|World War II was too vast and enveloping to allow us only portraits of generals and politicians making "command decisions," or Hollywood images of "our boys in uniform" clashing terrifically with enemy counterparts in battles neatly named. It was as total as mankind could make it, up to that time.|
I observed it from its sinister origins, years before, indeed going back to childhood, for I was born the very year, 1919, in which the United States government abjured its creation, the League of Nations. Ultimately I saw the full War, first as a civilian with the rest of America, and then as a soldier acting in a number of roles. Few men had so varied an experience in the War as I, which is one reason to write about it at fifty, and seventy years later. Also, I've spent a lifetime studying world politics and psychology, and catastrophes, a second license for the job.
There was this awful contrariness about America at War: a very small proportion of its people - roughly one in a hundred - encountered once or repeatedly high risk of life and limb. Half of these were disabled or killed. A vast number of others underwent disjointed and dismal years as military or civilians to enable these men to suffer and die "victoriously." A similarly vast number were too young or old to do but carry on and lend a cheer. Besides, there was also a large number who prospered during the War and in consequence of it. "They never had it so good," even when in uniform and in a theater of operations.
I was enabled to taste something of all this, which adds up to a lot, and will lead many to conclude that so rich and rare an experience must be envied. I find even myself believing so on occasion, perhaps because I survived and have lived to a vigorous old age. Actually I've never been so thankful as I was when the war experience ended. Furthermore, let no one imagine that, when in my right mind, I fail to recall the War as a misery and horror for hundreds of millions of people and a curse upon the human record.
|Waiting for nurses...|
|The nurses have arrived...|
|written on the back of picture to the left (trimmed by Mom to fit into the album)|