"My War" as Told Through the Art and Letters of Tracy Sugarman


When you are a child, the first rule of picking out a book is, “does it have good pictures?" If the answer is yes, then you open the book and read it. It the answer is no, you put the book back on its shelf. Why read a book with no illustrations?


Then life catches up on you, you grow up and and have to realize that books aren’t all about pictures. Before you know it, all of your “adult” books just have words in them - long, sophisticated words that little children wouldn’t dream of knowing. And if they could, they would dismiss them as nightmares.

That’s pretty much what happened to me. My shelves (though I love each and every one in them), are nonetheless filled with picture-less books with words starting at 5 syllables each. They are long, sometimes dry, and full of lots of and lots of information. I read them and enjoy. I don’t think about the fact that they are picture-less.

However, once in a blue moon - when the unicorns and werewolves come out and play together- the 6 year old in me pops up and demands that I find books with good pictures in them.

That’s how I stumbled on this particular book, My War by Tracy Sugarman.

“disaster in the channel”

About a two years ago, I was visiting my brother in Florida and happened to stop by the Sanford renowned book shop, “Maya Books and Music.” It was completely charming, and I would have been happy walking away with half the store. But since my pocketbook groaned and declared otherwise, I decided I would have to be satisfied with this little find.

The moment I opened its cover, I was struck by the gorgeous watercolors and sketched images liberally distributed throughout the pages: simple pencil portraits of servicemen the author had encountered, dramatic scenes from a storm in the English channel, friend Tommy doing laundry near a windowsill of daffodils.

“Tommy and his laundry, with daffodils”

Alongside these images were detailed letters to his wife, "darling Junie," narrating his life as a young ensign in the US Navy the months surrounding the greatest naval invasion in history, "D-Day," and interspersed with his retrospective commentary years later when he would publish his drawings and letters.

The impetus for “My War” came from a parting gift Sugarman’s wife, June, gave him as he was preparing to go overseas in January, 1944.

“It’s a little something for both us us.”

I edged open the package and peered inside. Sketch pads! And pens and a tin of watercolors!

“How wonderful! You’re too much, Junie. But those are for me. "What’s for you?”

… Very quietly she said, “For me, it’s your sanity. And maybe some pictures so that I’ll know you’re alive and kicking! Hold on real tight, darling. You’ll be back and I’ll be waiting.”

“Junie” did wait, and hundreds of letters later, thousands of miles traveled, a great Naval Invasion, and a World War, Sugarman came home. At end of the book, Sugarman regrets that he was not able to save all the “funny, wonderful, life-sustaining letters” he received from his wife the months and months he was away. “They were read and reread, folded and unfolded until tattered, and finally abandoned when the next sea-soiled envelope arrived.” But thanks to Junie’s care, his did, giving us this thought-provoking and informative narration.

Tracy and his wife june “a summer day at ocean view”

In his preface, Sugarman says,

“I leave it to the historians to chronicle the strategies and dynamics of the global conflict of World War II. With the perspective gained from more than half a century of scholarship, they delineate the battle lines and campaigns, the tactics and struggles of the world I inherited after Pearl Harbor. They know a great deal about “the war”. But they didn’t live my war.

It is my conviction that ever sailor and soldier in World War II fought his own war. It was a struggle that only sometimes permitted him to see the enemy. But as he stared into the darkness from his ship or beachhead, he very soon began to see himself. So new to manhood, he watched himself grow through fear and loneliness, boredom and exaltation. It was an inescapable odyssey for each of us who served.”


And such an odyssey he paints! Beautiful and haunting at times:

There are those long twilights here now. The sky is billions of miles away, and you feel very much alone. The water stretches away forever -no waves, hardly a ripple. The ships sit alone in the water, each in its own pool of aloneness. The sky arcs up from millions of empty miles beyond the shore. And straight up there’s nothing. It’s big and empty and very quiet. The sun goes away, and it’s still too big, too light. The emptiness comes off the water and crawls right into you.” (July 1 - T. B.Robertson)


At other times, he writes the raw and truthful: realities of the high price war takes on youth and innocence:

The inconsistency between the American fighter and the American sailor or soldier is staggering. I remember so well how inadequate I felt when I tried to tell you how wonderful those guys were on the beaches last June. I wouldn’t take back a word of it. I feel now as I did then, but coupled with it goes a feeling of wonder. Wonder as to how such marvelous fighters can be such rotten people… Their conceit, their arrogance, their obscenity and vulgarity in front of anyone shames the life out of me… They never apologize for our own shortcomings, and get a majestic sort of pleasure in making the English painfully aware of theirs. In every conversation the “biggest,” the “newest,” the “cleanest,” the “fastest,” the most and the best of the good, the least of the bad… Individually, I would do anything for any of them. But as a group they are the antithesis of anything I desire. I don’t want to close our eyes and pretend the bad and the wrong and the ignorant aren’t there, darling. Those things are real, and too important to both of us. I want only to reject their standards and their values. They revolt and shock me. (Feb 23, 1945)

In his retrospective commentary, Sugarman adds some thoughts to the harsh words he spoke about the American Serviceman back in 1945:

One of my “kids”

One of my “kids”

There are unexpected surprises that one finds when unearthing an intimate record from one’s youth. The most astonishing to me are those letters from the war that describe my perceptions of many of the men with whom I served. They swing from admiration to revulsion, from pride to anger, from pleasure in their company to embarrassment at their provincialism and lack of sensitivity, yet older is not wiser… It is hard to remember how young we all were when we went of to war in 1944. Most of the sailors on my ships really were the “kids” I wrote of in my letter to June. Put to the test of physical courage, they were remarkable, often accomplishing the seemingly impossible and usually with pride and good humor. When off on liberty or leave in a war-torn England, however, their ignorance and immaturity often displayed itself in ways that were embarrassing to their fellow servicemen and arrogantly hostile to our hosts.

For the most part, these were kids who had never been away from home, who were fearful and tried to cover it with bravado, who had little or no sense of history, and often showed that they resented being there. American education had ill prepared them to understand how uniquely fortunate their own country was due to geography, not because we were born to be “number one in everything.” Nor did most of them understand how indebted we were to those who fought alone for so many years, although the shattered homes and churches and towns around them bore the dreadful testimony to the high price that the English had paid for all our freedom. For too many of the Americans, this war was not really our war. It was their war, “and if it wasn’t for us Yanks, they’d sure as hell lose it.” Thankfully, as a nation, we are a long way from the provincialism that was so rampant in many Americans in World War Two. -Sugarman

But even though he had hard words to say about the things he saw, he never once took for granted the sacrifice these boys were making.

