An intrepid young filmmaker has made it his mission to interview every surviving combat veteran from the Second World War.
Rishi Sharma told Sky News he felt a “responsibility to document the reality of the combat these men went through”, which inspired him to get to work on an ambitious series to give them “an extended life”.
Appearing on Kay Burley@Breakfast, the 22-year-old said his long fascination with the conflict and admiration for the troops who fought made him want to meet as many of them as he could.
Image: Rishi Sharma is working on Heroes Of The Second World War
“Ever since I was a little kid I’ve always been interested in the Second World War, and when I was in high school I wanted to meet these men face-to-face,” he said.
“Because if it wasn’t for the men who fought for the Allied side during the worst war in humanity, people like me would not exist and so I’m grateful to be alive.”
Mr Sharma, from Maine, has been travelling the US to interview veterans including Romus Burgin, whose stories from the war inspired the HBO drama series The Pacific.
He films each one of his interviews, which last for several hours, before editing and burning the footage on to a DVD to send to their families – many of whom have never heard their relatives speak so openly about the conflict.
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“What stops a lot of the men from sharing with their families, is that they love them so much that they would not even want them to think about what they went through in the war,” he said.
“When someone like me comes along, a total stranger, it gives these war heroes an opportunity to get this stuff off their chest and it can be very cathartic.”
Image: Roy Hopper lost his best friend Dale right in front of him
Image: Quentin Murdock fought on Omaha beach on D-Day
Mr Sharma has now interviewed more than 1,000 Second World War veterans for his project, which is non-profit and relies only upon donations – most of which go towards travel costs.
He said the men he speaks to seem extremely grateful for the chance to open up on their experiences.
Image: Mr Sharma said he was ‘honoured’ to meet so many WWII veterans
“Nobody who saw their best friends getting killed or who had to kill just to survive another day should have that locked away in their head for a day, let alone 75 years,” he said.
“It is important that these men know it’s OK what they had to do and had to witness and that we’re grateful for it.”
Image: Millions of Americans served during the war
He added: “Often when I send the DVDs of the interviews to the families, they will reach out and say they have heard hours of things that they did not even know about
“Eventually that leads to a conversation and they’ll have an understanding, which is so important.
“Anyone who feels their dad or grandfather does not talk to them, do not take that as a sign of disrespect – take it as a sign of love. They just don’t want you to have to harbour the thoughts of what the war was like.”
Image: An estimated 15 million people died in battle during WWII
Image: More than 1,000 veterans have been interviewed so far
To help make his Heroes Of The Second World War series as exhaustive as possible, Mr Sharma invites others to contribute their own video interviews with veterans who may be out of his reach.
He said it could help him broaden the scope of the project beyond the US.
For information on how you could contribute, visit heroesofthesecondworldwar.org.
Source : Sky News