Ordinary Heroes: Six Stars in the Window is the companion documentary to Dan Oja’s phenomenal digital book of the same name. While the book is packed with information, this half-hour video also provides an interesting depiction of the military roles played by the six Koski brothers of Ishpeming, Michigan during World War II.
Unlike the book, which is arranged chronologically, the video tells an abbreviated story by spending a few minutes on each brother’s role in the war. The film opens with a brief overview of the war’s beginnings. Then it provides background on the Koski family, twelve children supported by an iron miner father after their mother’s death. Interviews with the surviving siblings, family photographs and letters make the reader easily relate to the Koski family-simple young men and women growing up during the Great Depression who worked and played hard and were willing when the time came, to serve their country because as Carl Koski’s grandson states of his grandfather, “He was a man who believed in objective truth. Right was right. Wrong was wrong. He came from a time when a lot more people, it seems to me, understood that and believed it…we go to war because right is still right and wrong is still wrong and there are some things worth fighting for.”
The subtitle of the book and this documentary, Six Stars in the Window, recalls the flag that hung in the Koski home’s window, one star for each brother. The documentary provides an overview of the diverse experiences of the brothers during the war. George Koski flew on one of the gliders involved in Operation Varsity, the aerial invasion of Germany. Alfred Koski, as part of the coastal artillery, was stationed on an Aleutian island and witnessed the Japanese attack on Dutch Harbor. The Japanese hoped to use the Aleutian Islands as steppingstones to Alaska so they could invade North America. Carl “Art” Koski was in the 332 Engineers. He went to England to build airstrips for the invasion of Europe and then his company cleared wreckage throughout Belgium and France to repair damaged railroad tracks and bridges.
During the Battle of the Bulge, he had to blockade a road against the Germans. Oscar Koski was a B-17 navigator in Italy who flew on missions to drop bombs on German targets, including Vienna and an oil refinery in Czechoslovakia. He continually had to deal with flack, shrapnel and explosions buffeting his plane. Reuben Koski received a deferment through most of the war because he worked in the iron mines; iron ore from the Lake Superior region was integral to the war effort. By 1944, the Allies needed men more than ore, so Reuben went to serve with the navy in the Pacific, preparing for a planned invasion of Japan. John, the youngest brother, was assigned as a replacement for missing or dead soldiers in a mortar squad in the famous 10th Mountain Infantry Division, which fought to gain every inch of every hill and push the Germans out of Italy.
This documentary version of Ordinary Heroes: Six Stars in the Window provides a good overview of one family’s service to its country. While the book has a great deal more information, the film contains wonderful footage of the war and it tells each brother’s story in an accessible and memorable manner. If you enjoy this video, you will want to read the book, especially the digital version, which includes even more video footage, including interviews with family and veterans as well as old newsreel coverage.
The video shies away from telling us which of the six brothers made the ultimate sacrifice to his country-read the book if you want the details. While the loss of that particular brother mattered deeply to the Koski family, the video does show the memorial service for the unnamed brother, making it clear that death hit many American families during the war. This documentary is the story of one American family, but most American families will find similarities to their own stories involving World War II. Ultimately, the sacrifice of every American soldier is summed up in the words of the Koski brothers’ sister, Edna Mae, who sixty years later, still feels the pain of her brother’s loss. “Grief doesn’t go very far away. You scratch the surface and it’s all back again. You see love is like that. If you love someone, if they’re gone for a short while or a long while, that love never goes away.” Ordinary Heroes is proof that the service of our World War II veterans has not been forgotten, that the love of Americans for those who fought and died to preserve their freedom will not go away.