World War II was a long time ago. Really!

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World War II ended 61 years ago, but the entertainment industry keeps forgetting. It thinks it only ended about 20 or 30 years ago.

I say this because I keep seeing characters in movies and TV shows who are supposed to be World War II veterans, but who simply AREN’T OLD ENOUGH for that to be true. I cite two very recent examples:

– In the new movie “Inside Man,” Christopher Plummer plays a man who got tangled up with the Nazis back in the day and made some money from them. He is now the CEO of a large bank. But even if he was only 20 years old at the time, and even if he didn’t get involved with the Nazis until near the end — say, 1944 — that would still make him 82 now. And there’s no way an 82-year-old man would still be the acting CEO of a bank. (Remember, 82 is the YOUNGEST he could be. Something like 90 would be more plausible.) Even if he were the founder of the bank, the board of directors would have gotten him to retire a loooong time ago. (And Christopher Plummer looks about 70.)

– In the first episode of the new Fox series “The Loop,” Philip Baker Hall, playing the head of an airline, says that when he was 23, he was shooting Japs in the jungle (or words to that effect). Even if he joined the military at the tail end of the war in 1945, that still makes him 84 now — again, way too old to still be running the day-to-day operations of an airline. (Also again: Hall looks about 65.)

My theory on these discrepancies is that the people who write TV and movies grew up at a time when these types of characters — bosses, CEOs, businessmen, etc. — really WERE World War II veterans. The war was only 30 or 40 years in the past when these writers were young, so the veterans were still a major part of everyday American commerce. That’s not true of today’s society — but since we’re used to hearing about World War II as an event within many people’s memory, we forget how long ago it really was.

Think about this: The very youngest a World War II veteran could be now — if he joined in 1945 as a 16-year-old by lying about his age — is 77. The youngest! Most would be in their 80s, if they’re alive at all. Estimates say of the 16 million who served, only 4 million are alive now, and they’re dying at a rate of about 1,000 a day. In 20 years, only a handful of 100-year-old veterans will be left. In 30 years, not a single World War II veteran, or anyone else who was an adult during that time, will still be alive. It kind of freaks me out to think about that.

Luckily, the war won’t ever be forgotten, thanks to the 4,982,019,378,229,179 movies that have been made about it.

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