View Full Version : Heros

Chad Smith
10-31-2000, 08:31 AM
This e-mail was sent to me and I thought that everyone here might like to read it. It helps us remeber what our grandfathers sacrificed not only for us but for the world, and makes me proud to serve.Some History Worth Remembering.

Each year I am hired to go to Washington DC with the eight grade class from Clinton, WI, where I grew up, to videotape their trip. I
greatly enjoy visiting our nation's capitol, and each year I take some special memories back with me.

This fall's trip was especially memorable. On the last night of our trip we stopped at the Iwo Jima memorial. This memorial is the
largest bronze statue in the world and depicts one of the most famous photographs in history - that of the six brave soldiers raising the American Flag at the top of a rocky hill on the Island of Iwo Jima, Japan during WW II. Over one hundred students and chaperones piled off the buses and headed towards the memorial.

I noticed a solitary figure at the base of the statue, and as I got closer he asked, "Where are you guys from?" I told him that we were from Wisconsin. "Hey, I'm a cheesehead too! Come gather around, Cheeseheads, and I will tell you a story."

(James Bradley just happened to be in Washington DC to speak at the memorial the following day.)He was there that night to say good night to his dad, who has since passed away. He was just about to leave when he saw the buses pull up. I videotaped him as he spoke to us, and received his permission to share what he said from my videotape. It is one thing to tour the incredible monuments filled with history
in Washington DC. But it is quite another to get the kind of insight we received that night. When all had gathered around he reverently began to speak. Here are his words that night.

"My name is James Bradley and I'm from Antigo, Wisconsin. My dad is on that statue, and I just wrote a book called "Flags of Our
Fathers'" which is #5 on the New York Times Best Seller list right now. It is the story of the six boys you see behind me. Six boys
raised the flag. The first guy putting the pole in the ground is Harlon Block. Harlon
was an all-state football player. He enlisted in the Marine Corps with all the senior members of his football team. They were off to play another type of game. A game called "War." But it didn't turn out to
be a game. Harlon, at the age of 21, died with his intestines in his hands. I don't say that to gross you out, I say that because there are generals who stand in front of this statue and talk about the glory of war. You guys need to know that most of the boys in Iwo Jima were
17, 18, and 19 years old. (He pointed to the statue.)You see this next guy? That's Rene Gagnon from new Hampshire. If you took Rene's helmet off at the moment this photo was taken, and looked in the webbing of that helmet, you would find a photograph.
A photograph of his girlfriend. Rene put that in their for protection, because he was scared. He was 18 years old. Boys won the battle of Iwo Jima. Boys. Not old men. The next guy here, the third guy in this ableau, was Sergeant Mike Strank. Mike is my hero. He was the hero of all these guys. They called him the "old man" because he was so old. He was already 24. When Mike would motivate his boys in training camp, he didn't say, "Let's go kill some Japanese" or "Let's die for our country." He knew he was talking to little boys. Instead he would say, "You do what I say, and I'll get you home to your mothers." The last guy on this side of the statue is Ira Hayes, a Pima Indian from Arizona. Ira Hayes walked off Iwo Jima. He went into the White House with my dad. President Truman told him, "You're a hero." He told reporters, "How can I feel like a hero when 250 of my buddies it he island with me and only 27 of us walked off alive?" So you take your class at school. 250 of you spending a year together having fun, doing everything together. Then all 250 of you hit the beach, but only 27 of your classmates walk off alive. That was Ira Hayes. He had images of horror in his mind. Ira Hayes died dead drunk, face down at
the age of 32, ten years after this picture was taken. The next guy going around the statue is Franklin Sousley from Hilltop,
Kentucky. A fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. His best friend, who is now 70, told me, "Yeah you know, we took two cows up on the porch of the Hilltop General Store. Then we strung wire across the stairs so the cows couldn't get down. Then we fed them Epson salts. Those cows crapped all night." Yes he was a fun-lovin' hillbilly boy. Franklin died on Iwo Jima at the age of 19. When the telegram came to tell his mother that he was dead, it went to the Hilltop General Store. A barefoot boy ran that telegram up to his mother's farm. The neighbors could hear her
scream all night and into the morning. The neighbors lived a quarter of a mile away.

