A Memorial Day reflection

“At a time in their lives when their days and nights should have been filled with innocent adventure, love, and the lessons of the workaday world, they were fighting in the most primitive conditions possible across the bloodied landscape of France, Belgium, Italy, Austria, and the coral islands of the Pacific. They answered the call to save the world from the two most powerful and ruthless military machines ever assembled, instruments of conquest in the hands of fascist maniacs. They faced great odds and a late start, but they did not protest. They succeeded on every front. They won the war; they saved the world.”    — Tom Brokaw in “The Greatest Generation

H.A. Mitchell

My father joined the Army when he was 16. He lied about his age.

He knew what was coming and was there when it came. He was in Pearl City that Sunday morning in 1941 when World War II began.

He spent the rest of the war hopping from island to island with his artillery unit. He said he chose artillery because he wanted to make a lot of noise.

I know he was in the Philippines about the time the survivors of the Death March of Bataan were rescued. The rest are a blur in my memory, though I recall him telling about how they censored letters home lest they fall into enemy hands and give away troop locations — you couldn’t write that the food was “good enough,” because the ship was at Goodenough Island.

He was a decorated hero, but said he refused to wear the Purple Heart so he wouldn’t have to explain exactly where the wound was located.

When he and his war buddies got to together they seldom talked about the fighting, only the antics, like climbing on the hood of a truck and stealing eggs out of the back of another truck as it slowly climbed a steep hill.

But one of his friends once let slip that Dad, a bulldozer operator, actually did that scene from a John Wayne movie in which the bulldozer operator raised the blade to deflect bullets while rescuing pinned down soldiers.

To hear him and his friends talk, it seemed like they spilled more beer than blood, but somehow still managed to win the war and save the world.

(Reprinted from a previous post.)

5 comments on “A Memorial Day reflection

  1. Bill says:

    There was a clarity of purpose in WW II that has been absent in most of the wars that our nation has fought since then. But, even then, where good and evil were clearly defined for us, there were those who opposed our becoming involved in a “foreign” war. Thank God, we did. I remember, as a child, the war and the sacrifices made by our citizens. Fast forward, and as an adult, I recall the hatred and abuse that our military endured from the public during the Viet Nam era. Most of all, on this Memoria weekend, I remember and I grieve for the friends and comrades I knew whose names are etched on that black wall. “Theirs was not to reason why…”.l

  2. noodle35 says:

    Good story. Keep telling it

    Jim Gregory 775-934-5995 jim@weststates.org


  3. Anonymous says:

    I wonder what he would have thought about people supporting a president that dodged wars based on doctored up claims of having bone spurs?

    Do you figure he’d have been able to overlook that cowardice?

  4. Bill says:

    Thank you Thomas for sharing your Father’s story, He was a member of what can truly be described as the Greatest American Generation. Sorry to see, on this day, dedicated to our fallen, someone post a snarky, puerile and irrelevant question/comment.

    God bless the men and women who have served and who treasure their Nation, comrades and fellow citizens above life or self.

  5. Anonymous says:

    You know what I’m sorry to see Thomas, on this day dedicated to the lives of the fallen?

    A president spending his time out of the country lobbing attacks on Americans, while standing on the soil of the country largely responsible for the deaths of many of those fallen.

    And those here who refuse to express the disgust for his behavior that he deserves.

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