the train near ghani relieving was
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another shot of a compound, here's a shot from a week after liberation, 1945 these pictures were taken by the british army. another photograph probably the same place that this was photographed in 1945, pretty graphic. i don't show these slides lightly. with students you have to be judicious, even the older ones so they get a quick scroll sometimes. this is me walking through the woods. you see a gutter channel running towards the latrine, same photograph, 1945, this guy was fired shortly after the photograph was taken. you may know her. you definitely know her sister. margo and and frank, they died in bergen-belsen. they were shipped to auschwitz after the discovery from the
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netherlands to a camp in the netherlands and auschwitz in fall of 1944, then they wound up in bergen-belsen where they probably died, we know they died but we don't know exactly when. march, february, 1945, only a few weeks before the camp was liberated. this particular monument says here lies 800 dead. this may be where those two beautiful girls wound up. it is a cemetery. these are mass graves, here loves 1000 dead, april of 1945 all over the grounds of the bergen-belsen memorial today. it is pretty graphic and a lot of the people died from
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starvation and disease, typhus was raining through the camp, probably killed the frank girls. some of the train occupants were typhus victims themselves. not a pleasant way to go. the british burned the camp to the ground in the middle of may a month after liberation mainly to combat the spread of this typhus disease. today it is not there. you have to use your imagination but the photographs help. the keeper of the book of names, burn horsemen contacted me and you can see the photographs in the lower corner, they talk about the train transports. the trains, three transports with the people who had exchange papers left the camp in april, april 6th the first train left followed by another two in the next couple days, they were headed to the camp,
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the last concentration camp that was liberated was liberated by the russians on the last day of world war ii, may. they were trying to get these people out so they could do something with them and they wound up deciding to execute them in the end. so here is the root of three trains, the train liberated by the americans on april 13th, the blue line is the oak river, the yellow line is the root of that train the two others were liberated as well as the first by the americans, the second one made it, we are not sure what happened to the people. the third was liberated by the russians across the river on the 20 third. here's my friend steve barry and his liberator, judge walsh
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and this is when they met for the first time in florida. in that weekend after we did our first union, he said he was drinking a cup of coffee and opened the newspaper and spit his food out and said this is the train i have been looking for for the last 60 years. they found out they live an hour away from each other in florida. there was a reunion that was arranged. i will give you a link, you can watch a video of their reunion. they describe the scene of liberation from their own perspectives. the letter that you here at the end that judge walsh wrote to steve barry is in the archives at the holocaust memorial museum into the presentation, the director sarah bloomfield stood up and asked if they could get that letter and the two gentlemen agreed so it is
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very significant for them where he says we owe you everything for everything that was done to you when the world did nothing about it. frank towers, the man on the left sitting next to frank junior, his son and vietnam veteran is treating the little polish girl who was 11 years old who lives in toronto, canada and they hit it off, frank hit it off with everybody. this is frank in jerusalem between tel aviv and jerusalem. look at these two girls, they were on the train. he got to meet 55 survivors, wouldn't have been alive if it hadn't been for frank. the third infantry division and 740 third tank battalion, that was a great great time. from toronto a 17-year-old on
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gary and boy is with his precocious granddaughter who he called his revenge just loved it to meet his liberator's. she was 4, she was an orphan, raised by other women and she had a great story and i visited her in israel a few times and she recently passed away. leslie is gone. she is still alive, there is a cute little girl. when 2011 came around and we did our last reunion it was hard to get people to come because they are not young people anymore. the phone rang in my classroom. my school put a phone in the classroom. they had an outside line,
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unusual at the time. they are feeling cause from survivors and soldiers looking for me. i haven't heard from anybody and four years. the phone rang and the ability lesson during my break time and it was this man who said matt, i was a combat medic for six weeks, i took care of these people as they fight their battles. i stayed. he had a pretty dramatic story. i don't know if you ever heard of this guy but he was a guest of the president in 2019 at the state of the union address. he survived the massacre at the 3 light synagogue in pittsburgh, was in the parking lot when the gunman came out. he was late and many of his friends died. i read the story in the washington post, how he narrowly survived and they made a big deal about the fact that he would have been saved before
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and they started talking about this train, judo was on the train so we arranged the film producer, mike edwards and i for judah and walter to meet in scranton, pennsylvania and i will show you the quick clip which is going to be in our film. ♪♪ >> a long time ago. over 70 years. a lifetime you know what time your memories become dim, you just can't -- but there are
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certain events that stay with a person all their lifetime. >> i remember the train stuck in the middle of the forest and everybody panicked. everybody thought this was the place they were going to come and kill us all and sure enough we heard a rumble of a tank, it opens and a soldier popped out and my father yelled americans. >> the response to seeing that star on the green painted tank and jeep is one of unbridled joy for those survivors who are not too young, it meant liberation, it meant they were now safe.