The next guy, as we continue to go around the statue is my dad, John Bradley from Antigo, Wisconsin, where I was raised. My dad lived until 1994, but he would never give interviews. When Walter Kronkite's producers, or the New York Times would call, we were trained as little kids to say, "No, I'm sorry sir, my dad's not here. He is in Canada fishing. No, there is no phone there sir. No, we don't know when he is coming back." My dad never fished or even went to Canada. Usually he was sitting there right at the table eating his Campbell's soup. But we had to tell the press that he was out fishing. He didn't want to talk to the press. You see, my dad didn't see himself as a hero. Everyone thinks these guys are heroes, 'cause they are in a photo and a monument. My dad knew better. He was a medic. John Bradley from Wisconsin was a caregiver. In Iwo Jima he probably held over 200 boys as they died. And when boys died in Iwo Jima, they writhed and screamed in pain. When I was a little boy, my third grade teacher told me that my dad was a hero. When I went home and told my dad that, he looked at me and said, "I want you always to remember that the heroes of Iwo Jima are the guys who did not come back. DID not come back." So that's the story about six nice young boys. Three died on Iwo Jima, and three came back as national heroes. Overall, 7000 boys died on Iwo Jima in the worst ttle in the history of the Marine Corps.

My voice is giving out, so I will end here. Thank you for your time." Suddenly the monument wasn't just a big old piece of metal with a flag sticking out of the top. It came to life before our eyes with the heartfelt words of son who did indeed have a father who was a hero. Maybe not a hero for the reasons most people would believe,
but a hero none-the-less

10-31-2000, 11:02 AM
I'm a Marine, so thanks for the post. That monument is a great one, very humbling. Not to get parochial, but right now there is a issue being fought over regarding that memorial. The Air Force wants a memorial, and want part of the land IJ memorial sits; the AF memorial will completely dwarf IJ, and it is quite a conflict over how it will be resolved.
Anyhow, what occured on Iwo Jima is mind boggling, though not singular among battles in WWII. Lot's of major struggles then.


Don Z.
10-31-2000, 01:19 PM
The Marine Corps War Memorial is overpowering. When you first see it, you are struck by its size. Then, should you take the time to look more closely, you realize what it means. The statue is a reminder of Iwo, but carved around the base is a list of everywhere Marines have served. It is not a monument which glorifies the battles, rather, it is a reminder of the sacrifices others have made. Also inscribed in the base are the words of Chester Nimitz, describing the actions of those on Iwo: Uncommon Valor was a Common Virtue.

A lot of people remember that 10 November (not far away, is it?) is the anniversary of the sinking of the Edmund Fitzgerald. It is important, especially for those of us who love the sea, to remember that. But to anyone who has ever "put his head in a jar", the 10th of November has another significance entirely...

Of course, as a Major, USMC, I may be biased.

Chad Smith
10-31-2000, 01:48 PM
Just to let you guys know I never served in the Marine Corp. I have served four years in the Air Force and the last 11 years in the Army National Guard. I always give jar heads a hard time, but it is all in fun and games. E-mails like this serve to remind me that we are all on the same team.


10-31-2000, 02:02 PM
Thanks, Chad.

10-31-2000, 02:53 PM
Interesting thread. Speaking of monuments, anyone know where the decision making process for the WW II memorial siting is. Last I heard, there was strong opposition forming to placing it in the middle of the mall. Any thoughts?

J. Dillon
10-31-2000, 02:55 PM
I always look at war memorials. I read them, names and battles and wonder who they were and about the battles they fought.

The one that effects me the most is the Viet Nam memorial in Washington DC. It's haunting and will bring tears to most who look at it.
I once saw an artists rendering of it. The inscribed were depicted reaching out from inside the wall and touching the living on the outside. The mementos left behind from the living near a name will also get to the most hard hearted.

NYC has one simular located in Battery park with the names of those who lost their lives at sea fighting the "Battle of the Atlantic".

10-31-2000, 03:04 PM
Thanks for the post, Chad. As a former member of the finest, (and, as all Jarheads know, once a Marine, always a Marine) I never tire of hearing the legends of the Corps.
One small correction, though, if I may be a tad pedantic. Soldiers serve in the Army. The figures on the Iwo Jima Memorial are 5 Marines, and one Navy corpsman.
A small thing to most, but very important to those of us who earned the right to wear the Eagle, Globe and Anchor.
PS. the hill is Mt. Suribachi.

[This message has been edited by noquiklos (edited 10-31-2000).]

Jim Hillman
10-31-2000, 03:50 PM
My father worked for a former Marine who was in John Basilone's MG section on Iwo and was wounded by the mortar that killed him. At an air show here, I met a former Marine who was on the first patrol up the side of Mt. Suribachi only to find out later that my C.O. was the son of the man who led that patrol. I worked for a former Marine who did a tour on the DMZ in what would have been called a STA PLT, in the 80's - don't know what their called now. I took a couple of history classes from a guy who did five tours in Vietnam, mostly with Recon. I never heard a "war story" from any of them.

