Breaking the Silence

Breaking the Silence

Veterans' Untold Stories From the Great War to Afghanistan

Book - 2009
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"Never talked about it."

That's what most people say when they're asked if the veteran in the family ever shared wartime experiences. Describing combat, imprisonment or lost comrades from the World Wars, the Korea War, or even Afghanistan is reserved for Remembrance Day or the Legion lounge. Nobody was ever supposed to see them get emotional, show their vulnerability. Nobody was ever to know the hell of their war.

About 25 years ago, Ted Barris began breaking through the silence. Because of his unique interviewing skills, he found that veterans would talk to him, set the record straight and put a face on the service and sacrifice of men and women in uniform. As a result of his work on 15 previous books, Barris has earned a reputation of trust among Canada's veterans. Indeed, over the years, nearly 3,000 of them have shared their memories, all offering original material for his books.

Among other revelations in Breaking the Silence , veterans of the Great War reflect on an extraordinary first Armistice in 1918; decorated Second World War fighter pilots talk about their thirst for blood in the sky; Canadian POWs explain how they survived Chinese attempts to brainwash them during the Korean War; and soldiers with the Afghanistan mission talk about the horrors of the "friendly fire" incident near Kandahar.

Breaking the Silence is a ground-breaking book that goes to the heart of veterans' war-time experiences.

Publisher: Toronto, Ont. : Thomas Allen Publishers, 2009
ISBN: 9780887624650
Branch Call Number: 355.00971 B277b
Characteristics: 290p illus


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Nov 07, 2010

p, 63 He (Romeo Dallaire) testified before a parliamentary committee and, as assistant deputy minister of human resources for the military in 1998, he introduced the "Enhanced Leadership Model," recommending that officers study philosophy, sociology, and anthropology, and that an expanded definition of peacekeeping include conflict resolution. He explained to me that where there's a crisis in a nation-state, peacekeeping nations and armies have to understand - whether it's caused b lack of power sharing (Bosnia), a humanitarian catastrophe from drought and rebels toppling government (Somalia), or long-festering religious or ethnic difference (Rwanda) - knowing the source of the conflict is only half the solution. Responding effectively is the other half. He called for a "whole new generation of leadership" that had a greater understanding "of what the political world is, what the humanitarian world is, and what the nation-building world is."

Nov 07, 2010

p. 270 The veterans I met from the Afghanistan mission....

...they were no more able to explain their feelings (or absence of feelings) than their fathers or grandfathers had been. In them, I saw a stark continuum of the veteran experience. In them, I saw fear, I saw trauma, I saw loss, ... I witnessed war damage in men who could have been my sons. And it frightened me to the core to learn that as many as a quarter of these vets needed psychiatric assistance en route home to civilian life or further armed service.*

How many more veterans returning from campaigns in 1918, 1945, or 1953 never made it to such statisticians' lists?

*According to information released under the Access to Information Act, the Toronto Star reported "as of April 2008, 700 soldiers and Mounties, who had served on the Afghan front lines - 19 percent of all forces deployed - had qualified for medical release from the Canadian Forces or RCMP with "pensionable psychiatric condition."

Nov 07, 2010

p.269 With his accounts of life behind the walls of a Korean War POW camp, Len Badowich showed me that sometimes a soldier's greatest weapon against his enemy didn't consist of steel or lead, but of keeping his wits about him.

Nov 07, 2010

p.2 I thought about the significance of these spontaneous bridge vigils that had gone on for several years. I wasn't certain how or exactly when they began, but because the bodies of fallen Canadian soldiers had to travel from Canadian Forces Base Trenton (in eastern Ontario) to the Toronto coroner's office before being released officially to their families, people began paying their respects by assembling silently on overpasses along Highway 401 and the Don Valley Parkway. A groundswell of civilian sentiment and media coverage led to a petition and eventually to the official renaming of that section of the 401 running from Trenton to Toronto as the "Highway of Heroes."


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rb3221 Aug 23, 2015

There is too much of Barris' own life as a journalist and as an interviewer to my liking. This distracts the reader from the book's main thesis: the stories of the soldiers who are "breaking the silence" on things that happened to them that they have rarely talked about. Barris does have the ability to speak to these veterans, gain their trust, get their stories and set the record straight. And there are clearly some very interesting stories that are shared for the first time.
The book is, however, somewhat hard to follow as Barris jumps back and forth from World War I to Korea to World War II , thus making it difficult to follow his structure and the various story lines.

Nov 07, 2010

I've read the odd book about fighter jets breaking the sound barrier, U-boats and some Tom Clancy. I've seen Apocalypse Now, Saving Private Ryan, etc. I wear a Poppy. I've spoken to Vets. And now I've read this book. I'm glad Mr. Barris mentions the fear, the constant fear.

Maybe the author has made mention in other books, but there is something missing. What of the non-White Vets?

And for the future, what of the the warriors who work with non-lethal weapons like alternative dispute resolution, non-violent conflict resolution, restorative justice and social development, who work (sometimes in personally life-threatening conditions) to prevent and heal violence?

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