“I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun'' is a feature length film constructed from the stories of three WWII veterans fighting on the European front. As they recount their experiences through the prism of their 90-year old selves, they reveal the shocking reality of combat that still weighs heavy in their lives.
Each soldier represents a unique and sometimes disturbing perspective in their experience of war - and how they respond to the challenges of surviving combat. Harold Kozloff, a brazen Jewish soldier in the infantry, hated the Germans and killed them with impunity. On the surface, Harold killed without conscience, yet the brutality of WWII touched his life forever.
Leo Litwak was a reluctant Jewish soldier who became a medic in the infantry. While he hated Nazism, he saw the German soldiers as victims of circumstance. Following the orders of the Geneva Convention he treated their wounds with the same consideration he practiced while working on American G.I.’s, but not without consequence.
Paul Mico, a Catholic Squad Sergeant in the 29th infantry, reluctantly takes enemy lives, and gives the film historical context from the Normandy invasion to the German surrender. His soft-spoken musings soon become shocking as he reveals how his squad killed unarmed prisoners. After the massacre at Malmedy, Belgium, where the Germans machine-gunned 84 American prisoners, Sergeant Mico and his men began a killing spree - the impact of which indelibly changed his life.
The soldiers do not censor themselves in telling their stories, including how they reacted to the Anti-Semitism of their fellow G.I.’s; their rage unleashed against the Germans directly involved in the persecution of their religious brethren; and the horrific consequences of the war to their lives. This powerful and poetic film employs a haunting original score integrated with rare archival footage, ultimately revealing that even in a justifiable war no soldier escapes the trauma of the requirement to kill or be killed.
Whether a war is justified or not, killing the enemy has a profound impact on the soldier who is obligated to take the life of other human beings. Combat turns the soldier’s mind to his own death and the suffering it will bring to his family and friends. This shadow lingers. He cannot help reflecting on the pain he inflicts on the loved ones of the person he has killed. The pain is profound. The long-term ramifications of killing affect his ability to be fully in touch with his own deepest feelings.
It is quite common to hear the children of veterans say, “he would never talk about the war.” What these three men left on the battlefield was more profound than their innocence- how they survived combat. They suppressed their emotions, developed a mask of stoicism, and spent the rest of their lives in trauma they had buried. Finally, in their old age they shared their experiences. I believe this film can awaken veterans and the rest of us to some understanding – that they are not alone, past wars still impact their lives and those of their families and communities. That means: the rest of us.
My journey as a filmmaker has been deeply influenced by my personal experiences and the profound impact of Hollywood movies. Growing up, I found inspiration on the silver screen, drawn to the allure of daring adventures and courageous male protagonists. However, as life unfolded, I realized that the hero portrayed on celluloid was often a distant reality from the complexities of real life.
I was drafted into the Services after completing my art education, and worked as an illustrator for an Army intelligence agency. I volunteered for duty as a combat artist in Viet Nam. But I was required to extend my time in the service for the assignment, which I was unwilling to do. I received an honorable discharge and went back to college.
My quest for understanding the consequences of combat was the genesis for my interests of making a documentary about war, 'I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun' aims to explore the profound psychological impact of war on individuals, shedding light on human behavior under extreme circumstances. By delving into the minds of the characters and their experiences, we seek to capture the essence of the inner turmoil and complexities that arise when people are tasked with the duty to kill.
Through this film, I aspire to pose thought-provoking questions about the nature of heroism, the fragility of humanity, and the lasting consequences of war on the human soul. It is a tribute to the human spirit, vulnerability, and resilience in the face of the most challenging situations.
As a director, I approach this project with a deep sense of responsibility to portray the psychological truths of war while honoring the courage and sacrifice of those who have lived through such experiences. It is my hope that this film will encourage introspection, empathy, and a greater understanding of the human condition in times of crisis.
Ultimately, 'I Wanted To Be A Man With A Gun' is a testament to the power of storytelling as a means to explore the depths of our humanity, to challenge our preconceived notions of heroism, and to foster a greater appreciation for the fragility and strength that reside within each of us."