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.)

9 comments on “A Memorial Day reflection

  1. Randa Todd says:

    Loved reading the story about your dad, Mitch.
    I think I now know where you get some of your traits. Thanks to people like your dad, and my recently passed Vietnam Vet brother Roger.

  2. ronknecht says:

    Thanks, Tom, to you and the family and especially to your dad for his service. RK

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  3. Athos says:

    Good Story about your Dad, Tom. Mine was drafted and fought in the European theater. He had two older brothers, one dropped behind the lines right before D-Day and the other was a Marine in the Pacific theater. Strange times for depression era children.

    And that brings me to this point. I take exception to Brokaw’s prose. “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” that did not describe my home town (nor my fathers’ family) world in the early 1940s. He describes a make believe world. Or maybe a privilege world.

    I’m sorry, it just rubbed me the wrong way.

  4. Maureen Karas says:

    One of my father’s dearest friends survived the Bataan Death March.  Gus Francis – US Army – retired later as a Colonel.  He would not eat rice nor play bridge.  Dad said they used to make cards & played bridge to keep their sanity while imprisoned.  He didn’t want to play anymore after the war b/c he knew what everyone had in their hands  – no fun. My Dad was  P-47n Thunderbolt “Jug” pilot over Normandy – also Korea and Vietnam.  I miss him greatly. We were both lucky to have such wonderful fathers.  Hope you are having a nice Memorial Day. Mo Karas

  5. Thanks for those stories.

  6. That’s not how my family recalled the Depression either, Athos. But those days should’ve been otherwise …

  7. Athos says:

    It seams we get the world we get. It drove my parents to sacrifice to get me and my siblings a better shot at the world. And as one of the baby boomers, a certain false sense of entitlement. It’s a shame we won’t be around 50 years from now to see how our actions impact our children.

    Thank you, sincerely, for this blog, Thomas. I don’t know how many years it’s been, but I’ve found it invaluable spleen venting for my mental health.

    Once again, thank you. And hopefully, the beginning of an interesting summer!

  8. […] A Memorial Day reflection 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. […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s