“Young men dying seems to me, somehow, the greatest tragedy. The acceptance of death has been something new to me. And I know that death serves only to accentuate the love of living we both share so dearly. The bridge between is so complete, so final that you finally stop thinking of its terrible proximity and cling rather to pulsating life. Your laughter is a little quicker, your thinking is a little less shallow, your energies and ambitions fired with a new urgency.” (August 17)


For our heart’s sake, not all his letters dwell on the hardships and seriousness of the job he and millions of the boys were experiencing… there are plenty of carefree and amusing accounts, including one which makes you marvel at the serendipitous happenings that sometimes occur in war:

“I had been napping, riding out the foul weather that had stopped all our work off the Robertson, when Mike, the stewards’ mate, excitedly came in my room and shook my shoulder. “Mr. Sweetenin’! Wake up! There’s a Lieutenant Sugarman looking for an Ensign Sugarman. Is you he?” I stared at the grinning sailor and bolted out of bed and raced up to Operations. The signalman pointed to the LST lying off our bow. "Signal came from there, sir.”

I stared across the water at the ship, rolling wildly in the windy chop of the Channel. Marvin here? It was too impossible to believe. But how marvelous if it were so! My older brother had been my role model in so many ways, and I had been the best man at his wedding. But I hadn’t seen him now in over a year. When I was getting my commission at Notre Dame, Marv and his wife, Roni, were stationed in Alabama… In my last letter from the folks, they were rejoicing that Roni was expecting a baby, their first grandchild. But not a word that Marvin might be shipping out to Europe. And now a few hundred yards away, he was coming to Utah Beach! I could just imagine the folks’ faces when they got the news!"


In his letter to Junie, he related their first “meeting.”

The weather got more and more wild, and there was no way of getting there. So tonight I called their ship by radio and summoned Marv to the radio! Although strictly against regulation, it was too great a temptation. And honey, he sounded so wonderful! The magic of a familiar voice from home is something so good it can’t be described. Imagine, angel, having Marv right here on my beach! … The conversation was pretty crazy, both of us were so damn excited.

[Sugarman] “Hey, I understand you’re gonna be a father! Over.”

[Marv] “You’re yelling me! Over.”

[Sugarman] "I didn’t think you had it in you. Over.”

[Marv] “Are you kidding! Over.”

[Sugarman] I think it’s wonderful! You got a bottle of Scotch? Over.”

[Marv] “Lots of it. Get the hell over here! Over.”

It’s easy to see in their delighted faces the most happy surprise of being reunited with a bit of home on the beachheads of Normandy.

Another time, he relates an amusing incident that happened shortly before he was shipped overseas to England:


“Late in January 1944, orders came directing our whole outfit to move out. We had all trained exhaustively and were eager to get to the English staging areas…. As we were packing to leave the base, unsettling new orders arrived.”

Sugarman and two other Ensigns, Tommy Wolfe and “Andy” Anderson, were detached to train a new batch of sailors soon to be arriving. Flattered but disappointed, he resigned himself to the fact it’d be a few months more before going over. However 3 days later, they received new orders: “Three officers and thirty men were to proceed immediately to Long Beach, NY to await transport to the ETO.” There was just one hitch… their new crew turned out to be more in the style of the Dirty Dozen rather then the “ship, shape, and bristol fashion” ones they’d just said the adieus to.

Sugarman wasn’t so sure. He’d grown up in Syracuse, NY and the only “tough characters” he was used to were the ones he met on the Lacrosse field and shook hands with at the end of each match.

“I finally took my buddy and fellow ensign, Tommy Wolfe, aside. A tough, street-smart New York kid himself, Tommy looked and sounded like Jimmy Cagney. He grinned at my concern about our new crews. “Relax, Sug. This is the biggest break these characters could dream of. If we’re tough and fair with them, they’ll work out great. I grew up with guys like them.””

Just as Tommy said, it turned out to be okay. “But I wondered how, at twenty-two, I could make these men believe I was tough enough to take them to war.”

On the train north to New York, June rode with the released prisoners. At the first opportunity, I took her aside. “Are you okay? They giving you a hard time?” She laughed. “They’re kids,” she said. “They’re tough kids. I wouldn’t want to be the Germans when they hit the beach. But they’re really very sweet.” I stared at my wife. “Sweet?” “Well,” she said, grinning, “they’re very sweet to me.””

The book is rich and full. The layers of depth and insight that comes from a mere 23 year-old are striking and cause you to go back and re-read the thoughts he penned to his wife during the tempestuous 18 months he spent overseas. 18 months that changed his life and the lives of millions around the world.

I do think have left me unscathed physically and mentally. I do not feel “older thank my years” nor “hardened by the crucible of fire.” Nothing I’ve seen has changed anything fundamentally in me. Possibly my resolution has sharpened some, my enthusiasm slightly tempered, my tolerance and understanding somewhat broadened. I think that’s happened to most of us in some degrees. Being here, there has had to be an assertion of self and independent spirit. If these are bounded by humility and a decent memory of what actually was, then it should be a healthy influence, not corruption. -Tracy Sugarman

Thank you for the lessons, Mr. Sugarman. And thank you for the pictures.

All quotes and images are taken from the book, “My War'“ by Tracy Sugarman

The Poetry of War: Remembering America's 100th Anniversary of the Great War

There is a certain poetry that comes out of war. Both the horrible beauty of a scene, a scene mixed with the horror of carnage and the beauty of valor, but also a clearer view and deeper understanding of such things as patriotism and folly, victory and grief, courage and cowardice. So many extremes at the same time. Poetry in actions, poetry in words.

Some of the greatest writers have received inspiration from their own war experiences: Ernest Hemingway, an ambulance driver in Italy during World War One; Leo Tolstoy, a Russian soldier who watched absolute desolation at the siege of Sevastopol during the Crimean War; and one of my favorites, but probably not the most famous, H.C. McNeile (Bulldog Drummond) a Sapper/Engineer in World War One. There are numerous others.  

