Death by Moonlight:Bomber Command is a documentary directed by Brian Mckenna and released in 1992. It is about Canadian bombers who were sent to Britain to help the British Forces, RAF in their fight against Hitler and Nazis in the World War 2. At first they were targeting industrial and military targets but eventually they also bombed households and civilians. Not all of them were aware of the targets.
Some 50.000 Canadians came to bomb Germany. They had a base in Yorkshire, where people can still see the house where they wrote graffiti, such as their names, for remembrance. Most of these men were eighteen and nineteen years old and the oldest was twenty-one. They were practically children.
The film uses old footage, paintings and photographs as well as actors and the Canadian bombers who survived. It is disturbing to look at this documentary when the photos of dead people are shown as well as the photos of destroyed cities. The main target was Ruhr, because it was industrial city and well-defended.
The film begins with the two Canadian bombers visiting Yorkshire and what was left of the base. They have vivid memories of all the events. They are present throughout the whole film. One of them was the oldest bomber of them all, being twenty-one at that time. Canadians though they were saving democracy. However, most of them felt bad when they found out they were killing civilians also. It wasn’t democratic for them. However, the Germany was filled with Nazis at that time and there was too much hatred between the British and the Germans. Some of the British bombers felt no remorse when killing women and children because their own wives, daughters and sisters were killed by Germans the same way. It was a sort of vengeance.
This wasn’t the war Canadians were supposed to fight, but they were enthusiastic although untrained. Most of them died very young. Americans joined also. All of them thought of themselves as the angles of vengeance. Forty thousand British civilians were killed.
Throughout the movie there are painting shown as well as photographs. Actors are impersonating the bombers. Women also served the army the same way as men, in the same bases. French Canadians were treated badly by the English Canadians. They had banquets and one time, one French Canadian sat at the piano and played Moonshine Sonata, which is also the main music theme of this documentary. All of the soldiers present were amazed by his skills.
Canadians were also badly treated by British officers who had colonial attitude. However, the same cause, which was freedom and restoring democracy, united all of them. There was no room for fighting and bad relations-
Bombing was beginning in the morning and most bombers never came back. They were also bombing at night. There was pressure in plains and the pilots wore masks. However, their noses and ears bled occasionally.
Today, there still is the base where the Canadians resided and the man, who was twelve years old at the time of the war shows people around nowadays. The two Canadian bombers have pleasant memories from that war. They are happy to have survived it at all because most of the bombers never survived and some were disfigured because of the crashes. One pilot died when his plane landed and was happy that his fellow Canadian was beside him.
The bombers liked to boast and brag about their achievements and courage. It showed that they had strength to endure the tough times and the hardships of war.
Most of the bombers didn’t survive. During nights there happened to be 900-1000 bombers for the same targets at the same time. The use of the searchlights was terrible for them. There is a monument of the Canadian presence today in Yorkshire. The two survivors are happy to see that because it is a part of their history and it marked their lives forever.
The significance of this documentary is also that it is about a real historical event and the focus in on Canadians, who didn’t have to participate in the war, but they fought for democracy and against Nazism, which was destroying Europe at that time. That is why they called themselves the angels of vengeance.
There is one woman in the film, the actress who is taking about her experiences and how she joined in order to help save human lives. Some bombers, who couldn’t endure the mental pain anymore were punished and humiliated by RAF. They were labeled for “lacking moral fiber”. That was a great humiliation and it was not fair. The psychological side-effects of being a bomber were great and left marks on their souls. This film really depicts all that.
In 1943 the bouncing bomb was used to destroy ships and to achieve that, the planes were flying very low. It was a new technique, but it worked. In 1943 and 1944 they started to kill civilians also. The houses were exploding and 43000 people died in a fire storm. 900 000 people were left homeless. Hamburg was destroyed and then the Germans fought back.
Several decades later, the ex-bombers met with women who were witnesses of the deaths of their fellow citizens and they all agreed that nobody can be blamed in a war. They are happy to have survived it. However, humanity hasn’t learned much from this lesson, since there still are wars fought all over the world.
McKenna, Brian. Death by Moonlight:Bomber Command. Film. Directed by Brian McKenna. 1992. Canada: CBS, 1992. Film.