Only two things are infinite. The universe and human stupidity. And I am not sure about the former. (Albert Einstein.)
The guy with the rifle …
“I don’t care how you say it in this book of yours, but remember this. You could have tanks with armour a yard thick and a gun that can shoot a mile and a big bloody flame-thrower to boot and Kittyhawks and Typhoons and Thunderbolts and 1,000-mile-an-hour Spits and bombers dropping factory loads of that goddamned napalm and the artillery, back there in the hills, throwing shells into Jerry carp cans, and you could have all this in spades — but remember this.
“It was still always the guy in the infantry, the rifle company, the guy with the rifle, who got the job done, give him a Bren and he might get it done faster, but it was always the guys like me on the ground, moving up to the Start Line for an attack, it was that guy, me, who finally won the battle. Me.”
The infantry soldier’s words are an example of older techniques and technology of the Second World War. His premise apparently still holds true.
From Six War Years, by Canadian writer Barry Broadfoot. This, and his other works, including The Veteran Years, are interviews recorded, and written, in the veterans’ own words.
Flipping the coin …
“All those damned graves. So many of them, and I can’t see the bloody sense of it. What was it for? I don’t know.”
“There were five different nationalities in that valley — dead — and we walked over them. We put lime on them didn’t we? We put lime on them.”
“I couldn’t make sense out of anything.”
A First World War veteran recalling memories of Vimy Ridge — from the pen of Jane Dewar. She gathered veterans’ stories from the Legion magazine and put them together in another fascinating book, True Canadian War Stories.
If you want insights into war, these fascinating books by Broadfoot and Dewar are a good beginning. You might even find answers to the questions you asked, and wished you’d asked veterans. The best I could get from Grandpa was a grunt, he wore taciturn like a medal; Dad did him one step better and that’s all — “bullets flying and artillery shells exploding in war are not at all like they sound in the movies.”
One memory sticks out clearly from all these stories and attempts to get stories: not one of the vets, family, or friend, ever put the words ‘war,’ and ‘glory’ together as so many of our historic tomes are wont to do.
One of our Canadian mantras is finding a Canadian identity, another is finding our heroes. The source of these mantras is vague, though I must wonder where those who spout them are coming from.
Poetry and stories are still our roots, are they not? Family stories knit families together, do they not?
So why not teach our children from tomes such as those mentioned; personal stories of fathers, mothers, aunts, uncles, brothers, sisters, grandmothers and grandfathers who know war — personally.
Teach them about the book in the Remembrance Room in our Peace Tower where every day a page is turned. On that page are the names of Canadians who have died in wars throughout our nation’s life. There are thousands upon thousands of names in those books.
Shouldn’t our children know these names and the stories of those who were over there with them, and not be saddled with studying European royalty and their royal bastards?
Our identity, and our heroes, are all around us, including our police on the front line of our society in peace, as well as our soldiers in time of war.
From anonymous on the internet come these thoughts:
“It is the soldier, not the reporter who has given us freedom of the press.
“It is the soldier, not the poet who has given us freedom of speech.
“It is the soldier, not the politician who ensures our right to peace, order and good government.
“It is the soldier who salutes the flag, who serves beneath the flag, and whose coffin is draped by the flag.”
“We cannot afford to forget what kind of a man he was,” a Canadian soldier spoke at his buddy’s funeral, killed in Afghanistan.
Do we appreciate? Do we forget ?
“To forget war would be immoral.”
A veteran, I agree with, said that on a TV program last week. I regret missing his name, for he deserves credit for his service and his powerful words.
It came together with another message a friend sent earlier this year. Apparently “the United Kingdom removed The Holocaust from their school curriculum because it “offended” the Muslim population who claim it never occurred.”
Is ignoring truth the same as, or worse than, forgetting? Is denying and rewriting history perhaps planting the seeds of war?
If nothing else, it surely lends credence to Einstein’s quotation above.
Are we forgetting?
“To forget would be immoral!”
Lest we forget!