I got on this train of thought after realizing that today marks the 100th anniversary of America's entrance into World War One. The Great War. The War to End All Wars. It was a great and horrific war. But it was not the war to end all wars. I believe, however, that out of this war have come some of the most desperately beautiful works of poetry and art ever written, poetry that describes the anguishing soul of a nation. 

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted;
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Excerpt from: For the Fallen by Laurence Binyon (1914)

This is a well known one. I'd heard it many times before, but the first time it rang most true for me was when I was standing in the Polish War Cemetery in Normandy a few years ago, with a dozen or so true Englishmen; some of them veterans of WWII, a few from more recent conflicts, and then some who were just patriots that loved their country. With a husky voice or a moist eye, they were not there to remember their own, but to remember their gallant Polish Allies of World War Two, who, without a country, had fought bravely, against odds uncounted.

A line out of this touching poem, The Soldier, by Rupert Brooke, can be found on the grave of at least one Englishman in nearly every English cemetery:

If I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is for ever England.
There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
   A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
     Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
   And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
     In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.

Rupert Brooke died shortly after writing this poem, on April 23, 1915, but he left behind a deeply stirring and patriotic work of art. Replace England with the name of your country or state, and it would be a beautiful tribute for any gravestone of a fallen serviceman.

As moving as the above poems are, knowing what we know now about World War One, some of them are down right depressing. Not so much because they are gloomy, but because of the false sense of patriotism they gave, proclaiming the cause to be a just and noble one when the truth was quite the opposite. 

Under the level winter sky
I saw a thousand Christs go by. 
They sang an idle song and free
As they went up to calvary.

Careless of eye and coarse of lip,
They marched in holiest fellowship.
Gives somewhere back the thoughts of England given;
That heaven might heal the world, they gave
Their earth-born dreams to deck the grave

With souls unpurged and and steadfast breath
They supped the sacrament of death
And for each one, far off, apart, 
Seven swords have rent a woman's heart

The Marching Men, by Marjorie Pickthall,


Millions killed worldwide, it was in truth one of the greatest disasters and wholesale slaughters of an entire generation of young men. Young men who died for old men's wars, says "Requiem for a Soldier." We know this now, but how hard must it have been for the soldiers who returned from France, missing limbs, suffering burns from poisonous gas, or asking the age-old question, "Why them and not me?" surmounted by the even greater question, "For what cause?"

When you see millions of the mouthless dead
Across your dreams in pale battalions go,
Say not soft things as other men have said,
That you’ll remember. For you need not so.
Give them not praise. For, deaf, how should they know
It is not curses heaped on each gashed head?
Nor tears. Their blind eyes see not your tears flow.
Nor honour. It is easy to be dead.
Say only this, ‘They are dead.’ Then add thereto,
‘Yet many a better one has died before.’
Then, scanning all the o’ercrowded mass, should you
Perceive one face that you loved heretofore,
It is a spook. None wears the face you knew.
Great death has made all his for evermore.

Charles Hamilton Sorley

Two German soldiers, a donkey, and their gas-masks. 1917

Two German soldiers, a donkey, and their gas-masks. 1917

I don't pretend to be anything near a scholar of poetry, especially World War One poetry. But even as a layperson, I cannot help but be moved by the works of art written in times of war. Everything about war is a superlative. The hardest questions that can be asked are laid before man. Questions of right and wrong. What is the difference between murder and protecting your homeland? To sacrifice a small group of soldiers in exchange for a great victory? Is this moral? What makes the enemy wrong? Is he not fighting for the same reasons you are? What are we fighting for? These are questions that each of the poets of World War One asked. Looking back at history, we think we know the answers to them all. But do we really?

But putting aside the controversy, the truth is that some of the most inspiring poetry of devotion and love for country was written in World War One. Penned in the trenches, hospitals, and staff-offices, the words of Owen, Binyon, Brooke, and Sassoon are with us today (whether we realize it or not), in our writings, speeches, and on the graves of countless English and American servicemen as a lasting epitaph for their sacrifice. 

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

In Flanders Field by John McCrae

I Meet Sir. C. Aubrey Smith; We Talk of Korea, the Cold, and the 5th Marines

“You were at the Chosin?” I was directing this question to an 80-something year old gentleman with a moustache somewhere in between Nigel Bruce and Ron Swanson. His hat said, “Chosin Few,” his lapel pin said 1st Marine Division, and his tie was covered in Marine Corps symbols...  I was asking an obvious question; there was no doubt as to the identification of this character, but it was more a preambulary statement than a query. 

“Yes. I was.” He said a bit gruffly.

I pulled up a seat and sat down next to him. We were in the green room of the Iwo Jima Reunion in Arlington, Virginia, last February. It had been a busy afternoon, and now people were coming in and out of the room with drinks, chatting, and relaxing. 

“It was pretty cold there.” I said to the Chosin vet. 

“You’d better believe it.” He grunted. “Got frostbite on my feet. Couldn’t walk from it.” There was a definitive stress on certain letters in the words he used, sending him up north quite a bit... likely to some part of Massachusetts. 

“I can’t imagine it. I’m from Texas, and we start freezing over when it gets down into the 50s. What keeps you going when it is so cold?”

“Training.” He said simply. “We became robots. We were so reduced by the cold, the only thing that kept us going was our Marine Corps training. We didn’t know what we were doing. But that is where the training became important.” He stated these facts as they were, though with a bit of a shiver in recalling the memory. 

A few weeks previous, I'd been reading up on Chosin, and was delightfully surprised to run into one of the men who fought there, though at an Iwo Jima reunion of all places. 

"American Marines march down a canyon road dubbed "Nightmare Alley" during their retreat from Chosin Reservoir, Korea." Photo by David Douglas Duncan

The Chosin Reservoir Campaign (or Frozen Chosin) summarized: A terrible, complicated battle fought in North Korea between the allies of the United Nations: United Kingdom, South Korea, America, and the United States 1st Marine Division, against the North Koreans and Red Chinese during the winter of 1950 (November 27-December 13). 

One of the most iconic photos from the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. "A dazed, hooded Marine clutches a can of food during his outfit's retreat from the Chosin Reservoir during the Korean War, December 1950". Photo by David Douglas Duncan

Some have compared it to the Battle of the Bulge fought in WWII. But the Marines who were at Chosin say it was worse. Our soldiers were poorly fed and poorly equipped, and our high casualty rate was caused more from the extreme temperatures than anything else. The cold was more than unbearable, at times dropping down to -40F. The boots they'd been issued to help with the cold only made their feet sweat profusely during their marches and freeze instantly on stopping. This created many cases of frostbite and trench-foot. It was miserable in the extreme. 

At night the men were warned about falling into too heavy a sleep or zipping up their sleeping bags. They might not awake from the former (many froze to death in their sleep), and as for the latter... the cold could freeze the zippers shut, making them easy prey for the Red Chinese who had no qualms about slitting the throats of defenseless Marines trapped in their bags.

And then, there was the most nightmarish part of it all. The enemy was unceasing. Every single Korean combat vet I've spoken with has told me the same thing almost verbatim: "The enemy never stopped coming. Charging forward madly, with an endlessness to them. It didn't matter how many you took down with fire, they continued, and continued, until all were too exhausted to go further." Just like your worst nightmare when no matter how hard you strive, all your efforts are in vain, nothing you do seems to help anything, and the situation only gets more desperate. (To get a better understanding of the Chosin Reservoir Campaign I recommend reading here). 

The U.S. Retreat at Chosin Reservoir

As I talked with this Chosin vet, his gruffness began to wear off, and I saw underneath a charm similar to the dashing old actor from the Golden Age of Hollywood, Sir C. Aubrey Smith. True confession, when I was very young, this screen actor had made a lasting impression on me as the ultimate charming old gentleman. His portrayal of the gallant Colonel Zapt in Prisoner of Zenda, or the grumpy-but-with-a-heart-of-gold grandfather of Little Lord Fauntleroy, were just a few that quite stole my heart. Thus, sitting across from this fascinating and delightful curmudgeon from Massachusetts (who in every way seemed to characterize Sir Smith), it felt like I was being taken on a virtual trip to the battlefields of Korea, personally guided by Sir C. Aubrey Smith, only with a strong Massachusetts accent and Marine Corps written all over him.

"How long were you at Chosin?" I asked, interested in continuing the conversation. 

"Till the middle of December, when I was wounded." Said Sir Smith (as I shall call him). "My sergeant sent me to the back for medical attention. When I got there, I was told they had no place for me and to go back to the front. I made the hike to the front lines again and got bawled out for returning. The sergeant sent me back again. This time I told them how it was and what was what, so I stayed back till I got shipped home."

His 6-month war in Korea was over. 

"And you were in the 5th Marines?" I checked.

"Yes indeed. The best regiment in the Marine Corps!" 

"I don't doubt it," I said, amused. "Actually, I just finished reading a book about a brother regiment of yours - A Company, 7th Marines... Baker 1/7 I believe it's called.”

Hardly had the words "7th Marines" come out of my mouth when there was a virtual explosion from Sir Smith. 

“Bah. Those 7th Marines! They’re no good at all. Always behind the action at a safe distance, making us do all the dirty work. We take a hill, they get the glory. Those no good....” My charming friend was obviously not biased at all. 

A friend of his nearby turned and said, “Bob, isn’t that the Company with the Chinese guy in the pink vest?”

“Kurt Lee. Yes," said Sir Smith with a chuckle. "The fellow was crazy. Always running into battle with that ghastly pink vest so that his men would always know where he was at all times.”  

“So you saw his pink vest then?” I was thrilled. Lieutenant Kurt Chew-Een Lee was a truly remarkable soldier. The first Marine Corps officer of Chinese decent, he quite proved the mettle he was made of during the Korean War. Gallantly leading his men into action, he would holler out orders in Mandarin, successfully causing disarray and confusion in the ranks of the Red Chinese. Then he would wildly attack them with little care for his own protection. His men watched in awe as Lt. Lee stood tall and straight, marching about and giving orders during the hottest parts of the fighting, seemingly unaware of the hundreds of bullets whizzing around him. Eventually, he was wounded, but he did not allow this to interfere with his duty. Indeed, he and another Marine made a daring escape from the American hospital to return to the front, despite being covered in bandages and wrappings. No, nothing mental or physical would ever come in the way of this brave Marine's determination. 

And as far as the pink vest was concerned, if he thought it would inspire his men, than who cared if it made him the perfect target for the Red Chinese?

Lt. Kurt Chew-Een Lee in Korea

Sir Smith guffawed at my excitement over the vest, “Of course I did! Everyone did! He didn’t seem to realize the enemy would also see where he was at all times. What did he think anyways? He could have gotten us all killed. There is no place on the battlefield for foolish heroics.” 

I couldn’t help laughing. These “foolish heroics” Sir Smith spoke of (and highlighted above) had awarded Lt. Lee none other than the Navy Cross, the second-highest military decoration for valor given by the United States.

“Besides,” his eyes twinkled, “He was in the 7th Marines that...”

I had to laugh again. The 7th Marines may not have been up to Sir Smith's standards, but with men like Lt. Lee in their ranks, they were certainly a fighting force to be reckoned with.

With "Sir Smith" at the Iwo Jima Reunion in February (Photo Credit: Dean Laubach

With "Sir Smith" at the Iwo Jima Reunion in February (Photo Credit: Dean Laubach

But though we joked about the eccentricities of the officers, the events of the summer, fall, and winter of 1950 had left a deep and terrible impression on Sir Smith. He told me that the reality of what he had gone through was finally catching up on him. About 50 years after his service in the Marine Corps, he suddenly started having nightmares about the fighting in Korea. He dreamed about things he'd seen or done that hadn't crossed his mind in decades, and out of the blue thoughts attacked him that left him with little mental peace. 

"I have to go to a PTSD group now." He told me somewhat grimly. "I'm the oldest guy there. All the others are soldiers from Iraq and Afghanistan. It doesn't help much, but I keep going." 

We all know that the end-date of a war doesn't mean it's over in the minds of the fellas who fought there, but it's still hard every time I hear it from their own mouths; that each day they are re-fighting the battle of the Chosin Reservoir, or Iwo Jima, or Normandy. Thankfully, though, my new friend has a tenacious fighting spirit and probably wouldn't allow himself to be easily overcome by these nightmares.

We talked for some time more, till the dinner bell rang concluding the weekend. It was a lovely time I spent chatting with Sir Smith. Learning from such a charming curmudgeon about the rougher side of Chosin combat (as well as a few humorous anecdotes) was a remarkable experience. It is regretful that so few know anything of the Korean War, or even the Chosin Reservoir Campaign. The difficulties of Chosin were practically unparalleled in American history. That any could survive it is truly a miracle. But they did, and once again I was reminded of the endurance of the human spirit when it is put to the test - especially the United States Marine Corps at Chosin. 

