Monday, March 02, 2009

Ghosts of the 7th Cavalry

for those with access to the bbc iplayer, i highly recommend this moving and quietly provocative documentary.

it shows the sobering truth that, in war, no one wins. it charts the journey of US Major Robert 'Snuffy' Gray of the 7th Cavalry Regiment - a veteran of ww2, korea and vietnam.

(the 7th cavalry regiment is perhaps the most contraversial in US military history - from Custer's infamous defeat at the Battle of the Little Big Horn in 1876 during the Great Sioux war, their lead role in the "reconaissance" of the Black Hills, the atrocity of the massacre at Wounded Knee in 1890 to the massacre at No Gun Ri in the early part of the Korean war.)

some years back Snuffy sought to reconcile himself to the Lakota people. he befriended some Lakota warriors who were veterans of Vietnam, one of whom fought for the 7th Cavalry itself. he eventually moved to a house beside the Rosebud Reservation, SD and was recognised as an honourary warrior.
the film travels with Snuffy, as, at the age of 83, he continues his journey in search of personal redemption - to be reconciled with himself and his past, allthewhile helping his friends and the men he led as they each struggle with their own pasts.
much of the testimony is disturbing and upsetting - depicting the all too palpable trauma caused by oppression and war, but significantly, the inner conflict of honour and pride colliding with horror and feelings of guilt.

a powerful documentary, beautifully filmed in places. it's available for a month to download. highly recommended.



  1. fuck that's good! stunning!

  2. i watched it again last night and wept like a baby... and as i watched his face i couldn't help but think how he was a wonderful combination of john smith and mike yaconelli..... or have i been drinking too much again?

  3. i wept too. god, yes.

    i think the moment that got me the hardest was when one of the men (and i feel dreadful for now not being able to remember his name, billy? bobby?) said of his experience in Vietnam,
    "there are things i've not told anyone. i'm not gonna tell you."
    and then he started twitching uncontrollably. i know it took all my strength to stay present to it. i can't imagine what it was like for the film maker to be present to him in that place. to bear witness to the straight up reality of his 'unspeakable' trauma, surely knowing that he could help them tell their story but not bring healing needed. who can? it made for deeply uncomfortable viewing, to contend for even a moment with what he carries in him, what his body remembers and exposes. just one of the *many* moments that have haunted me since.
    his interviews and those with the Lakotan 7th cavalry member were so arresting.

    the layers of complexity just kept coming. which is for me the compelling power. to just let those layers keep being exposed, however uncomfortable they might be, through letting these men speak their unbearable truths.

    how do these men lay their burdens down? from where comes peace for them? any suggestion of an answer seems trite.

    i like your description of snuffy gray. quite apt i think.