Tag Archives: World War II

Vets could bring a return to congressional collegiality

I long have lamented and bemoaned the lack of collegiality in the halls of Congress. Political adversaries become “enemies.” They drift farther and father apart, separated by a deepening chasm between them.

There might be a return to what we think of as “collegiality” and “comity” in the halls of power on Capitol Hill.

It might rest with a large and hopefully growing class of military veterans seeking to serve the public in a political capacity.

They have shared experiences. They know the pain of loss of comrades in battle. They endure similar stresses associated with their time in battle.

I posted earlier today a blog item about U.S. Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw, a wounded Navy SEAL who is among 15 veterans elected to Congress in this past week’s midterm election. Crenshaw is a Republican from Houston. I don’t know the partisan composition of the congressional freshman class of veterans. It doesn’t matter. My hunch is that they are going to find plenty of commonality once they settle into their new jobs and get acquainted with each other’s history.

The Greatest Generation returned home from World War II and the men who served in the fight against tyranny developed amazing friendships when they found themselves serving under the same Capitol Dome.

Democratic Sen. Daniel Inouye of Hawaii became lifelong friends with Republican Sen. Bob Dole of Kansas; they both suffered grievous injuries in Italy near the end of the war, went to rehab together and developed a friendship that lasted until Inouye’s death. There were so many others. Fellow aviators, Democratic Sen. George McGovern and Republican Sen. Barry Goldwater became friends for life, as did Sens. McGovern and Dole.

The Korean War produced its own crop of veterans who entered political life together.

Then there is the Vietnam War generation, which also featured lasting friendships that transcended partisan politics. GOP Sen. John McCain and Democratic Sen. John Kerry worked together to help restore diplomatic relations with Vietnam. Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey and Republican Sen. Chuck Hagel both represented their native Nebraska in the Senate, serving briefly together on Capitol Hill. Former Vietnam prisoners of war found commonality: Sen. Jeremiah Denton, Rep. Sam Johnson, Sen. McCain — all Republicans — were among that particular clique of lawmakers with a special bond.

The latest class of vets joins a cadre of veterans already serving in Congress. Democratic Sen. (and double amputee) Tammie Duckworth is among the most notable.

There always is much more to life than politics. My hope now is that the new crop of vets find a way to lead the way back toward a more civil era in Congress. I pray they can find a way to bridge the chasm that divides men and women of good will.

I am filled with a new sense of hope that these individuals with common life experience can cleanse the air of the toxicity that has poisoned it in Washington.

Let’s knock off the France-bashing

I am not a Franco-phile. I don’t live, breathe or think of all things French. However, I do want to ask the president of the United States to cease with the France-bashing as he keeps tweeting messages in response to criticism coming from our nation’s old and (usually) reliable ally.

Donald Trump fired off a Twitter message that said:

Emmanuel Macron suggests building its own army to protect Europe against the U.S., China and Russia. But it was Germany in World Wars One & Two – How did that work out for France? They were starting to learn German in Paris before the U.S. came along. Pay for NATO or not!

Macron, the French president, doesn’t like the nationalistic tone coming from Donald Trump. He said so publicly in remarks over the weekend at a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I.

Trump decided to return fire with the tired refrain we hear about France’s participation during both world wars.

I want to defend the French for a moment.

First, I am acutely aware that French forces were defeated by Germans in both global conflicts. However, I also am acutely aware of the resistance that French citizens mounted against the occupying forces. That was especially true during World War II. French fighters terrorized Nazi soldiers repeatedly after the fall of Paris in 1940.

Yes, the French set up a pro-Nazi government in the southern part of the country. However, the “Free French” forces played a significant role in major military campaigns as the Allies began their counterattack against the Third Reich. Normandy? North Africa? The French fought alongside their allies from the United States, Canada and Great Britain — and the Poles, Greeks, Dutch, Norwegians and Belgians.

One more point, as long as we’re discussing historical events.

It has been argued that the United States of America wouldn’t even exist without France’s money and military support during the American Revolution.

France has been ridiculed over many decades. Do the French owe the United States for helping free them during World Wars I and II? Certainly. The gratitude, though, ought to go both ways.

Thus, the criticism from the U.S. president directed toward the French president is unfair, childish and gratuitously petulant.

