Army-Sponsored Documentary Film Vividly Shows Troops Suffering From Psychiatric Wounds … 65 Years Ago

Marine Faris Tuohy sips coffee in the company of two fellow Marines aboard a Navy ship in March 1944 after two continuous days of heavy fighting on Eniwetok Atoll, Marshall Islands, during World War II. Many troops who fought in the brutal Pacific Campaign suffered from what doctors then called “battle fatigue,” “shell shock,” or “psychoneurosis.” The recently restored Army documentary film titled “Let There Be Light” chronicles the effort to treat shaken servicemen returning from battle and is now available to the public online. (Ray R. Platnick/Navy)

John Huston Film About WWII Soldiers That Army Suppressed is Restored

by Steve Vogel
Washington Post, May 24, 2012

More than 65 years after it was suppressed by the Army, a powerful and controversial John Huston documentary about soldiers suffering from the psychological wounds of war has been restored by the National Archives and debuts Thursday on the Web.

“Let There Be Light” portrays GIs just back from the battlefields of Europe and the Pacific — trembling, stuttering, hollow-eyed and crying. Using a noir style, Huston filmed dozens of soldiers in unscripted scenes from their arrival at an Army psychiatric hospital on Long Island through weeks of often successful treatment, culminating in their release to go home.

John Huston’s 1946 documentary film “Let There Be Light” was buried by the Army for years. The Army commissioned the film, one of three directed by Huston. He said it was “the most hopeful and optimistic and even joyous thing I ever had a hand in,” though it wasn’t seen in public until 1980. (Academy)

The restoration “reveals the film’s full force,” said Scott Simmon, a film historian and English department chairman at the University of California, Davis.

Even after the Army approved its release in 1980, the poor quality of the prints and, in particular, the garbled soundtrack made it almost impossible to understand the whispers and mumbles of soldiers in some scenes.

The restored soundtrack “makes the film speak in a way it never could before,” Simmon said in an interview.

The film is striking for its potential relevance for a new generation of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, showing soldiers struggling to cope with what was then commonly called shell shock, and more formally labeled psychoneurosis, but is now known as post-traumatic stress disorder.

“We hope that by making ‘Let There Be Light’ freely available — and by drawing attention to it — that the courageous documentary will find the audience it was intended to serve,” said Annette Melville, director of the National Film Preservation Foundation, which funded the restoration.

The film, commissioned by the Army near the end of the war, was intended to prepare Americans for the realities of what combat had done to those sent to war but also to show that their psychological wounds could often be treated with therapy.

But when it came time to release the film, the Army balked, claiming it violated the privacy of the soldiers involved. Huston never bought that explanation.

“I think it boils down to the fact that they wanted to maintain the ‘warrior’ myth, which said that our Americans went to war and came back all the stronger for the experience, standing tall and proud for having served their country well,” Huston wrote years later in his autobiography.

Read the rest of this story:

Watch the film:


One Response

  1. Reblogged this on Fighting PTSD.

RESPOND... Share Your Thoughts

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: