Sunday, May 30, 2010

On Memorial Day 2010

This weekend is a time when we should pause and reflect upon those who have made the ultimate sacrifice for our sake. Their experience deserves to be remembered for what it really was, and to that end I'd like to recommend you read this article from the archives of The Atlantic Monthly. It's from war veteran and author Paul Fussell and it's called, appropriately, "The Real War 1939-1945". It is a brutally honest look at what men in combat really go through as opposed to the often sanitized images of war the general public is given. Much of what Fussell recounts in the piece is hard to read, but it needs to be known. Excerpt:

For those who fought, the war had other features unknown to those who looked on or got the war mediated through journalism. One such feature was the rate at which it destroyed human beings -- friendly as well as enemy. Training for infantry fighting, few American soldiers were tough-minded enough to accept the full, awful implications of the term "replacement" in the designation of their Replacement Training Centers. (The proposed euphemism "reinforcement" never caught on.) What was going to happen to the soldiers they were being trained to replace? Why should so many "replacements" -- hundreds of thousands of them, actually -- be required? The answers came soon enough in the European theater, in Italy, France, and finally Germany. In six weeks of fighting in Normandy, the 90th Infantry Division had to replace 150 percent of its officers and more than 100 percent of its men. If a division was engaged for more than three months, the probability was that every one of its second lieutenants, all 132 of them, would he killed or wounded. For those being prepared as replacements at officer candidate schools, it was not mentally healthy to dwell on the oddity of the schools' turning out hundreds of new junior officers weekly after the army had reached its full wartime strength. Only experience would make the need clear.

Think well on all of this. And remember those who were sent and never returned. We owe more to them than language can express.

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