Of course if the war story started in a bar in PI, well thats a horse of a different color...

The Corps is a small world.

Chad Smith
10-31-2000, 04:12 PM
After re-reading the post I see that you are correct the author of the e-mail states soldier. I didn't catch it my first time through. Most civilians don't know the difference. I hope know one takes offense to being called a jar head or a squid. Me, I'm just a gun bunny or a red leg. Don't bother me none what you call me just don't call me late for dinner. All joking aside there is no other branch that I would rather have protecting my flank than the Corp. Keep protecting and I will provide all the rocket fire you ever need. Semper Fi


Greg H
10-31-2000, 06:11 PM
The Vietnam memorial is a powerful place, the first time I saw it, I was cutting through the cherry grove and came upon it.......wow

Ishmael.. the last I heard about the ww11 memorial is that congress passed a bill that esentialy said, that they were not bound by the rules of the park service or any advisory committee and the would put it where ever they wished.

oh yes.. the new slogan on the dc license plates is "taxation without representation"
I believe it is being challenged in court but haven't heard any results.

10-31-2000, 06:17 PM
Offended? Never.

He which hath no stomach to this fight ...

We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne're so vile
This day shall gentle his condition...

(I know, wrong war, wrong ruler, wrong country, wrong continent ... but it's the right idea.)

10-31-2000, 07:09 PM
No offense taken, Chad. I'm used to that particular error, even in the films from "Hollyweird," though one would think they'd know better. LOL ( Do they even listen to their "technical advisers?")
Redleg? I've heard that term applied to Civil War era Army infanty, as well as to myself, when I achieved NCO rank, because of the red stripe on the dress blue trousers reserved for NCO and above in the Corps, arguably the best looking military uniform in the world, as always, IMHO.
The Air Force monument dwarfing the Marine Corps monument? Sacrelige!
A WWII monument? Grossly overdue, considering that those men, of all services, literally saved the world. The Mall would be perfect!
I don't mind being called a Jarhead, Leatherneck, or Uncle Sam's Marinated Cucumber, among other less flattering descriptions. It's all the same to me, as long as they know I'm a Marine..
To all my fellow forumites, please join me on the glorious 10th of November in raising a glass of Scotlands finest the the Few, the Proud.
BTW, it still amazes me how ex-Marines always seem to find each other. At Port Ludlow Marina, I've met, and become friends with, a retired officer, (never thought I'd actually become friends with an O) and a survivor of the Bataan Death March. It truly is a brotherhood.
PS. Has anyone else ever noticed that soldier, sailor and airman are seldom capitalized, but Marine always is? Just wondering.

[This message has been edited by noquiklos (edited 10-31-2000).]

10-31-2000, 08:15 PM
Chad, as we Marines approach another birthday,(Nov. 10th), I'm sure I speak for many when I say THANKS! Semper Fi!

10-31-2000, 08:41 PM

WWII Memorial, absolutely. It's the placement I was wondering about. Does it need to be in the middle of the mall?

I used to live in Baltimore, and went often to D.C. I think plunking anything down in the middle of the mall is grievously disruptive of the architectural form and imagination of the place. Anyone who's stood on the steps of the Lincoln memorial and looked that marvelous distance of green and water to the capitol will know what I'm asking. Do such things matter anymore? I get the feeling, no they don't. I'll likely never get back there so...???

Just wondering if anyone has an opinion. Jack

10-31-2000, 08:56 PM
I lived for 17 years in Northern Virginia, and worked in DC. I agree, the Mall is an architectural and aesthetic wonder. I'd hope that any memorial would be in keeping with the artisic vision. Asking our revered Congress for sensitivity seems almost laughable, but one can only hope.
Semper Fidelis,

garland reese
10-31-2000, 09:02 PM
Thanks for the story Chad. I've never had the priveledge to see these memorials (I have seen the "moving wall" traveling Viet Nam memorial, when it came through Oklahoma).
I spent time with the Air Force too. I went through part of "tech school" with some Marines.....great guys to have as friends; hard working, and hard playing fellows (and one very attractive female Marine....whodda thunkit???).
My boss got one of those free "long vacations" to Viet Nam after high school, Compliments of the US Army. He was attending trade school somewhere when his lucky number came up. He never spoke of it 'til one long late trip back from KS once.
I have a friend at church who survived Pearl Harbor. He has recently been suffering from
nighmares (PTSD, they call it). After all these years.
Another friend in CA was a Navigator or some such on one of those B-?? (29, I think). It just came out once in conversation. I'm a lot younger than these guys, and an airman at the time, so I was intrigued by this. There were no heroic details in his reponses to my questions. Just a "you do what you gotta do to get home" kind of response.
My home town has a V.A. Hospital. I remember as a kid going to visit there. There are statues and such on the grounds and a plate that says something to the effect of "The Price of Freedom is Visible Here". And walking those halls, in many ways, it was.
I cannot imagine what these experiences must have been like. They are Heros all, from where I'm standing. Here's to them all.