If only we could change human behavior

This is no flash, no great scoop.

Human beings have been going to war with each other since the beginning of time. Certainly since the beginning of recorded history, which also goes way back.

Thus, when human beings find it impossible to settle disagreements without resorting to extreme violence, we’ll always have veterans. Men and women are answering the call of their governments to take up arms.

I join many others in wishing we could end all war. However, that is perhaps the most unrealistic expectation one can have. I detest having to say such a thing, but you know it’s true as much as I know it to be true.

For as long as lunatics continue to walk the Earth, for as long as there are tyrants or would-be tyrants who seek to subjugate other human beings, there will be war.

The same can be said of the prospect of ridding our world of losers who assassinate world leaders. Indeed, the murder of a central European head of state ignited the War to End All Wars in 1914. Today, we are commemorating the 100th anniversary of the end of what became — sadly, tragically — as World War I.

There would be another global conflagration in the 20th century.

And others have followed since then. They all have produced heroes. They also have turned men and women into veterans. They were called to duty by their government or they volunteered to serve, they chose to sacrifice large segments of their life to defend our nation … or any nation, for that matter.

And, most certainly, many of them volunteered to sacrifice their own lives in their nations’ defense. We must honor them, all of those who served. Not just on Veterans Day, but every single day!

Can we ever end international conflict? Realistically, no.

Instead, we will continue to honor those who defended us — from ourselves. We’ll do so until someone finds a way to change human behavior.

Good luck with that.

Dad would be appalled in the extreme

My late father wasn’t a particularly political individual. He didn’t have a lot of deep-seated political views that he shared regularly.

Dad, though, was a proud veteran of World War II. He served in the Navy, seeing combat in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations.

Thus, when I see pictures such as the one above — taken at an April 2018 neo-Nazi rally — I wonder: What would Dad think? How would he react?

He’s been gone for more than 38 years. To this day I have no particular memory about a discussion between us about neo-Nazis or those who sympathize with the monsters who in the 1940s tried to kill Dad and those who fought alongside him.

There has been a significant increase in the open demonstrations of neo-Nazis, white supremacists and others of their ilk during the past few years. Some of it was a response to the 2008 election of our first African-American president, Barack H. Obama. More of it came with the election of his successor, Donald J. Trump.

Indeed, such KKK luminaries as David Duke, the former Klan grand lizard, er … wizard, have commented openly about the joy they felt when Trump was elected in 2016.

So, I am able to some dots. Duke and other KKK members praise Trump’s election and we see a rise in Klan and Nazi activity across the land. Coincidence? I, um, don’t believe so.

The sight of this political idiocy makes my blood boil. I realize that our Constitution grants all citizens — no matter how disgusting their political views — the right to carry on as these idiots are doing.

I only can ask: How in the name of human decency can they burn a swastika and believe it will persuade anyone to join their perverted cause?

Dad and all those members of the Greatest Generation would be appalled.

A more fitting memorial honors a hero

CLAUDE, Texas — A little more than 74 years ago, a 21-year-old U.S. Marine was engaged in a ferocious firefight on a Pacific Island. Enemy troops lobbed a grenade at his position.

The Marine threw himself onto the grenade. It exploded, killing him. The Marine’s bravery and valor, though, saved the lives of four comrades and for that single heroic act, he was awarded the Medal of Honor.

Charles H. Roan is a hero forever. His hometown of Claude not many years ago erected a memorial in PFC Roan’s honor. It was damaged by someone, either accidentally or on purpose. I wrote about that memorial in an earlier blog post.

I want to share this brief item, along with the accompanying picture, to show you how the community has erected what I consider to be a more fitting and lasting memorial to its son, the Marine, the hero who gave his full measure of devotion during World War II.

The Charles B. Roan Veterans Memorial sits on the south side of U.S. Highway 287 as you enter Claude from the west. It contains memorial bricks that comprise a walkway into the memorial; the bricks are engraved with the names of other veterans.

Roan, though, earned this tribute through what the Medal of Honor citation calls his “intrepidity.”

I am glad the community responded in this fashion, by honoring Charles Roan — and all veterans — in the first place and by erecting a strong and stable memorial that will honor this young man’s heroism … I hope forever and ever.

Semper fi.