Remembering the Forgotten War

This is the 66th anniversary of the beginning of the Korean War conflict, a terrible and bitter event in American history... Though I've been nominally aware of the Korean War for some time now, it's only in the last 12 months or so that I've really begun to get a grip on the tragic events of 1950-1953. Last year, knowing that I had interest in this area, my grandmother sent me an excellent little book of first hand accounts, published for the 50th anniversary of the Korean War. You could say that after reading the book, the fire was lit and I was quite anxious to learn more. 

Since then, we've had the pleasure of pleasure of meeting some really charming and remarkable men from this sad war. In honor of the anniversary, we'll be sharing some of their stories the next few days so that their war will no longer be called, "The Forgotten War".

Korean War Veterans Memorial. Photo Credit: Shaun Moss Photography 

Iwo Jima 71 years later

Iwo Jima. It's hard to put into words the meaning behind those 7 letters. I think for most people, it's an interesting assortment of vowels and consonants. One Iwo veteran told me, "A 50-something year-old once came up to me and said, 'What does "I Survived I-W-O" stand for?' Realizing it was pointless to explain, I just told her, 'It means, "I Survived the International Women's Organization"."

(l-r) Gene Bell -3rd Marine Division, Liberty, and Ken Jarvis, son of an Iwo Jima veteran. I am holding Mr. Jarvis' father's license plate which says, "Iwo J 1945."

The reality is they ARE letters that stand for something - They spell out the names of the nearly 7,000 boys who never left the island and 20,000 others who became casualties of war. The Battle for Iwo Jima was long, bloody, and hard. But when those Marines saw the first plane emergency-land on the secured airstrip, they knew that, as costly as it had been, it was completely worth it.

Last weekend, I (Liberty) had one of the greatest pleasures and honors of my life attending the reunion for the 71st anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima held in Arlington, Virginia. For the last 11 years, Iwo Jima has held a unique and special place in my thoughts. Something about this particular battle has wrapped it's way around the strings of my heart, and as time goes on, it only becomes tighter. When Admiral Nimitz said, "Among the men who fought on Iwo Jima, uncommon valor was a common virtue," he was only speaking the truth. The Marines in this battle fought with a persevering endurance so strong, against an enemy so fierce who seemed to stop at nothing to achieve the complete defeat and humiliation our brave boys and beautiful country of America. But despite the odds, our fellas overcame and the battle was declared our victory. 

The Iwo Jima veterans at the WWII Memorial

If you speak to an "Iwo Jima Survivor" today, they won't tell you much. There are just some things that even now, 71 years later, cannot be repeated. A veteran of the Korean War described it perfectly when he said, "People ask you about 'what war is like,' but the minute you start telling them, they don't want to know. They can't handle it. They don't know what it's like to see [hundreds] of dead men. . .all the time. They can hardly bear to see one dead person all cleaned up in a casket." 

But on occasion, they do open up, and when they do, it is an emotional experience. This past weekend, among the humorous and lighthearted anecdotes of "those good ole' days in the Corps," I spoke with several Marines who shared some very personal stories with me. Their words and accounts were told with almost an angst at speaking of things so sacred and tender. Tender because they have lain buried deep in their thoughts for 71 years. And few will ever understand. 

Hearing the stories as I did, so real and raw, it is hard for me even now to repeat them. Partly because of how close I feel to these stories and the ones telling them. I was not there to experience them, but it is almost as if I could experience it all through the eyes of the veteran; and in their voices hear the sounds of battle, the tension of the combat, the smell of gunfire, the loss of friend and comrade. Waiting for a night attack. A close call. Then another one. Until the point where they no longer took note. On and on and on. Then, a brief respite. Only to be repeated again and again. For the veteran of this living nightmare, tears dried up many years ago. . .or at least they don't come as easily now. He just looks back on it all with a contemplative solemnity. Maybe wondering at the high price spent for freedom. But for the listener, this "second-hand" experience of what war is like brings many new tears. Tears of sorrow, compassion, and gratitude. A fuller understanding. . . but also a recognition that the enormity of it will never be fully grasped.

Two of my 5th Marine Division friends. Mr. Harvey (left) was in the Paramarines prior to joining the 5th Division. Mr. Lauriello (rt) experience 37 brutal days on Iwo.

Another reason the retelling is so hard is the fear that repeating the stories will cheapen the sacrifice. It can happen that we become so accustomed to tales of bravery that we are desensitized to the depth of pain behind it. We forget that the boy who died on the beach moments after landing, took a bullet for his friend behind him, and that friend has carried the memory with him for 71 years. The memory of a life cut off in his prime: no family, no future, no life. Not even a minute more. When a day rarely passes without recalling this scene to mind, a 30-second mention by a TV news-anchor just does not seem to do the memory justice. 

Regardless, their stories must be repeated. They must be passed on so that the sacrifice of our courageous boys will not only continue in our memory, but also be remembered in our deeds and actions. Their lives purchased an extra 71+ years of freedom and prosperity for us here in America. May we never do anything to soil the purity of the blood that was shed for our country. Please, never forget Iwo Jima.

Frederick Kroese: Dutch Resistance Fighter

In 1940, it would have been a very hard time to be living in Europe, especially if you lived in one of the many little countries that were being invaded by the Nazis. The Netherlands was one of those. At first, it wasn't so bad. The Netherlanders could live with them, but when the Germans went to fight in Russia, they needed more men and more weapons. So, they started taking men out of the factories and sending them to fight the Russians. But of course they had to have someone to fill the places of all the men who were being sent to the front, so the Germans started taking the men and boys from the countries that were under the Nazi thumb.

In mid 1943, Frederick Kroese, got a message telling him to get a few belongings and report so that he could be moved to Germany to work in the factories. As a 19 year old young man, he wasn't going to be bossed around by some government that wasn't even his own, telling him that he had to drop everything he was doing and go to work to help the very people who had invaded his country. So he just said, "I won't do that!"

There were then only two options left to him: he could either wait for the Nazi police to come get him, or he could go into hiding. Well, he wasn't going to wait around for the police, so he found a place to hide himself! And then, since he wasn't going to just wait in hiding, he decided to join the Resistance. 