garland reese
10-31-2000, 09:03 PM
Thanks for the story Chad. I've never had the priveledge to see these memorials (I have seen the "moving wall" traveling Viet Nam memorial, when it came through Oklahoma).
I spent time with the Air Force too. I went through part of "tech school" with some Marines.....great guys to have as friends; hard working, and hard playing fellows (and one very attractive female Marine....whodda thunkit???).
My boss got one of those free "long vacations" to Viet Nam after high school, Compliments of the US Army. He was attending trade school somewhere when his lucky number came up. He never spoke of it 'til one long late trip back from KS once.
I have a friend at church who survived Pearl Harbor. He has recently been suffering from
nighmares (PTSD, they call it). After all these years.
Another friend in CA was a Navigator or some such on one of those B-?? (29, I think). It just came out once in conversation. I'm a lot younger than these guys, and an airman at the time, so I was intrigued by this. There were no heroic details in his reponses to my questions. Just a "you do what you gotta do to get home" kind of response.
My home town has a V.A. Hospital. I remember as a kid going to visit there. There are statues and such on the grounds and a plate that says something to the effect of "The Price of Freedom is Visible Here". And walking those halls, in many ways, it was.
I cannot imagine what these experiences must have been like. They are Heros all, from where I'm standing. Here's to them all.


10-31-2000, 09:18 PM

I confess to not following this very closely. My understanding is the site is chosen, and it's smack dab in the middle of the mall. The last I heard there was a fight over whether it was going to happen there, but my impression was, unless enough people object, that's where it's going.

The debate had devolved the last time I heard, as such things so often do, into slogans like, "This is the most important event in American history, and therefore deserves this central place." The opposition was merely pointing out what a bonehead move it would be because it doesn't work, visually, historically, or aesthetically. I had the distinct sense the opposition was losing.

It would IMHO, be a terrible mistake.

Anyone have recent information on this? I would love to visit a WWII memorial if I ever get back to D.C., but if it's in the middle of the mall...??? Yuck. Dare I say it is symbolic of our loss of common sense? Or worse? Best, Jack

10-31-2000, 09:47 PM
Okay, I went and looked at a map of the mall. As near as I can figure, they are putting the memorial in one of the few unflanked green spaces left down the center of things. I think it's to go between the Lincoln memorial and the Washington monument.

It is going to happen, ground breaking in a few weeks. Maybe it will be okay there. Like I said, I'll likely never see it.

I just, by nature, object to change. Guess I better get over it.

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 10-31-2000).]

Tom Lathrop
10-31-2000, 11:12 PM
Thanks Chad,

If a person has their mind on the right plane, the size of the memorial has very little to do with the impact. Just trying to outdo the other memorials with size and prominent position will not make the WWII memorial more meaningful. The Iwo Jima, Korean (my own introduction to insanity) and Vietnam memorials are very powerful in spite of (or maybe aided by) their discreet scope and locations. That said, there are few memorials that don't generate controversy.

If you want to really get inside the meaning of what war does to those who fight in them, go to the display of Vietnam memorabilia in the Smithsonian.

A toast for reunions of old survivors:

Here's to us

and those like us

and damm few of us left.

[This message has been edited by Tom Lathrop (edited 11-01-2000).]

10-31-2000, 11:55 PM
ishmael, I think your opinion of the placement is correct, and it's an already lost cause, as far as I know.

Chad Smith
11-01-2000, 07:30 AM
The term "Redleg" refers to Field Artillery. We use to be the old self-proprelled 8" tube, but in the last 8 years we have converted to the Multiple Launch Rocket System (MLRS). One Launcher can now deliver the same fire power as a battilion of 8" tube.

My job in the Guard is to cheif one of these bad boys.

[This message has been edited by Chad Smith (edited 11-01-2000).]

[This message has been edited by Chad Smith (edited 11-01-2000).]

Don Z.
11-01-2000, 12:44 PM
It's still called a STA Platoon. It is part of the HQ&SVC Company of an Infantry Battalion.

