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Epoch Cinema Documentary Review: ‘One of Many’

Updated: Dec 10, 2022


I’ve seen my fair share of World War II films—some of the newer movies, but mainly the older ones from the Golden Age of Hollywood. The narrative feature films with stars like John Wayne, William Holden, and Burt Lancaster.

However, every so often I am treated to World War II documentaries, which to me, hold a special place in cinema. They are the “real deal”—that is to say, they are about the men who actually fought in the Second World War. Hearing them recount their incredible experiences is, to me, something much more intimate and fascinating.

My latest discovery, a documentary titled “One of Many,” is one such film. It is about a World War II veteran named George Merz, and his unique experiences during that terrible conflict.

George Merz in “One of Many” (With an I Productions)

The film begins with a sobering message that reads, “Of the 70 million people who served during the Second World War, 16 million were citizens of the United States of America. Less than 250,000 are alive today. Private First Class George Merz … is one of these veterans.”

George Merz was born on Feb. 23, 1925, to a German family in Schnitzelburg, a working-class community in Louisville, Kentucky. His family was of German descent and his father eked out a living as a carpenter during the Great Depression (1929–1939).

On Dec. 7, 1941, after the surprise attack by the Japanese on Pearl Harbor, Merz, like so many other young men, wanted to join the military to serve his country. He didn’t have to wait long since he was soon drafted as an Army MP (Military Police) and shipped overseas to take back France (and other European countries) from the Germans.

He was told that the Army Airborne divisions would be leading the initial assault on the Germans, and the consensus was that he and the other regular troops would merely go in after them to “clean and mop up everything.” He soon realized how difficult that would be.

As an MP, Merz wasn’t assigned to a combat unit. Instead, he was stationed at various intersections in order to help direct traffic for civilian as well as military vehicles—sometimes even on the front lines.

Soon after arriving in Europe, Merz and another soldier overheard some girls speaking French. Curious about the language and people, they managed to learn a good deal of it—enough to start a small cigarette business on the side, where they’d make enormous profits marking up prices for cartons of cigarettes.

One day, his MP unit was ordered to travel from Bastogne, Belgium, to a small town to the northeast called Gouvy. They were to help control the railroads there. His unit was set up in a large hotel but had run out of room, so Merz was assigned to stay with a local Belgian family—the Lallemand family.

George Merz’s dear friend Gabriel Lallemand in “One of Many” (With an I Productions)

Merz recalls how much he enjoyed staying with the family, despite being in the middle of a raging war. One of the Lallemands, a girl around Merz’s age (18) named Gabriel, would frequently take him out to local gatherings involving other youths who wanted to enjoy themselves and destress from the dangers they faced daily.

But soon, all of the music and smiles faded as Hitler decided to make a last-ditch effort to reclaim Belgium. Merz talks about how the famous Battle of the Bulge first began—the Allies had liberated all of the cities and towns of Belgium and were on the border with Germany. Then the Germans began the offensive by sending some of their most powerful tanks into Belgium by railroad.

Merz recounts that as the Germans crossed the Belgian border, they eventually pushed into Gouvy and he recalls seeing them unload their equipment and massive tanks off the trains. But he stood his post, despite the danger to himself, directing traffic, which later earned him a Bronze Star. But the danger was far from over.

What I most enjoyed about this fascinating EpochTV documentary were the interviews with George Merz himself. For a man now nearing 100 years of age, he has a clear recollection of his experiences, including the locations of where specific events happened, and the names of people he met while in Europe.

He also has a wicked sense of humor, and it was so funny to see the mischievous twinkle in his eye when he talked about his aforementioned cigarette side business.

George Merz recalls how grateful the German people were after being liberated from Hitler in “One of Many” (With an I Productions)

Through the interviews with Merz and others, there is a lot of history to be learned—about things you won’t find in any school books or Hollywood films. It’s a short, yet profoundly informative and uplifting film that is sure to inspire those who watch it.

Watch One of Many on Epoch Cinema here.

‘One of Many’

Director: Brian George Randles Running Time: 41 minutes MPAA Rating: Not Rated Release Date: Mar. 21, 2017 Rated: 4.5 stars out of 5

Views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.


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