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Monday, 28 May 2018

Comments

Very nicely and tenderly said. Yes, a “grim lottery” indeed. Thank you.

Well, to follow from one of your comment guidelines I will refrain from a political rant. Just a comment, though. I wish that the country with the largest military budget in the world (by far) and the most military bases around the world (by far) would take the time to also honor all victims of its wars, not just its own dead soldiers. The numbers are staggering.

Long ago, when I was 9 or 10, I wrote a 9-or-10-year-old's version of this in relation to ANZAC day, the Australian equivalent holiday.
My parents were hauled up to the school, I suppose they were asked if they were communists to have a son who doubted the officially required emotional response. The pages of my exercise book were glued together to censor my abberant opinion.
I'm glad that the question sometimes provokes the same response. Thank you.

All that has been written and said is summed up for me in the lines of a simple poem.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS, by John McCrae

It reminds me of sacrifice made by those before as well as those to come. Those who served with me during Viet Nam. Friends, comrades, relatives and so many we have lost.

What we have we owe to those who served. Both the living and those who were unlucky enough to give their lives. We can only hope somehow, someday we won't need to sacrifice these heroes any longer.

Well said, Mike.

Well said Mike: you can take the line all the way back to the Revolutionary and yes, even the Civil war. Most young men have no axe to grind in the conflict the old elite send them to-in my lifetime, only WWII was a needed war; the rest were mistakes or poorly thought out at best.

And some of those who will be honouring them were called to serve but didn't, because they had bone spurs.

I served during the Viet Nam conflict. Registered with the Navy as a way of avoiding the high probability of going to Viet Nam with the Army. Ended up in Viet Nam anyway. Survived it.

Not many chose to go to war. But it is an obligation to be fulfilled if needed. Almost as painful as remembering those you lost and what was required of you is the lack of understanding of those who chose not to go or are lucky enough not to have to go. Please remember all who serve(d).

I want ramble on about war, young men being sacrificed by governments and dictatorships, but just watch the Ken Burns documentary on the Vietnam war. I cried on many if not all episodes, the senseless waste of young men and our governments total disregard for their loss is unforgivable.

It seems strange that Memorial Day has to compete for attention, and priority, with leisure activities, but I expect that’s because of the date. I’ve just been reading a Wikipedia article about Memorial Day, and it seems it arose out of a similarly-themed ‘Decoration Day’ commemoration that was held in the years immediately the Civil Way (the ‘Decoration’ being the decoration of the graves of fallen soldiers with flowers, etc). It’s likely that the date arose because you had to have flowers on Decoration Day, and I suppose by May there will be enough of them. Also it seems that the anniversary of Lincoln’s assassination comes into it somehow.

It seems strange to me because here in the U.K., the nearest ceremony we have is Remembrance Day. Officially it’s on the Sunday nearest to the 11th of November, the anniversary of the armistice that ended WW1. For us, therefore, the ceremonies to remember the fallen are usually held under leaden skies, quite possibly raining, with bare trees and nothing growing, and all of those attending dressed in black. “Her Majesty will lead the nation in an act of Remembrance” is the formulation, and I’ve often watched the ceremony at the Cenotaph in London, and heard the words from “For the Fallen”, especially the fourth verse.

As aVietNam vet graduate Rice Paddy U. Class of TET, the best quote about conflict of any kind is from Shelby Foote interview on Ken Burns Civil war history. “A southern rebel soldier was asked why he was fighting, he replied cause you are down here, to the Northerner. “ Kind of sums up all wars!

"this is what offends me about all the treacly, sentimental pap we tend to get bombarded with on days like this. "

Like the speech given today by the very top of our government. Very sad to hear someone say that those who gave their lives would think how great our country is today. They would rather be part of it obviously and just possibly they would be disappointed in some parts of it. Sadly no one will ever know how they would feel.

Amazing photo essay/book of particular relevance:

https://aphotoeditor.com/2018/05/25/this-week-in-photography-books-m-l-casteel/

Fully 1/2 of the young men who would have been my great-uncles were killed in WW1, one only two days before the armistice.

Of my two surviving uncles from WW2, one was captured at Arnhem after the ill-fated airborne raid, and the other was a navigator in a Lancaster, which put his odds at surviving at less than 50%. He was 19 at the time.

It never ceases to amaze me how we still can't learn from this useless waste of human life, but I am deeply proud of all the members of my family who risked their lives so that my generation would not have to.

When I was a little boy we called it Decoration Day and wore those red paper flowers called Buddy Poppies. I know that today I should be thinking about the war dead, but I always hark back to my happy childhood and those Buddy Poppies.

The Koreans fought us, because we were over there. The Vietnamese fought, because we were over there. The Iraqis fought, because we were over there. The Afghans fight us, because we are over there.

