From Glory for Me by MacKinlay Kantor:
When you come out of war to quiet streets
You lug your War along with you.
You walk a snail-path. On your back you carry it-
A scaly load that makes your shoulders raw;
And not a hand can ever lift the shell
That cuts your hide. You only wear it yourself–
Look up one day, and vaguely see it gone.
And one day it is gone if you are wise.
As quoted by John R. Bruning in The Patriot Journalist (http://theamericanwarrior.com/2015/04/27/the-patriot-journalist/ : accessed 26 April 2015).
Notes & Commentary
And now that Wayne’s Journal is finished, I would like to recognize those who over the years shared their stories with me . . . .
Bob, an infantry officer, who was in constant action with the 80th Infantry Division of Patton’s Third Army from August 1944 until the end of the war. He later became a history professor.
Howard, an Army officer, who oversaw the transshipment of Lend Lease materials at Basra, Iraq. These supplies, trucks, tanks, etc., were bound by rail for Russian forces fighting on the Eastern Front. Later, he led truck convoys traversing the desert between Basra and Haifa, Palestine. The convoys were carrying troops on R&R. His tentmate and commander committed suicide during one trip. He shot himself one night while Howard was asleep.
Bert who served as a member of a Navy CB unit in the Solomon Islands, New Guinea and the Philippines. His legs were troubled with jungle rot throughout his life. His favorite statement? If you think this is bad, you should have been in New Guinea in ’43. For him, that seemed to cover every adversity.
Jim, a Navy Corpsman with a Marine unit, bound for Okinawa. He came down with pneumonia and was in the hospital when his unit shipped out. He didn’t make to Okinawa. All the corpsmen in the unit were either killed or wounded there. His brother, Jay, was a gunner/radioman (RM3) attached to Bombing Squadron Six (VB-6) aboard USS Enterprise (CV-6). Neither he nor his pilot survived the dive bomber attacks on the Japanese aircraft carriers at Midway.
Fred, an enlisted man in the Air Force, helped establish radio beacon sites in the North African desert. These sites helped guide bombers home across the Mediterranean from Ploesti and other targets in Europe.
Art enlisted in the Marines from a Pennsylvania coal mining town in 1940. Most of the Marines in his regiment were killed in island invasions. At war’s end, he found himself guarding a bridge in Northern China. His orders were to not allow any Communists to cross the bridge.
Jess, a glider pilot, survived the airborne operations of D-Day and Market Garden. He talked of being strafed by Me-262s.
Freddie, a black WAC, whose duty it was to guard Italian prisoners of war working in the cotton fields of South Carolina. She picked up the Italian POWs in the morning and drove them out to the cotton fields. She kept an eye on them during the day and drove them back to the camp at day’s end. Easy duty, she claimed, none of them wanted to go back to the war.
Crystal whose husband, a Navy officer, was killed at Pearl Harbor. She was there during the attack.
Dick, a cryptographer who was assigned at war’s end to a Graves Registration unit charged with recovering bodies in Burma. He had homemade tattoos of skulls and bones on his arms. The tattoos were done by fountain pen in drunken jungle camps after digging up bodies during the day.
Harry who was a young lieutenant stationed at the Presidio near San Francisco when the war began. He talked of the hysteria that ensued, including a horse-mounted cavalry expedition into Marin County in search of invading Japanese troops. They came upon them in the night and while shrouded in fog slaughtered the lot of them. In the morning, the invading Japanese troops turned out to be a herd of sheep. The owner was well paid to keep his mouth shut.
Cecil was an enlisted man in the Philippines. Captured by the Japanese, he suffered through the Bataan Death March and years of captivity in Japan where he was forced to work as a coal miner. To the day he died, he despised all things Japanese.
Lyle, a B-24 pilot with the 8th Air Force, 446th Bombardment Group, 705th Bombardment Squadron. Once he returned home, he refused to ever fly again.
Ken, a B-17 pilot who completed 50 missions with the with the 12th Air Force, 301st Bombardment Group; 419th Bombardment Squadron. He later flew in the Berlin Airlift and crashed in Soviet-controlled Germany.
Bayard, a Signal Corps officer, who spent three years at a radio intercept site a top a hill in Ethiopia.
Lawrence who helped to install radar warning devices on the bombers of the 8th Air Force.
Jack who was at a training base in Mississippi when the second Atomic Bomb was dropped. He said everyone went absolutely wild. When asked, Why? He replied, We realized we weren’t going to have to die.
Stephen, Navy Ensign, who made an urgent trip ashore on an invasion beach with an encrypted message only to find it was a routine message regarding a food shipment.
Bill, an Army doctor at Anzio.
Mike, who lost a friend at Tarawa.
Jay, an enlisted man, who helped filter penicillin from urine at an Army hospital in Scotland.
Lyle, a member of a Navy Armed Guard unit on a cargo ship off Okinawa. He was wounded during a Kamikaze attack.
Chubby who bragged about combat service, but who was in an Army basic training camp in Colorado when the war ended.
Little Billy, a B-17 ball turret gunner with the 8th Air Force. He enlisted the day he graduated from high school. He stayed in the Air Force after the war and retired as a Lieutenant Colonel. Always a colorful character, he liked to note that he was born in Oklahoma but conceived under some trees along a river in Texas. He served in the Air Force for over 30 years.
Burt, a plumber, who showed up one day with photographs of him serving in the infantry during the Battle of the Bulge. In one of the photographs, he was sitting on two frozen bodies while eating his lunch. After the war, he was famous for his pet monkey which he took everywhere.
Bergie, a Marine radio operator, who served in the Pacific.
Albert, a mechanical engineer, who was an officer in Wehrmacht. He served on the Eastern Front.
Norman, an Army dental technician whose unit was one of the first into the concentration camp at Ebensee in Austria. Even in his 90s, he could still smell the camp and the dead and dying.
Waldo whose only son died on an unknown beach in the Pacific.
Peter who with his mother survived the Nazi occupation of The Netherlands. Their family and relatives were exterminated in concentration camps while they hid with whomever would shelter them.
An infantry officer whose name I have long since forgotten. He survived the Normandy beaches only to have his jeep was blown up by a land mine the week after D-Day.
John who spent the War between Cairo and Istanbul with the OSS. He later became an art history professor and wrote books on Islamic art.
Hazel, Viola and the other women who served as codebreakers in the U.S. during World War II. They have never received the recognition accorded their counterparts at Bletchley Park.
Jane who was a Women Airforce Service Pilot (WASP). She once told me she had a pilot’s license before she had a driver’s license. She always brought her “short snorter” when she came by to talk.
Walt who served in the infantry during the invasion of North Africa.
Dick, an 8th Air Force POW, who was liberated by the Russians. He travelled across Russia in the back of a truck on the way to repatriation at a Crimean port.
Lucinda and David whose fathers served in World War II only to be called back for Korea.
Friends Gary, Alan, Judy and Becky, four of the at least 183,000 American children who were left fatherless as the result of WWII: http://www.awon.org/aboutus.html. Their fathers went to war and never came back.
And the list goes on . . . . and on