Please keep in mind that there is not one, but two Memorial Controversies. One regards the placement of the WW2 Memorial on the Mall. The other is the placement of the Air Force Memorial in Arlington, VA. Two different horses, same lack of sensitivity.

Sea Going Bell-hop? The last Belle I hopped was your...

11-01-2000, 01:22 PM
Chad, thanks for sharing your story. It reminded me of a
saying which is common enough now but struck me as quite original
the first time I saw it among the other graffiti on the latrine
wall in Saigon.

"Old soldiers don't die...just young ones.

Ed Harrow
11-01-2000, 02:36 PM
Chad, thanks. Ironic that I just last night had a conversation wherein I noted that the father of a good friend piloted B-24s (I think) and was shot down over France. He doesn't talk about it either.) At the wall I started at one end and continued until I came to a name that I know - very powerful and personal. A personnel listing, like the wall is, I think, a far more powerful memorial than an amorphous statue of some sort.

11-01-2000, 02:44 PM
I always say hello to the guys on our village war memorial when it's my turn to cut the grass in the graveyard. Every year the job seems to get harder and one day I'll proberbly lay down and join them.
On the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month I'll be thinking of all the brave boys now gone and quite a few who I served with in Rhodesia who are now being beaten up daily by squatters on their farms while the police look on.
In my limited experience of it, (3 years), war is 90% boredom and 10% messy.
I was born in an air-raid 10 miles from London Docks so that's proberbly why I'm daft. Funny old world.

11-03-2000, 12:58 AM
For this will stand in our Market-place
Who'll, sell, who'll buy
(Will you or I
Lie to each other with the better grace)?
While looking into every busy whore's and huckster's face
As they drive their bargains, is the Face
Of God: and some young piteous murdered face

Charlotte Mew, Lines on a proposed War Memorial, 1919.

Alan D. Hyde
11-03-2000, 11:03 AM
"On the idle hill of summer,
Sleepy with the flow of streams,
Far I hear a steady drummer,
Drumming like a noise in dreams.

Far and near and low and louder,
On the roads of earth go by,
Dear to friends and food for powder,
Soldiers marching, all to die."

Written before WWI by A.E. Housman.
This is from memory, so there may a word or two wrong.


[This message has been edited by Alan D. Hyde (edited 11-03-2000).]

11-03-2000, 04:40 PM
Who will remember, passing through this gate,

The unheroic dead who fed the guns?

Who shall absolve the foulness of their fate--

Those doomed, conscripted, unvictorious ones?

On passing the New Mennin Gate (1918)

Siegried Sassoon

It strikes me that the poetry of the glory of war died during WW I. In fact, I can't remember being taught or reading any post WW I poetry of war at all. I'm sure there is some I haven't seen, but I think the muse of war sickened unto death in the vainglorious general's imaginings, and the horrific trenches of that futile conflict.

Sickened at the Marne, died in the blast at Hiroshima?

Best, Jack

11-03-2000, 06:57 PM
Yes war is dirty but every now and again there will always be some mad tyrant who thinks he is God and has to be stopped from spreading his power.
And no matter how many smart bombs you have, sooner or later a Marine, SAS or other humane being has to march in and hold the ground so that the politicians can start talking peace.
I was taught a little ryme by my CSM holding a FN 7.62 and a 12 bore:-
This is a rifle
This is a gun
This is for killing
This is for fun.

11-03-2000, 07:15 PM
With all due respect Smacksman, I think it is possible you are wrong with regard to the modern need for the "soldier" on the ground. It is the reasoned, and developed extension of modern warfare to move away from people toward the "machine". Not completely there yet but...

The ancient muse of war, who actually enjoyed the valiant testing of young men, died absolutely in WWII. A few ghosts, granted. She first lamented the slaughter of the machine gun just over a century ago, and now feels strangely long dead with the modern robot.

It is a strange world. Best, Jack

11-03-2000, 09:44 PM
...if the "ancient muse of war" died in WWII why did Dad die in Korea???...why did Bill Martin die in Vietnam???...why did the dead Rangers get dragged through the streets in Somalia???....next Saturday will be the 82nd anniversary of Armistice (Veteran's) Day...take time to remember those who lost their lives in all military endeavors...we should give them no less

11-03-2000, 10:49 PM

Allow me to attempt to correct a misperception.

I have nothing but respect for all the young men who have fought and died and served, on all sides.

My observation was aimed at the death of our romantic image of war. Your ire brings forth the torture in the human soul around the massive loss of life modern war is. It is tortured, in part, because the nature of war can no longer support the muse.

