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 a condensed story by devoting a few minutes to each brother’s role in the war. The film opens with a short overview of the beginning of the war. It then provides background information on the Koski family, twelve children who are supported by an iron miner father after the death of their mother. Interviews with the surviving siblings, family photos and letters make it easy for the reader to empathize with the Koski family – simple young men and women who grew up during the Great Depression who worked and played hard and were willing to serve their country when the time came, because as Carl Koski’s grandson says about his grandfather, “He was a man who believed in objective truth. Right was right. Wrong was wrong. He came from a time when many more people understood and believed that , it seems to me. .we go to war because right is still right and wrong is still wrong and there are things worth fighting for.’
The subtitle of the book and this documentary, Six Stars in the Window, recalls the flag that hung in the window of Koski’s house, one star for each brother. The documentary provides an overview of the brothers’ diverse experiences 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 a springboard 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 all over Belgium and France to repair damaged railway lines and bridges.
During the Ardennes offensive he had to block 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 constantly had to deal with flak, shrapnel and explosions that ravaged his plane. Reuben Koski was deferred for most of the war because he worked in the iron mines; iron ore from the Lake Superior region was an integral part of the war effort. In 1944, the Allies needed more men than ore, so Reuben enlisted in the Navy in the Pacific in preparation for a planned invasion of Japan. John, the youngest brother, was assigned to replace missing or dead soldiers in a mortar squad of the famed 10th Mountain Infantry Division, fighting to capture every inch of every hill and drive the Germans out of Italy.
This documentary version of Ordinary Heroes: Six Stars in the Window gives a good overview of a family’s service to their country. While the book contains much more information, the film contains beautiful images of the war and tells each brother’s story in an accessible and memorable way. If you like this video, you’ll want to read the book, especially the digital version, which contains even more video material, including interviews with family and veterans, as well as old newsreel reports.
The video shy 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 was very important to the Koski family, the video does show the memorial service for the unnamed brother, making it clear that the death affected 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 World War II stories. Ultimately, the sacrifice of every American soldier is summed up in the words of the sister of the Koski brothers, Edna Mae, who still feels the pain of losing her brother sixty years later. “Grief doesn’t go far away. You scratch the surface and it’s all back again. You see that’s what love is like. When you love someone, when they’re gone for a short or long time, that love never goes away. .” Ordinary Heroes is proof that the service of our World War II veterans has not been forgotten, that Americans’ love for those who fought and died to preserve their freedom will not fade.