Ichiro Sudan trained to be a kamikaze…
Roscoe Brown was a commander in the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African American military aviators.
Charin Singh, a farmer from Delhi, spent seven years as a Japanese prisoner of war and was not sent home until four years after the war ended.
Uli John lost an arm serving in the German army but ultimately befriended former enemy soldiers as part of a network of veterans-people who fought in the war and know what war really means.
These are some of the faces and stories in the remarkable Veterans, the outcome of a worldwide project by Sasha Maslov to interview and photograph the last surviving combatants from World War II.
Soldiers, support staff and resistance fighters candidly discuss wartime experiences and their lifelong effects in this unforgettable, intimate record of the end of a cataclysmic chapter in world history and tribute to the members of an indomitable generation.Veterans is also a meditation on memory, human struggle and the passage of time.
The following is an extract from Veterans: Faces of World War II.
My name is Ken Smith. I was born on April 12, 1922, in Portsmouth. My parents were very religious. I was in the dockyard choir. I left school at thirteen. I worked on houses. I used to make flights of stairs until the war, when timber became so scarce the government commandeered all of it.
I remember the day the war broke out. I was in church that day. At eleven, Chamberlain was going to make an announcement. I ran home. I remember him saying, “We are at a state of war.” We were told to be ready for air raids. The first thing I did, I went down to the bottom of the garden and dug a big trench about eight feet long. I was there the whole day, expecting an air raid that night. But during the night, it rained heavily. I couldn’t stay there. The next morning it was filled up with water.
I loved football, and a friend of mine said, “Join the Royal Marines; you’ll get plenty of football.” I joined when I was eighteen. I did six months of training near Dover, where we expected the invasion to begin. Every night we used to stand on the beaches. When the invasion didn’t happen, I was moved to Plymouth. I passed two naval gunnery courses and was sent up on a ship in Newcastle, HMS Manchester.
I was born in the Ibaraki Prefecture on June 10, 1929. I was born into a family of farmers; I didn’t find much difficulty in getting food. Generally, the quality of life was low in Japan. It must have been hard for others. My father was a fisherman before he was married. He sailed on a big ship, traveling all over the world, to America and Great Britain. He married a woman from the next town over. I was the fourth of six children and the only boy. We mostly farmed when we were young. The other men in the area went on to be soldiers. I began training in 1941, in Kashima city, at twelve years old. I was young. I wanted to help out Japan. I had no fear of death. We had been taught that we should be honoured to die for the country. Everyone was brainwashed. We all thought it was noble to die for Japan. So I applied to become a child pilot when I turned fourteen.
Read more from these incredible stories, plus stories from 48 more veterans, in Sasha Maslov’s Veterans: Faces of World War II.