The muse, as I intended it, refers to a Greek goddess of song and poetry (there were nine of them). Also, as I intended it, it is the imagining of the poet that 'arrives', in the moment of war, and gives the poet voice. I was observing that the muse--the poet's desire in war to describe magnificence, death, sublimity, horror, trancendance and heroism--was lost in this century with the realization of the mass slaughter of modern war. All of this relatively recent, and just really sinking in during WW I.

None of this lessens the sacrifice or valor of the modern/recent warrior. On the contrary, their courage is elevated by being bereft of the muse. They fought for a 'secular' cause; the goddess, the muse of war, stripped from them. Their lives lost, or served, are especially poignant because they served and died without that ethereal support.

I could point to the final loss of that support in the Viet Nam war, but I think you get my gist.

I only hope it doesn't make all of us hard hearted. The muse helped all of us weep too.

I'm sorry you lost your father. I truly am.

Best, Jack

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 11-04-2000).]

11-03-2000, 10:55 PM
ishmeal, it may be true that those on the ground can't strike back at the aircraft and missles, but that does not mean that those, or those using those weapons, control the ground. Cockroaches can't do anything about Raid except die ... but die they can and do, and they'll own your cupboards until you've exterminated all of them. Notice that those aircraft don't usually land in the midst of where they're bombing, either (and when they do, it's not more bombs that are sent to rescue their pilots.)

Tell the Spartans, stranger passing by:
That here, faithful to our oaths, we lie.

The tools used in warfare have changed, but war remains unchanged.

11-03-2000, 11:37 PM

I'm just a bystander in this crazy world of modern war. I, without knowing, wonder about the direction it takes. I muse, contradicting perhaps my previous post, that it has moved, and will continue to move, in weird technological directions.

What does it mean to control a piece of territory? Can a piece of territory be controlled if the people living there are cowed with over-riding weapons of physiological/psychological oppression as opposed to a mass of troops? Substances sprayed in the air that induce confusion or worse? Sound waves? Holographic images?

Seems bloody inhuman to me, but I'll bet such things have been thought of, and acted on, by others than I. It's part of what I've been saying here that warfare has been removed from those few roots in our finer angels that made it some way noble. Even if it has also always been some way horrific.

The world is shifting in strange ways, not all good by any measure. I think to ignore the shifts is to surrender the future to the strange people who make these new ways happen.

H*** they do what they will, and thee and me have little or nothing to say. Best, Jack

11-04-2000, 07:01 AM
That's what I like about Mythology, it's so Mythological http://media4.hypernet.com/~dick/ubb/smile.gif If the muse is, indeed dead, what guides heroes like Roy Benavides? His Medal of Honor citation is stark testimony to one man's ability to go where needed without being ordered to.

I doubt there ever was any glory in war except for the few at the top. The perseverance and long suffering of the foot soldier has been noted throughout history.

We have enjoyed a long period of peace in most of the industrialized world. The "Third World" has continued to foment. This has lessened the need for military preparedness in the minds of many, including our leadership. It was always this way between major wars and we always pay needlessly as a result. If history repeats itself, once more, it will still be the individual soldier who secures the field.

Peter Kalshoven
11-04-2000, 10:02 AM
"it will still be the individual soldier who secures the field." Reminds one of the old joke. Two Soviet generals are enjoying wine at a cafe in occupied Paris, and one says to the other, "By the way, who won the air war?"

We owe the infantry much.

11-04-2000, 11:39 AM
Ishmael, look up "The Great War and Modern Memory," by Paul Fussel, a sociological and literary exploration of precisely the subject of your observation, that "dulce et decorum est pro patria mori" type poetry, and thinking, died in the great war. In fact, wasn't one of the first of the cynical poems called "dulce et decorum est", by Sassoon or one of the other war poets? Fussel traces the trajectory of some of the poets, who started out writing traditional martial poetry and then turned black as the war progressed. I was never in a war, It is a subject I am not qualified to weigh in on, otherwise than in the conetxt of literature. Fussel believes that modern cynicism and ironic detachment stems directly from the great war.

11-04-2000, 01:30 PM
Hey folks,

John, just 'cause the poetic mind, the muse, can no longer encompass or 'poeticise' war, doesn't by any stretch cancel out human courage. It is of a deeper bone? I'm not completely sure of my premise anyway. I would like to know if any fine poetry came out of the wars subsequent to WWI.

The issue of infantry on the ground...I think we are on the edge of an historic shift. It is a shift where technologically advanced nations are, less and less, going to put masses of soldiers into the fire. Are people on the ground always necessary to control the situation at some point? As far as I can see. But admittedly, that's not very far.

