I love a good war story, and I agree with Ken Burns that the stories of an entire generation are quickly fading away. WWII vets are said to be dying at a rate of one thousand per day, and it’s won’t be long before the world’s most amazing period fades from memory forever.
Everyone should spend one day in a VA hospital
Where can you find a vet with no legs? No, the answer isn't "right where you left him", it's at the VA hospital. Like Ken Burns and author Stephen Crane (“The Red Badge of Courage”), I love going to the VA hospital to listen to war stories, directly from the men who were actually there.
Having a man tell you face-to-face how he lost his limbs while storming the beach at Normandy is a religious experience, as close as any living person can get to the greatest battle in the history of mankind.
“Seamus”, a popular toy to teach children about people with disabilities
Dehumanizing the enemy was de-rigeur, and we saw openly racist WWII posters like these:
But not much has changed, and today we use the exact same poster to describe contemporary subhuman monsters, mocking those who have caused great suffering upon mankind:
Within the Axis, such solidarity was imposed, and many Axis families were coerced into serving the third reich. The insult “your Daddy was a Nazi”, hits home with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger:
“There's no doubt that Schwarzenegger's father was a convinced Nazi; Austrian records indicate he joined the party on March 1, 1938, two weeks before the country was annexed.”
In today’s Germany, Arnold would be arrested for making this gesture (seriously, in Germany it is a serious crime to make any Nazi gesture, even in parody):
Arnold would be arrested for doing this in Detuschland
Back before there was PTSD, we had “Shell Shock” (WWI) and later “Battle Fatigue” (WWII), but there is no doubt in my mind that the prolonged exposure to adrenaline leaves a permanent scar on the brain.
"The War": Ken Burns tells it like it was
Ken Burns shares my love of a good story, and we have to remember that WWII will go down as one of the most notable events in the history of mankind. There were no doubts, no second thoughts, no moral ambiguity whatsoever. There was a bright line between good vs. evil, clearly-drawn lines of morality to destroy the ememy.
A rare period of immense solidarity
It’s very rare to see Americans put-aside their petty differences and pull together as a team, like those magical three days after 911 where patriotism became fashionable, and even pussy liberal hippies took pride in America.
As one Japanese admiral said “We have awakened a sleeping giant” and everyone worked to helped destroy the enemy. In the USA, even small children were enlisted to create “Victory Gardens”.
My Dad said that it was impossible for a soldier in uniform to pay for a meal on the WWII homefront and abroad (he helped defend against the Japanese invasion of Australia and he always said that the Australians were amazingly grateful for US assistance).
In WWII, patriotism was more than an abstract ideal, with grieving "Gold Star" families on every block to remind everyone of the high stakes of "The War". Everyone kept score of their fellow patriots and they knew what ribbons ("fruit salad" distinguished the desk jockey from the combat veteran. In WWII, the true heroes became superstars and Hollywood icons:
There were also posers, asswipes who pretended to be heroes for undeserved attention. I detest the retched poser scumbags who dishonor the real heroes by wearing fake uniforms and medals.
Donald Garlock, scumbag, in his fake uniform
The Stolen Valor Act is passed, and effective December 2006 it is a Federal offense to falsely claim undeserved medals. And lets not forget the grandiose jerk, the “I shall Return” Big Mac, who arranged to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, just for taking a single plane ride! Read my notes on this medal-grabbing prick here.
Douglas MacAurthur: A General scumbag
In a kill or be killed environment, it’s amazing to listen to tales from the Greatest Generation describe their outright hatred of the enemy:
“Despising snarkiness, Burns edits out anything to make his talking heads look foolish, though he lets a vet describe taking potshots - and seeming to enjoy it - at Japanese soldiers who jumped off cliffs on Saipan, opting for suicide over capture.”
If you like a war story, this is gonna be good . . . .