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May 27, 2014


I would be fascinated to hear any of your stepfather's "weird sad stories". Also, where/what is Put's book?

off-topic: is anyone else finding it impossible to sign in to make comments via Google?

My father had it relatively easy. Got drafted in WW II (because his company didn't get the paperwork in for the war-critical job deferrment he was supposed to have). Got assigned to the cryptography group. Got commissioned. Spent the war, as he put it, hitting the beaches in the Pacific . . . Santa Monica, Waikiki, Johnson Island, San Francisco."

My father-in-law saw a very different war. Enlisted in the late 1930s "to get out of the familoy flower shop." He was an NCO, so got made part of the cadre when the 442nd Regimental Combat Team got formed. Spent the war working his way up thru Italy, across France, and into Germany. The only good news was that, since he was in charge of the motor pool, he didn't see as much combat as most of the guys in the 442.

They were both pretty lucky in their assignments. But it was luck. And like the folks russell knows, they went and did their duty.

Good post, russell.

I heard a bit of an interview with Doris Kearns Goodwin over the weekend, mostly about her new book, but also about how post-WWII Congress had so many members who had fought in the War, and how there was a sense of common mission in spite of big political differences. I don't think that's overstated. It would be nice to come back to a sense of common purpose without war service having to be a part of that.

Remembering my dad.

I would be fascinated to hear any of your stepfather's "weird sad stories".

I'll share one.

While wandering Europe with the hospital group, he had fallen in love with one of the nurses. When the Germans figured out that they were on their way to losing the war, some German guys - don't know if it was plain old military or Gestapo - came and killed all the hospital staff, including the nurse. Killed their own people.

They left the prisoners alone.

War is a mindf***k.

Also, where/what is Put's book?

Put's book.

The author is John Gimlette, an English travel writer. Put - Putnam Flint - and his re-visiting of Europe is more or less the subject, or vehicle, of the book.

Here's another guy - Dave Rosenthal, the guy on the right in this picture. Before he and his wife Rose moved into a retirement home, he used to live down the block from me. We'd see him riding his bike up and down the block. Just a sweet, friendly, quiet guy. Didn't hear too well, his wife did most of the talking.

He went ashore at Omaha Beach on D-Day. Dave's 94, he's another guy who still has nightmares, 70 years later.

Not many of these guys left around.

I don't think that's overstated.

Nor I. Sorry to see that go away.


That story is the kind of thing that makes "Game of Thrones" seem emotionally realistic.

I just read this article about WWII memories:

The Veterans History Project at Central Connecticut State University has recorded interviews with about 700 state war veterans. Soldiers, sailors and Marines who were unwilling or unready to speak publicly have reconsidered as they near the end of their lives, project Director Eileen Hurst said.

"A lot of them were scarred, but they didn't talk," Hurst said. "They came home, they wanted to go forward with life and forget. The problem is, you don't forget."

Looking for interview subjects several years ago, Hurst called Cummings, a U.S. Marine veteran from Manchester. Cummings declined, but Hurst called again recently, and this time Cummings embraced the chance to tell his story.

"If you're not careful," he said, "war becomes almost casual and sanitized. ... It's all forgotten or it's barely touched on, and the awfulness and size of that conflict was something that should not become a passing thought of casual interest.

"So the stories should be told. War — there's no glory in it. There's just horror and stuff that leaves bad memories, yet there are some good ones, too, because somehow, men and women retain their humanness in all of the chaos."

WWII gets invoked a lot, but most of the people doing the invoking, talking about The Greatest Generation and all that crap, want to talk about glory and honor, not about a lifetime of nightmares even for the victors.

a lifetime of nightmares even for the victors.

That's not a metaphor.

WWII gets invoked a lot, but most of the people doing the invoking, talking about The Greatest Generation and all that crap, want to talk about glory and honor, not about a lifetime of nightmares even for the victors.

I missed the glory part. Honor, yes, and sacrifice.

My dad was at Normandy on D-Day, on a destroyer, so no real risk there. Later, his ship was in the Pacific, patrolling with two Australian destroyers and another US destroyer. Their group was attacked by kamikazes and my dad's ship was hit. He was wounded along with many others, over twenty were killed.

Later, he flew seaplanes for the navy. He crashed twice, flying back then being much chancier than in later times. If he had nightmares, it never showed. He didn't talk about the fighting but wasn't shut in by it. He did talk about crashing two airplanes. He retired in 1970 and taught high school. Then, he entered law school and was two years behind me at U of H. He died, as he always said he wanted to, in his sleep. He was 84 and was always a happy guy who never seemed to worry about much.

Most of the WWII vets I've known--quite a few--seemed to be pretty happy to have survived and glad to have served, even if the fighting itself was pretty horrible. They believed, rightly in my view, that it was a war that needed to be fought.

Three of the most interesting of the men I met were named Harry, John and Stan. Harry worked for my dad as his assistant when my dad taught NJROTC after he retired. Harry got out of naval boot camp and reported for duty at 6:45 a.m., December 7, 1941 to the Arizona. He had just cleared the gangplank when the first bomb hit, blowing him over the side and saving his life.

John was our landlord in the first 'house' we were able to afford to rent back in the late '70's. If you've seen The Great Escape, you will know what I'm talking about. John was in the tunnel when the Nazi's discovered the break out. He didn't get away.

Stan was shot down over Germanny in 1944. On the same day his POW camp was liberated by Patton's 2nd Army, his brother, serving with the 2nd Army, was killed in some of the last combat in the war.

Compared to men like these, and my dad, and millions of others, I've got nothing.

I hope people don't conflate the inherent nobility of the human spirit with the ugly wretchedness of war. Too many do. War is the ultimate pornography and it is an ugly, vile thing. The fact that human beings can retain their dignity and humanity under such horrible circumstances is the real thing to celebrate, not the remembrance of war. We need a national Peace day, not a day to commemorate the worst activity that human beings engage in!

Compared to men like these, and my dad, and millions of others, I've got nothing.

Same here.

Regarding "a lifetime of nightmares", some have 'em and some don't. But, some do.

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