When I first met Mr. Kroese, he described to me in great detail the perils of joining the Resistance. It was a very real and dangerous thing to undertake. He knew that at any time he could be shot, put in prison, or tortured for information and addresses, but it gave him a way to "really do something against the Germans..." In a lovely Dutch accent, he told me, "You took part in an organization which did things you shouldn't do to survive it. In common clothes - you don't have a uniform, but we were the enemy of the Germans." He wore a band on his arm that said he was in food distribution so that the Germans wouldn't bother him or take away his bicycle. If you remember from Corrie Ten Boom's stories, bicycles were very important to the success of their plans. 

One day, however, as he was coming out of the woods, he found a German stealing his bike. He really needed his wheels to get where he was going, so he tried to talk him out of it  -but without success. He finally asked if the German would at least give him a ride into town on the back of it (oh the gall!), but he wouldn't take up his offer... And he lost the bike. Just another day in the life of Frederikus Wilhelmus Kroese.

During the war American planes would drop supplies to the Dutch resistance, especially weapons, explosive equipment, and booklets on how to use them most effectively. This booklet is explaining how to blow up a bridge. Mr. Kroese obtained it from one of the cylinders that were dropped.

When American or English pilots were downed, he was there to help them. "I was in the group that saved flying people who were shot down..." The pilots would call in to the Dutch Resistance saying, "Save us, save us, we're crashing!" and Mr. Kroese would organize the farmers to go to the location where they were falling, destroy the evidence, bury the parachutes, etc... Then find them a place where they could stay, forge false identification papers and ration cards, and finally get them new clothing! Isn't that just too rich...part of the Dutch Resistance, forging papers, and saving downed English and American pilots!!!

Mr. Kroese's false identification papers.

Although it was no doubt thrilling to their impetuous spirits, these Tommies and Johnnies were practically still boys, and didn't seem to grasp the danger of the situation or the tremendous sacrifice that these Dutch people were embracing, risking their lives, and giving them a large portion of their own scarce supply of food. "They would stay there for a few weeks, or as long as needed and they would stay in the house where I was aided. We gave them food, and some night I came upstairs after they had dinner, and I came and I saw that the soup was in the washing table," -(that was in the year that food was especially difficult to come by)- "So I said, 'Are you mad? If you don't like it, tell it to us, and we can have it, but don't spoil it!'"  

At other times, the Americans struggled to grasp the precariousness of their situation. "Sometime in the following months, there came a German car stopping just before our house... but what did he (the American flyer)? He moved to the window, pushed the curtains away, and I said; 'Are you mad?!'" 'No, but I've never seen my enemy. I want to see my enemy.' As they are young boys, they don't realize, and they don't know. They didn't know that we had few food, and he didn't realize that he, ya, was in danger of bringing us in danger by showing himself at the window. It was remarkable." 

Finally, after 5 longs years of being under Nazi oppression, after 3 years of working every moment against his country's oppressors, rescuing Allied pilots, burying parachutes, hiding radios, stealing bicycles, blowing up bridges, forging papers, scraping together food, organizing the farmers, - and every moment living in the realization that they could die any time, the Netherlands were finally liberated.

"It was happiness to be liberated." 

In all the times that I've come in contact with people from the Netherlands, I've found them to be some of the nicest people in the world. So kind, and with such a full history of their own, and between our two countries, dating all the way back to 1608 when they welcomed our Pilgrim Fathers into their land, and gave us a place where we could live in peace and worship God in freedom for over ten years, until our forefathers sailed to America. Mr Kroese is certainly no exception! Thank you, dear sir, for your gallantry and your kindness to our boys who got in a tough spot in the air over there.

"Pearl Harbor, a place we'd never heard of"

Photo Credit Melissa Findley

Photo Credit Melissa Findley

"We could hear the pounding on the sides of the ship, and the screaming of the boys inside. This lasted for days but there was nothing we could do." These were the words of a Pearl Harbor Survivor on the 70th anniversary commemorations (four years ago) of a day in which the course of American history would be forever changed: the bombing of the American Naval and Air base at Pearl Harbor. The ship he was speaking of was the USS Arizona, and the sounds were the sounds of the 1,199 boys locked inside, begging for help, but never to breathe fresh air again. 

One of those boys was a handsome young sailor named Robert Moody. Fresh with life, and a smile that would make a lady's heart go pitter patter, he lost his life that day. Three years later, inspired by his brother's sacrifice, a young Harmon Moody would join the Navy as well. As an appropriate finale to the story, Harmon's Destroyer was one of those on detail at Tokyo Bay when the war came to an end. Today, Harmon speaks proudly of his brother's sacrifice. 

Maxine Andrews (one of the famous Andrews Sisters), later wrote about this fateful day.  "As we walked farther down the aisle, [where they were to hold their performance that evening] we could see the doorman and the stagehands were gathered in a small cluster on the stage, huddled around a small table model radio. There was only a bare light bulb illuminating that one small spot at centre stage. When we came within hearing distance, a radio announcer told Laverne, Patty, and me what the workers on the stage already knew: Pearl Harbor, a place we'd never heard of, had been attacked. I looked at the doorman and asked the question that millions of other Americans were asking each other that day, "Where's Pearl Harbor?" He said he wasn't sure, but that the voice on the radio was saying we were finally in the war. Suddenly, the empty sidewalks outside the theatre symbolized a stark reality: The world was different now and would be for the rest of our lives. 

It wasn't long before we were singing a song our parents had sung earlier: "Over There." George M Cohan wrote it as an inspirational song for Americans in World War I, and now, twenty three years after what was supposed to be the war to end all wars, we were in another world war and rallying our spirits over again with Cohan's message: "We won't come back till it's over, over there."

As hard as I try and recall, I don't remember the name of the veteran who spoke so vividly of the terrors he witnessed on December 7th, 1944; Yet regardless of that, his words struck a deep cord then, as they do now. How could it not when one has carried such a memory with him for 70 years. What happened on December 7, 1941 was perfidious and treacherous in the extreme. But it did something to America. It united her in a way we had never been united before. From that day on phrases like, "Remember the Alamo!" were echoed by "Remember Pearl Harbor!" "Remember Wake Island!". "Remember Bataan." And America went on to fight a war for which we will never be the same again. 