***

Once again, here is the text of the citation awarded to PFC Roan’s family by President Truman.

For conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty while serving with the Second Battalion, Seventh Marines, First Marine Division, in action against enemy Japanese Forces on Peleliu, Palau Islands, 18 September 1944. Shortly after his leader ordered a withdrawal upon discovering that the squad was partly cut off from their company as a result of their rapid advance along an exposed ridge during an aggressive attack on the strongly entrenched enemy, Private First Class Roan and his companions were suddenly engaged in a furious exchange of hand grenades with Japanese forces emplaced in a cave on higher ground and the rear of the squad. Seeking protection with four other Marines in a depression the rocky, broken terrain, Private First Class Roan was wounded by an enemy grenade which fell close to their position and, immediately realizing the imminent peril to his comrades when another grenade landed in the midst of the group, unhesitatingly flung himself upon it, covering it with his body and absorbing the full impact of the explosion. By his prompt action and selfless conduct in the face of almost certain death, he saved the lives of four men. His great personal valor reflects the highest credit upon himself and the United States Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life for his comrades.

Nagasaki: That bomb ended it!

The United States Army Air Force dropped a second big bomb 73 years ago today.

That one exploded over Nagasaki, Japan. The first big blast, at Hiroshima, didn’t bring Japan to the surrender table. The second one did.

The atomic age had entered the world of warfare. It was called the Manhattan Project, where some of the world’s most brilliant nuclear physicists worked to perfect the atomic bomb.

They did. It worked.

The United States had been at war with Germany, Italy and Japan for nearly four years. Germany surrendered in May 1945; Italy called it quits in 1943.

Japan was left as the remaining Axis power. President Truman, new to the office he inherited when President Roosevelt died in April 1945, had the most difficult of decisions to make: whether to use this terrible new weapon.

He went with his gut. Yes, drop the bomb and hope to save many more lives than will be lost. That calculation proved accurate, too.

Nagasaki was devastated on Aug. 9, 1945 by an even bigger bomb than the one that leveled Hiroshima three days earlier. Less than a week after Nagasaki was incinerated, the Japanese surrendered.

World War II came to an end.

President Truman said he didn’t regret deploying the bomb. Many of the great men who developed it had second thoughts. The likes of Robert Oppenheimer, Enrico Fermi and Albert Einstein eventually expressed some form of regret for their roles in developing this monstrous weapon.

We all hope never to use them again. Twice was more than enough.

I can recall a quote attributed to Einstein, who once was asked how he thought a third world war would be fought. He said, in effect, that he didn’t know with absolute certainty, but was certain that the fourth world war would be fought “with sticks and stones.”

Going to thank World War II veterans

I have made another command decision, which I can do now that I no longer work for anyone else.

From this day forward I intend to thank every World War II veteran I see. The only way to know you’ve seen a WWII vet is when you see someone wearing a gimme cap or a t-shirt identifying a member of The Greatest Generation.

I saw a gentleman this afternoon in front of a fast-food joint in Allen, Texas. He was wearing one of those caps. I extended a hand to him and said, “Thank you for saving the world.”

If you do a bit of simple math, you learn about the ruthless march of time. In 1945, the last year of World War II, the youngest enlistees were 17 years of age, meaning they were born in 1928.

That makes ’em 90 years of age today. If they’re still among us.

During the length of World War II, the United States put roughly 16 million men and women into uniform. Many of them were thrown into harm’s way.

Their numbers are diminishing every hour of every day. They need a thank you from their descendants. I plan to offer them whenever I see a veteran from that great conflict.

I have been unable since September 1980 to thank my favorite World War II. My father — who died 38 years ago — enlisted in the Navy in February 1942; he was 20 years old at the time. He wanted to get into the fight. Oh, brother, did he ever … get into it.

The thing is, Dad enlisted and pledged to fight “for the duration” of the war, not knowing when — let alone if — he would be returning home. That, I submit, is a far more difficult concept to embrace than what those of us who served in Vietnam faced when we were called to duty. We knew when we were coming home.

The Greatest Generation’s task was to save the world from tyranny. They succeeded. They came home, returned to their former lives and for the most part didn’t talk much about the hell they endured.

These men and women have earned a heartfelt thank you from those of us who came into this world upon their return.