But who do we fight, because they are over here?


May the brave who sacrificed their lives for our causes and our judgment rest in peace. May these not have been in error. Their honor is eternal.

Thanks for your thoughts, Mike, and including the thoughts of others, on this day.
Bill

https://mobile.nytimes.com/2018/05/25/magazine/memorial-day-letters.html

To add to the succinct comment by John Krumm, most of the post WWII casualties (millions of ordinary folk around the world) could have been avoided if the American people had chosen to heed Ike's warnings about the MIC. Spreading "democracy" - which word does not appear either in the US Constitution or in the Declaration of Independence - has been the biggest misadventure in the history of humanity so far. I am afraid it would be continued with Iran, Syria and other places in the near future.

US population in 1860 was about 31 million. Allowing an estimate of service deaths from 620,000 to 750,000, that is between about 2 - 2.5% of the total population (and drawn almost exclusively from adult males).

For WW1, the official number of war deaths resulting from Australian service was 61,548 from a population of under 4 million, being 1.54% of the total population. There was no conscription; 38.7 per cent of the male population aged between 18 and 44 volunteered. The official casualty rate was an utterly staggering 64.8%. And it has been seriously and persuasively argued that that rate itself has been considerably under-reported by the exclusion of casualties by injury (other than direct battle wounds) and illness, with the true rate above 90%: see D. Noonan, Those We Forget, (2014) Melbourne University Press. WW1 may have been the war that made Australia an independent nation. But it was at the same terrible price paid by the Americans just 50 years before.

During WW1, US population was about 100 million; hence US WW1 service deaths represented about 0.116% of population.

For WW2, official Australian war deaths were 39,655 from a population of 5.9 million, or about 0.67% of total population. US population was about 132 million, hence war deaths represented about 0.31% of population; ten times more deaths than Australia in total yet 50% fewer deaths per capita.

Differing US and Australian foreign and military policy may be seen from the Korean war onwards. Whereas the US suffered service deaths measured in the tens of thousands in the Korean and Vietnamese conflicts, Australia's service deaths were 340 (Korea, to 27 July 1953), and 521 (Vietnam). In Iraq, Australia suffered only 2 service deaths, and in Afghanistan to date, 42.

Lest we forget.

NB. I have relied on Mike for US casualty numbers. Australian casualty numbers and statistics from the Australian War Memorial website: www.awm.gov.au.

My father was at the D-Day landings; he survived with minor physical wounds but major mental ones. After a tough life the mental wounds led to his early death. A few years ago I looked down on the beach at Arromanches wondering at what part did he see and feel the horror that turned him?
Every year I go the France or Belgium to commemorate  my grandfathers, who both fought in WW1 and my father; his father won a gallantry medal in WW1 but never spoke of it. These are the men that will be at the fore front of my mind when I go to Ypres, in a few weeks, to commemorate the 100th anniversary of WW1.
Picking up the point on why they went, my maternal grandfather said that there was little for them in England at that time; and he had a job!

Graham, my father was an RNZAF Prisoner of War in Stalag Luft 3 in Poland from Feb '42 till liberation. He never spoke about his experiences, until I forced it out of him in 2013, two years before he died. I have a treasured video of him while he was still quite lucid . He NEVER went to ANZAC day, (as you say, our (Australia and New Zealand's equivalent)) and I have never gone, either. I find it difficult to give a reason why to my pious friends who say I SHOULD go to the local dawn service every year. I'm only now, at 70, starting to realise what was taken from him as a duped young idealistic radio operator, shot down and imprisoned in his prime. War is hell.

A beautifully written piece, Mike

And others end up on the scrapheap of history-

"The Forger's Spell" by Edward Dolnick has some Nuremberg Trial interviews with Hermann Goering. In them he comments that "of course people don't want to go to war ... it is the leaders of the world who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along ... All you have to do is tell them that they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country."

It's interesting to take the stats of American war dead as a percentage of the population of different age groups at that time.

Speaking as an American, I think that we should have compulsory military service, with no exceptions - the children of the influential and well to do should serve along with those of the politicians, without exception. A pipe dream for sure, but perhaps then we might not go to war so easily.

[I agree Peter. --Mike]

I have researched every one of 638 men commemorated on the war memorial who died in the First World War from my mothers home town of Galashiels in the Scottish Borders. They make up around 6% of the towns population at that time but more than 10% of the fighting age population. The government allowed the next of kin of those whose body was indentified and marked by a grave stone to arrange for a short epitaph to be carved on the stone. Many did not ( the charges were too high) most who did elected for a declaration of love or a religious quote. However one young widow chose a quote from a H G Wells novel
"Let us make ourselves guardians of the order of the world for love of our dead"
One day we might live up to it

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