Pat. I'll look for the book rec. Sounds interesting.

I've got one for you, "The Intimate Merton", HarperSanFrancisco. I've never been able to read his formal writing, but this is different. It is a compilation out of his journals, and I think it is a very fine. The reader is made a compadre in Merton's struggles, doubts, joys and epiphanies, in a very engaging way. Best all, Jack

[This message has been edited by ishmael (edited 11-04-2000).]

11-04-2000, 03:31 PM
I know your meaning and your good intentions ismael. It is right that we should be able to talk about such things and it is a mark of the quality of this forum that such airs can be voiced, some, I might add, most eloquently.
I experienced the change in people once the sabre rattling gains force.
Not long after bailing out of Rhodesia, we faced the Argentina/Falklands conflict from the UK. Initially, people were saying "This is ridiculous, going to war over a rock in an ocean" Six weeks of indoctrination by the media later and the population had worked up a bloodlust that was amazing to be seen.
My point is that it is good to talk here, but I would not be surprised at how few would still be talking the same way in WW3.
It sounds like WW3 outside right now ...

Remember remember the 5th of November

Gunpowder, treason and plot ...

Guy Fawkes is being remembered for trying to blow up the politicians; we celebrate!!

11-04-2000, 10:21 PM
Well, reading the other posts I think it is interesting that others have mentioned what Fussel wrote is the reason that the lietrature glorifying war is gone, and the reason is the machine gun. (and similar technological advanvcements) I could understand, back when war meant a test of strength, when it depended to some extent on the skill and ability and stamina of young men, then there was a glory in it, when the better man actually won, through his own courage and strength. But mechanized war has turned, or so says Fussel, into a roll of the dice, as far as survival of the individual, the machines spew death indiscriminately, the lucky survive, the unlucky die. You go when your number is up, not because you met a stronger man and were bested in glorious battle. This was, again, according to Fussel, but it also comports with every war memoir I have read, the reason so many cannot take the mental stress, because there is a helplessness to war now, you sit and hope a shell doesn't hit you, and there is nothing you can do to increase or decrease your odds. So there is less to romanticize. This is not in any way to take away from the courage of those who went through it, or the awesome debt we owe to their sacrifice, just a comment on what I have read is a change in the nature of war in the last century or so.

11-04-2000, 10:24 PM
Ishmael, I have read "Zen and the Birds of Appetite", difficult going, but good.

11-04-2000, 10:40 PM
Many Poems have been written by participants in the various wars since "the Great One". Here is one from the Korean War.


By John Gillespie Magee, Jr.

Oh, I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
and danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I've climbed
and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds - and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of -
Wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence.
Hovering there,
I've chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long, delirious burning blue
I've topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew.
And, while with silent, lifting mind I've trod
The high untrespassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand, and touched the face of God.

Peter Kalshoven
11-05-2000, 01:23 AM
John, I also was reminded of High Flight as this topic was explored. However, it was WWII, not Korea. Here is a bio off the web:

"High Flight was composed by Pilot Officer John Gillespie Magee, Jr., an American serving with the Royal Canadian Air Force. He was born in Shanghai, China in 1922, the son of missionary parents, Reverend and Mrs. John Gillespie Magee; his father was an American and his mother was originally a British citizen. He came to the U.S. in 1939 and earned a scholarship to Yale, but in September 1940 he enlisted in the RCAF and was graduated as a pilot. He was sent to England for combat duty in July 1941.In August or September 1941, Pilot Officer Magee composed High Flight and sent a copy to his parents. Several months later, on December 11, 1941 his Spitfire collided with another plane over England and Magee, only 19
years of age, crashed to his death.

His remains are buried in the churchyard cemetery at Scopwick, Lincolnshire."
19 years old, so talented, and much too young to die. War truly is hell. Raise a glass tonight to John, and to all the kids, and to peace.


11-05-2000, 05:58 AM
Amen to that.

11-05-2000, 07:03 AM
Thanks Peter. I had not known of the origin of "High Flight" and it was listed with poetry of the Korean War. It reminds me of the need to cross-check any info coming across the WWW. It also reminds me of one of the noblest events of WWII, that of volunteers from Canada, America, and other allied nations volunteering to stand with Britain in those early days. Had it not been for the "Battle of Britain" Hitler might have had his way.

11-05-2000, 01:26 PM
Thanks for the poem, and the history. This is a fascinating thread to me, since the muse moves through me occasionally. Even published a few poems locally.