Invasion of Salerno Anniversary

In the early morning of September 9, 1943, the 36th infantry division landed on the shores of Salerno, in a move to entirely push the Germans out of Italy. Last week commemorated the 72nd anniversary of this invasion. On a corner of one of the main streets in downtown San Antonio, by the 141st Infantry regiment monument (36th div), two veterans of this significant campaign were joined by their families and a few friends to remember the day, and the friends who never made it home. We were greatly moved as they recounted stories of the invasion as if it happened yesterday. Their comrades in arms may have been at rest for 72 years, but their names and faces will never be forgotten by these two 36th Div. men.

"This Day is the Father of Great Anniversaries"

For the 70th anniversary of Victory over Japan this past weekend, here are some excerpts from a radio program that was broadcast on August 14, 1945. Written by Norman Corwin, and magnificently performed by Orson Welles. 

"This day is the father of great anniversaries. Men and saints shall picnic together on Fourteen August down more years than either you or I shall see. So say it tonight with saluting guns. Say it with roses. Say it with a handclasp, a drink, a prayer. Say it anyway you want but say it! Fourteen August... New homecoming. Now the dog-tag exchanged for the name again. They will converge from outlandish zones of time; from secret somewheres known alone to postmasters. From lanes of oceans, and from windy desert camps. The comrades will write letters to each other for a while. And then drop out of touch. The mess-halls where the meals were on the house will be forgotten soon enough between Jim's Diner and homecoming... Say it tonight with saluting guns, with champagne and with laughter. But also remember the fields beyond, and the names and faces beyond. It is worth noting and remembering that here in this August the grass is hearty, the sky friendly, the wind in windsock, birds are competitive, the hills of home are in their accustomed places. And all is accounted for. All is accounted for except the farmer's boy, and the mule-hand who lived near the canal. The young men from the city block where the gutters fry in summer. One lies with an ocean across his chest at the bottom of an arctic deep. Another sleeps with sand in his eyes where he fell on a beach at Palau. The bones of the fisherman rest in clay, far from the rocks of Maine. And the Miner's kid is under the ground of China. The cricket sings in the summer night, but the soda clerk says nothing. The fawn leaps in the wolf proof wood, but the jungle roots twine the postman's feet. The turtle is young at sixty-one, but the flyer is dead at eighteen.

"Remember them. Oh, when July comes round and the shimmer of noon excites the locust, when the pretty girls bounce as they walk in the park; and the moth is in love with a 60-watt bulb, and the tire on the road is blistered. They've given their noons to their country; they've trusted their girls to you, they are face to face with an ally's earth for a bunch of tomorrows. Remember them. Oh, in the fall of the year when frost airbrushes the withering leaf and the silo is fat as a bearing woman, and the cleats in the backfields dig up gains to the stadium. When the number one goose says it's time to go, and the flock points a V to the south. They've given their seed to 48 states, their football tickets to you. The shirt on their back is a worm-cut rag for silks and breads, bomblessness. For kids, unplanned today, who will play ghosts and Tojo every Halloween. Remember them. Oh, in the sleeting months when the sap stands cold in the vein of the tree and the bottle of milk in the frozen doorstep raises it's cap to the morning. When the skating girls eddy like snow on the rink, and the storm window hooked on the prairie farmhouse mutters in the gail out of Idaho. They've spilled their blood for the rights of men. For people the likes of me and you. And they ask that we do not fail them again in the days we are coming to."

Excerpts from "Fourteen August" by Norman Corwin, 
August 14, 1945

You can listen to Norman Corwin's live radio broadcast "Fourteen August" it in it's entirety here. It is well worth your time: You can listen to Norman Corwin's live radio broadcast "Fourteen August" it in it's entirety here. It is well worth your time: https://soundcloud.com/thewallbreakers/corw-1945-08-14-fourteen

Happy Birthday America!

Happy Birthday America! Thank you France for sending Lafayette! Thank you England for giving us a 1000 years of heritage before our independence (and our National Anthem, the best in the world!). Most of all, thank you God for our country.

The Second Day of July 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. I am apt to believe that it will be celebrated, by succeeding Generations, as the great anniversary Festival. It ought to be commemorated, as the Day of Deliverance by solemn Acts of Devotion to God Almighty. It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more. You will think me transported with Enthusiasm but I am not. I am well aware of the Toil and Blood and Treasure, that it will cost Us to maintain this Declaration, and support and defend these States. Yet through all the Gloom I can see the Rays of ravishing Light and Glory. I can see that the End is more than worth all the Means. And that Posterity will tryumph in that Days Transaction, even altho We should rue it, which I trust in God We shall not.
— John Adams in a letter to his wife Abigail Adams, July 3rd, 1776

Iwo Jima: 1945-2015

Today is the 70th anniversary of the Battle of Iwo Jima, the bloodiest battle in Marine Corps history. What was supposed to be a 3 day in-and-out ended up being 35 days of brutal, intense fighting between the Japanese and American forces, culminating in over 26,000 American casualties. The cost was terribly high, but the capture of the island was crucial. If we could take the Island of Iwo Jima, we could use it as a staging point to get to mainland Japan. It would also provide a much needed landing base for American bombers and P51 mustangs on their missions to and from Japan. The battle was long and hard and bloody. From February 19 to March 26, the Marines moved slowly forward, taking ground bit by bit, but at tremendous expense. Years beforehand, the Japanese had built miles of caves and tunnels underneath the ground, laid mines, prepared bunkers and pillboxes for the ultimate defense of the island. The Marines quickly found out that the only way to get the Japanese out of these pillboxes was by flamethrower, a horrible, yet effective weapon. On February 23, 1945, five Marines and one Navy Corpsman raised the American flag on Mt. Suribachi. There was still a long way to go. It would be another month before Iwo Jima was taken, but the sight of Old Glory flying high and proud sent a message to every man on that island: We are here to stay. 

10 Years ago this next week. WWII veteran and Iwo Jima survivor Ivan Hammond with two of my brothers, Jubilee (left) and me. Photo credit: www.pbase.com. 