I intend to give it to them.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole; thank you for saving the world

Robert Dole’s 95th birthday shines a vivid light on what we all have known for a long time.

It is that the world’s Greatest Generation is getting very old. Many of them are in failing health. They remind us daily — even without saying a word — of the sacrifice they made to protect us from tyranny and the tyrants who practiced it.

I saw a gentleman today, in fact, with a “World War II Veteran” ballcap. I thanked for him saving the world from the monsters who sought to enslave the world. He smiled and said, simply, “You’re welcome.”

That’s how it is with the Greatest Generation. They went to war, did their duty, answered the call and returned home to start their lives, rear their families, and live normal existences.

Sen. Dole is getting his share of good wishes today. He earned them all. He served for decades in the U.S. Senate, representing Kansas. He ran for president a couple of times, winning the Republican nomination in 1996 and then losing to President Clinton who won re-election in near-landslide proportions.

His service, though, preceded his political years by a good bit. It began when he enlisted in the U.S. Army and deployed to Italy, where he fought the Germans in the waning weeks of World War II.

Dole was wounded grievously in the Italian mountains. His right arm was shattered. He would keep his arm, but it became virtually useless.

He didn’t let the wound stop him from fulfilling many years of dedicated service to the country.

That’s how the Greatest Generation rolls. Indeed, subsequent and preceding generations of fighting men and women have exhibited these traits of selflessness.

However, I want to single out the Greatest Generation as a way to recognize one of its members, his service to the nation and take note of time’s inexorable march onward.

Happy birthday, Sen. Dole. And thank you.

Does our president want to disband NATO?

Hey, I believe it is fair to ask: Does the president of the United States want to get rid of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization?

He is yapping, yammering and yowling about NATO allies not paying their fair share for their defense. I get his concern on that one specific point.

Why, though, does he keep disparaging our allies? Why does he continue to play into Vladimir Putin’s hands with his tirades against Germany, the United Kingdom, France … indeed, the rest of the alliance.

Does this clown understand a fundamental truth about U.S. history?

Let me remind him — and you — of something we need to remember.

We had a generation of Americans go to war in Europe. They died in defense of liberty and freedom. They fought the tyrants. They won that war.

My father was one of them. He served in the U.S. Navy. He fought in the Mediterranean Theater of Operations. He once endured 105 consecutive days of aerial bombardment from German and Italian air forces. An Italian dive bomber sank Dad’s ship off the coast of Sicily, forcing Dad to dive into the drink, where he awaited rescue from a British warship.

These men, including my father, set the stage for the creation of NATO immediately after the end of World War II.

Dad wasn’t a particularly political man. He and I didn’t discuss the issues of the day too often. However, I knew instinctively that he didn’t trust the Russians. He wanted NATO to stand watch as a deterrent against potential communist aggression.

Dad’s been gone for nearly 38 years. I believe in the deepest recesses of my gut that he would be aghast at the rhetoric we are hearing from the president of the United States.

Donald Trump, you’re no Harry Truman.

USS Arizona still gets earned reverence

A social media acquaintance of mine has voiced an objection to the placing of a USS Arizona artifact eventually at the Texas Panhandle War Memorial.

She believes the Arizona is too sacred a place — a resting place for more than 1,000 U.S. servicemen — to be taken apart for display in other locations.

I will disagree with all due respect to this person.

I happen to endorse the idea of placing this artifact at the War Memorial. I also happen to agree with her that the USS Arizona — a World War I-era battle wagon that was sunk by Japanese bombers on Dec. 7, 1941 — is a sacred place.

But the ship’s hulk that rests on the bottom of Honolulu harbor isn’t being dismantled. It isn’t being taken apart. The sailors’ remains are still interred with the superstructure that sank during the attack. Thus, they haven’t been disturbed.

The USS Arizona serves to remind all Americans who came along after the Second World War of the sacrifices made by those who served in harm’s way.

We all can rest assured, in my view, that the War Memorial board — along with Randall County Judge Ernie Houdashell, who engineered the delivery of the Arizona artifact — will ensure that it is displayed with all due respect and reverence.

As for the ship’s hulk that will serve forever as a reminder of the “date which will live in infamy,” it remains a sacred place.