I think the fact that the poetry comes from a pilot who, valorous no doubt, soared above the carnage of modern weaponry meeting frail flesh is interesting. I would still like to hear poems from Viet Nam, Korea, the Falkland war, the Gulf War, if any.

'Course the argument can be made that the muse has been absent from much of modern life, not just war. Is rap poetry?

Pat, I have a miniature copy of Zen and Birds of Appetite that I haven't read into in quite awhile. BTW Merton's translation of Chuang Tsu is very interesting. The book I recommended is just brand new. Best, Ishmael

11-05-2000, 01:36 PM
Ok. Here's one from the Vietnam War:

If you are able, save for them a place inside of you.

And save one backward glance, when you are leaving, for the places they can no longer go.

Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may not have always.

Take what they have left, and what they have taught you with their dying, and keep it with your own.

And in that time, when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O'Donnell
after the battle of Dak To, 1970

11-05-2000, 01:57 PM
Nice John, very eloquent.

11-05-2000, 02:42 PM
I imagine that the issue we speak to does come down, as Pat suggested, to the machine gun. Very suddenly, the movement of infantry, weight of infantry, was equalized (nice euphemism) by a weapon of mass slaughter. The first time! But it isn't contained in that machine.

The first 'modern' war was the American Civil War, and there were no machine guns, only accurate rifles, and late, rapid firing rifles. It was a horrific slaughter.

I find interesting the modern anthropologists involvement with 'primitive' cultures who make war. The 'counting coup' of the Amer-indian is especially poignant for we who have taken their soil. What is war about 'cept dominance, and what a fine display of dominance it is to sneak up on an enemy and thumb the nose?

The primitive warfare I've read about is singularly un-bloody when compared to our own slaughter.

My, my... what is the future of this human foible? The stakes were raised in 1944, when the atom bomb was exploded. But we poor humans haven't changed much, in our hearts, in our truest natures. How strange, how strange.

There must be a way, this human consciousness was not meant to be lost. Best, Jack

11-05-2000, 07:23 PM
If there is a beauty in war, it is found in the sacrifice and the love of a soldier for his comrade. While he may be fighting for some higher ideals and definitely for loved ones at home, in the hell of an ungodly situation often the only sanity is the brotherhood of and for one's fellow soldier.

In the mid 70's there was an article in Esquire Magizine (unfortunately I've have forgotten the title and author) in which the writer compared the soldiers experience, for a man, as being similar to womans experience of childbirth, in that it is something that other that cannot truely share or understand. I know that, to a degree, this is a generality and that there are women that have had the same hellish experience of war. Also, to avoid the same uproar in "letters to the editor" in Esquire, this is not to compare the basic nature of the two experiences. He likened the experence of a combat team to true communism, where personal possesion of material wealth has little meaning and the good of the individual is subservient to the good of the whole. The example was given of a soldiers unquestioning sacrifice to jump on a grenade to save his mates. There is an isolation which surrounds the returning combat veteran, which I think results for his assuming the guilt for the abominable things that are made necassary by war. The only truth that comes out of war, for me is that "This should never happen again". IMHO it seems the end result of war is that painfull sacrifices were made then life goes on.

PS - I've used soldier as a generic term for combatant.

Chad Smith
11-06-2000, 07:16 AM
Here is a poem from the WWII era that brings home the truth about war. This is one of the most intense pieces of modern writing I've seen.

"The Death of the Ball Turrent Gunner"
By Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from the dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

I once wrote a four page paper on this poem for a college comp. course.

As far as the infantry in modern warfare I have always been taught that the primary job of all other jobs in the army is to support the infantry. Suppority by air or sea power supports control of the ground. If you can't control the ground you can't win. In the Persian Gulf we pounded Iraq into submission with air power, but the battle was not won until young men were put in harm's way on the ground.


11-06-2000, 01:47 PM
It's funny how you get conditioned by war.
I sailed with the Rhodesian 505 team racing squad against the South Africans at the time of the Rhodesian war. It was quite a struggle to get a team together with us part-time soldiers a month in the Army then a month at work alternating.
We were standing around the RSA 505's drooling over the latest Parker and Rondas designs when there was an explosion over the hill. Every Rhodesian hit the deck and crawled to cover much to the amusement of the South Aricans who stood and watched us.
We were told they were blasting near the dam wall to increase it's height!
And we were soundly beaten by the South African team on the water too!

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 07:38 AM

On Vacation
02-12-2004, 04:31 PM
Jeff, there is real substance that goes with the difference of opinions. Andrew wrote a nice piece. I saw him the other day since about two years, and had a chat. He was working on a mellonseed, but has been side tracked with the sudden death of his friend that was helping him and then the storm.