One of my first memories of meeting Iwo Jima veterans was 10 years ago this month. For the 60th anniversary, Fredericksburg, Texas held a grand reenactment of the battle and over 25,000 people turned out to watch it. It was simply packed. I was only about 8 years old at the time, and I didn't completely comprehend the significance of it all except that my father told me, "This is an historic moment. Pay attention to the people you meet and remember them. There will not be many opportunities like this again." So I did. Over the anniversary week, I followed my dad and two brothers around, lugging a gigantic yellow and white cassette player in a little pack I carried on my back. I brought along several blank cassettes, and for every veteran we met, I would turn that recorder on and listen for all I was worth. I don't remember the names of most the Marines I met that day, but I remember standing in awe at the stories they told us. One man in particular, I will never forget.  He had on a bright red coat with pins and medals, and a red hat with gold colored trim on it; somewhere on the hat were the words Iwo Jima. I listened to the stories he told my dad and brothers, and wondered at the bravery and sacrifice of such a man. To me, only a little girl of 8, he seemed to me the oldest man I'd ever met. As I look back now, I realize he would only have been in his late 70s, a mere spring chicken compared to the fellows of today; yet what he had done for this country was amazing to me. And I've never forgotten him. Every time someone brings up the Battle of Iwo Jima, I remember that man. At one time a brave young Marine ready to conquer the world,  then standing in a grassy little area in Fredericksburg, talking with my brothers and me, his hair was white and his hands a little shaky, but his voice was strong and a spirit of fearlessness was about him that was unconquerable. I will never forget him.

Photo credit: Patrick Johnston Times Record News

This last weekend, my sisters and I were able to attend one of the last Iwo Jima Reunions. For two days we visited and talked with veterans of this great and horrible battle. Marines, Navy Corpsmen, Air Force, and even a SeaBee all gathered together for one last time in Texas to remember and pay tribute to the comrades they left behind. It was a moving experience. They told us their stories looking at maps and replica newspaper clippings. Each man had played a different and unique role in the winning of Iwo Jima, but like all true heroes, they downplayed their own actions and declared the true heroes were the ones who never made it home.

Photo credit: Patrick Johnston Times Record News

The weekend was short, but sweet. In many ways it was an apropos conclusion to my first meeting of Iwo Jima veterans 10 years ago. 10 years from now I doubt there will be any Iwo Jima veterans still alive, none left to tell their own story. The Battle of Iwo Jima stands out as the bloodiest battle in the history of the Marine Corps. More Medals of Honor were given out during this battle than any other during the war; and it was the only time Marine casualties were more in number than the enemy. The level of courage required was high, but for the Americans fighting on Iwo Jima, "uncommon valor was a common virtue." It is only fitting that, on the 70th anniversary of this battle, where so many lives were lost, we stop for a brief moment, and remember those boys who endured and sacrificed so much for you and me.

Half A League! Half A League! Half A League Onward!

Painting of the Charge of the Light Brigade

A slight detour from the ordinary topic on this blog. October 25th is one of my favorite days in the year because it is one of those days in history in which everything seems to happen... At least some of my favorite historical events. The Battle of Agincourt, between the English and French 1415,  is one which cannot be forgotten. William Shakespeare so immortalized the battle in his epic play, Henry V, that we unwittingly refer to it in regular conversation, often quoting the St. Crispin’s Day speech and the phrase, “band of brothers.”

A photograph taken by Roger Fenton of the survivors of the 13th Light Dragoons. 

At the top of my list is the infamous Charge of the British Light Calvary during the Battle of Balaclava, October 25, 1854, where the English had banded together with the French and Turks against the Russians. Though it is little known today, and would hardly be at all if it wasn’t for Alfred Lord Tennyson’s poem “The Charge of the Light Brigade,” the charge and the events surrounding it are just fascinating, especially when you understand the true effect the war had on the British military system, future wars, and the way we think about military leadership. 

During the charge, Private Frederick Melrose, 17th Lancers, declared in the spirit of Shakespeare’s Henry V, “What man here would ask another man from England?” right before he was shot and killed by Russian fire. And like Private Melrose, not a man in the charge would have wished for “one more.” 

Centre: Sergeant James Mustard of the 17th Lancers and last survivor of the charge. He died February 1916.

Though separated by hundreds of years, both events were fought on same day and are remembered today in magnificent poetry. 

The Charge of the Light Brigade
By Alfred Lord Tennyson

Half a league, half a league,
Half a league onward,
All in the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.
“Forward, the Light Brigade!
Charge for the guns!” he said.
Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

“Forward, the Light Brigade!”
Was there a man dismayed?
Not though the soldier knew
   Someone had blundered.
   Theirs not to make reply,
   Theirs not to reason why,
   Theirs but to do and die.
   Into the valley of Death
   Rode the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon in front of them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
Boldly they rode and well,
Into the jaws of Death,
Into the mouth of hell
   Rode the six hundred.

Flashed all their sabres bare,
Flashed as they turned in air
Sabring the gunners there,
Charging an army, while
   All the world wondered.
Plunged in the battery-smoke
Right through the line they broke;
Cossack and Russian
Reeled from the sabre stroke
   Shattered and sundered.
Then they rode back, but not
   Not the six hundred.

Cannon to right of them,
Cannon to left of them,
Cannon behind them
   Volleyed and thundered;
Stormed at with shot and shell,
While horse and hero fell.
They that had fought so well
Came through the jaws of Death,
Back from the mouth of hell,
All that was left of them,
   Left of six hundred.

When can their glory fade?
O the wild charge they made!
   All the world wondered.
Honour the charge they made!
Honour the Light Brigade,
   Noble six hundred!

War and Peace: 1939-1945

75 years ago today, British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain announced to the world that Great Britain was officially in a state of war with Germany, thus embarking on what would be six long and bloody years of world war. The cost was high, millions of lives would be lost, but victory came in the end.

On September 2, 1945, exactly six years later minus one day, World War II would officially end with the surrender of Japan on the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay. The photo below of General MacArthur signing the peace treaty holds a special significance for me because as long as I can remember a signed copy has hung in my dad’s office. But it is more than that. My father was named after General MacArthur, and when he was ten years old, his father took him to meet Mrs. Douglas MacArthur. She gave him the autographed picture. It was a very special meeting for my Dad, and he has always been very grateful for it.

I am awed that in the providence of God, two of the most important moments in our history would fall on consecutive days; like two book ends holding together the chapters of events that had engrossed the world for six long years.

August 14 is considered for VJ-Day for many WWII Veterans, but it was not until September 2, that the official surrender papers were signed on the decks of the U.S.S. Missouri.