Tales from the battlefield…Sad Sam talks about his Dad
Well, the TM has been on me to write up something profound about my Dad and WW2, but I’m reluctant to say much since my Dad never said much. But last week was the 65 anniversary of VE day, and I’ve been watching The Pacific on HBO, which is great so maybe I can say a few non-controversial things.
My Dad didn’t talk much about WW2 because it was “hell” and the guys who saw action didn’t talk much, but I picked up a few lessons along the way.
#1) While there is no excuse for those guys who raped that girl in Iraq, everyone should back off those Marines that wiped out that family in that house that they said fire was coming from. You can’t judge soldiers in combat by any experience from civilian life. There are issues like the fog of battle, and the need to make decisions in the stresses of combat that we non-combat veterans can’t appreciate. I found out at my Dad’s wake that he shot a prisoner. The guy was a sniper and he shot my Dad’s best friend who was a medic (and therefore technically a non-combatant). They captured the sniper and apparently he pulled out a set of Rosary beads to show that he was a Catholic, and I guess my Dad (a Catholic) lost it and shot the guy. Today he would probably be pilloried on 60 Minutes and be in the brig, but the only ones who can judge him are his fellow WW2 vets, and I haven’t met one yet that wouldn’t have done the same thing.
#2) We should leave the TV cameras at home, and let the professionals fight the way think it should be fought. My dad told me that when they crossed into Germany they would come to small towns and send in a guy with a white flag with the following message, “Surrender the town and you will be ok, put up any resistance – so much as one bullet fired, and we will call in the artillery and level the town.” He said they leveled a few villages in the first weeks, and then after that the white flags were flying as they approached the towns. Imagine the outcry had we leveled Fallujah?
#3) Don’t compare Bush, or Obama, to the Nazi’s. We weren’t allowed to watch “Hogan’s Heroes” growing up – my Dad wouldn’t let us. He said, “The Germans weren’t funny and they weren’t stupid.” He didn’t want us to get the wrong impression. My Dad liberated Dachau sub-camps and said that, “The Germans knew what was going on, and it was really horrible.” Hitler and the Nazi’s were really, really bad, so don’t equate liberalism with Hitler, or even water boarding a few terrorists. I’m not taking sides on any political issue just Rush, Hannity, Beck, and Michael Moore shut up already about “worse than Hitler or just like Hitler.”
#4) Don’t say one war was better/worse than another unless you’ve been in all of them. My Dad’s grave at Arlington says “WW2, Korea, Vietnam” so take it from him, a direct quote. “The worst of war is seeing your buddies get killed, and being in constant fear of your own death. And that is something that all soldiers in all wars share. So trying to say one war is better or worse than another is bullshit.”
#5) And a final quote from my dad when asked about is less warlike actions: “The French women were very grateful and the German women were so hungry that they would do anything for a C-ration; those weren’t some of my prouder moments.” Go Dad!