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>> go ahead a little bit, lobsters at the table here. there it is. there is my friend. so good to see you. >> i remember what happened. >> thanks to a couple gentlemen. >> yeah. >> here is our guy.
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he is the one that united us. >> that was a pretty great moment. a week later walter came to one of my talks in pennsylvania and met another survivor from brooklyn, he died in fall, in, he was 95. he said he read my book for 5 times. there's a chapter about him in it and he said i'm not reading it because i am in it because i to learn more about the holocaust. his family put the book in his coffin and he was buried with it. that is the end of my story for now. i have several books and it is all world war ii oral history testimony.
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if you're interested, you can go to my website you probably have some questions and i probably went a little too fast but here we are. any other questions feel free to ask. >> exploring the people and events that tell the american story on american history tv on oral histories, veterans from world war ii to the iraq war share their experiences of war and its aftermath and from the civil war two programs on property we. the director of the university of virginia civil war history discusses her book end of war. the unfinished fight of lee's army after appomattox, political uncertainty in the weeks following the end of the civil war. new york times columnist with his book robert ely:a life, the confederate general's life is
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detailed from virginia's highest society, his long career in the u.s. army and his leadership defending the confederate cause during the civil war. watch american history tv every weekend. find a schedule on your program guide or watch online on >> c-span on the go, watch the day's biggest political events live or on demand anywhere on our new minute -- mobile video apps. excise highlights on c-span radio and discover new podcast for free. download c-span now today. >> sunday on "in depth" a live conversation with arthur and new york times columnist on republican politics of conservatism in america. was recently released book the deep places talks about his 5 year struggle. is a titles include the
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decadent society, privilege and bad religion. join in the conversation with phone calls, and tweets, sunday live at noon eastern on booktv's "in depth" on c-span2. before the program be sure to visit to get your copies of his book. two world war i historians joins us to narrate a silent film on the remains of an unknown american world war i soldier from france to arlington national cemetery. >> how to this concept of the unknown soldier being honored come about? >> it goes back to the beginning of the mechanization of warfare you thought expand during world war i, a lot more unidentifiable remains and you have a lot in the civil war but
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people were struggling with the fact that they could not figure out who many of these casualties were so great britain and france in 1920 buried an unknown soldier in each of their countries, in break -- in great britain it was westminster abbey and in france under the arc they triomphe in paris. the us decided to do something similar. the idea was started by representative hamilton finch of new york who committed legislation to bury an unknown soldier from the us. the casket is carried down the steps of the united states capitol. similar ceremonies in our time. the horse drawn gear will make its way through washington and over to arlington cemetery. let's watch.
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[projector sound] >> that is where to do you see the larger sarcophagus over that which was not constructed at this moment. >> there is the final shot of arlington national cemetery much as we see it again with the many head stones marking the fallen. it is important to pause and think about the meaning the unknown soldier had at this time. it was about world war i, yes but also it was thought to be a memorial that could connect all the different american conflicts that stretch beyond world war i and honor those who served in the nation's armed forces and that continue strongly until today.


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