Tuesday, April 25, 2017

The Last Good War

General Dwight D. Eisenhower speaks with paratroopers of the 502nd Parachute Infantry Regiment, part of the 101st Airborne Division, shortly before the D-Day landings of 6 June 1944. (US Army Photo)
Over the weekend I started watching Band of Brothers, again. I'm not sure how many times I've watched it before. At least twice from start to finish and certain episodes I've watched more than that. In my estimation it is perhaps the best, and most accurate, depiction of World War II in Europe. At least from the standpoint of the airborne.

For those of you not familiar with this mini-series from HBO, the ten episodes are based on the book of the same title by Stephen Ambrose. The book, and the series, follows one company, Easy, of the 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division. From the days of their initial training at Camp Toccoa in Georgia to the immediate aftermath of the end of the war in Europe, we follow these men through the war.

After I watched the first two episodes on Saturday last, I found I just could not continue. The emotions I was feeling were, to say the least, overwhelming.

Many of the men portrayed in the series, like most of their generation, have passed away. Some died during the war, some died afterwards but before the making of the series, and some of those interviewed at the beginning of each episode have since passed.

As has the guy I first watched the series with, my Dad.


But beyond all that, one thought I had on Sunday as I watched a few more episodes was this, was World War II the last "good" war? And what do I mean by that?

World War II was fought against a cruel and evil regime in the case of Nazi Germany. The Japanese Empire was  also cruel, and certainly demonstrated a great capacity for evil. No one can argue that the Nazis were not evil. When your stated goal is to destroy an entire group of people, the Jews, how can you be anything but evil? (That particularly virulent disease has yet to be eradicated from the world. The Israelis are still fighting for survival, every day.) With the Japanese, their evil was more casual than it was calculated. Which is almost worse. Yes, their culture was, and is, very different from ours, but they must have known how we would perceive their actions. They just didn't care.

And Bataan will not be forgotten by those who remember such things. (God forbid we ever forget.)

We were attacked, yes, though there was some provocation on our part towards Japan, but that was mostly due to their actions in China. Japanese actions in China were pure evil. As the people of Nanjing could attest to.

So there you have it, a vast struggle against great evil. I also know that one of our Allies exhibited as much evil as the Nazis. Communism is on a par with National Socialism, as to who was more evil, Hitler or Stalin? Take your pick. But as Churchill famously put it, "If Hitler invaded hell I would make at least a favourable reference to the devil in the House of Commons."

Germany and Japan had to be defeated immediately, Stalin and his evil minions would have to wait.


So in those terms it was a good war, a necessary war. The country was united as never before and has not been since, not even after 9-11 were Americans so ready to step up and do their part.

Now Korea was, in my mind, a good war, a necessary war, but it was made necessary by stupid political statements as to the United States' defensive perimeter (which an idiot Secretary of State outlined in a speech and which did not include Korea), perhaps making the Communists think they could get away with it. Also they thought that as the U.S. had done virtually nothing to prevent Mao from taking over in China, why would we fight for Korea?

We did though, with one hand tied behind our backs due to the possibility of a wider war against the Russians. We were fighting the Chinese, just not "officially" I guess, letting those bastards pretend that the Chinese troops fighting in Korea were volunteers. Anything to avoid another world war I suppose.

Vietnam remains a mystery to me. The politicians demonstrated, once again, that they know nothing of war. Doesn't matter the nationality, politicians, once war is decided (which is their job) should let the soldiers fight it. But they don't, they meddle, they send "messages."

And soldiers die.

While we were in Vietnam for the right reasons, we certainly didn't act like we knew what we were doing.

Desert Storm? Fought for oil, pure and simple. Yes, Saddam should have stayed out of Kuwait, didn't belong to him. So we went in, kicked his ass, then left him in power. I blame Colin Powell for that. I did at the time, I still do. Bad advice in my opinion.

So we had to go back. And we're still there.

Afghanistan? Another bad idea.

Libya, Egypt, and now Syria. Is our goal to piss off the entire Middle East? Intervention in those areas was a very bad idea. A criminally stupid idea.

What's the goal? How do you define victory? If you can't define what victory is in concrete terms, then you have no business expecting American troops to go there and bleed for some nebulous concept of turning those folks into democrats or republicans. Our way of government isn't for everyone.

There are days when our way of government isn't fitting any more for certain elements of our own society. Some idiots out there still think socialism works.

Some of those fools need to visit Venezuela.

So yes, World War II was the last "good" war. I have no idea what the next one will be like, Hell we're still in the middle of the one which started back in 2001. Which is maybe simply a continuation of the first Gulf War.

I don't know. Only time will tell.



50 comments:

  1. Concur all. Well said. As a side note, I have seen some pretty convincing data which says that those "Volunteer" Chinese troops (which took huge losses in frontal assaults) were composed mainly of ex-KMT troops. ChiComs had a win-win there: get rid of trained military people who were possibly hostile and drive back the UN from the Yalu.

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    1. I had no idea that many of those guys may have been ex-KMT. Does provide a good way of getting rid of potential troublemakers.

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  2. Good post, not much I can say that you already haven't except to say that our nation's "leaders" forgot
    the definition of victory after WWII.

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    1. Our post-war "leaders" seemed to forget everything except how to get re-elected.

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    2. Exactly! Re-election is what it's all about. I'm not saying that there aren't any good and dedicated politicians
      in Washington because I believe there are but they are a real minority!

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    3. There are a couple, so I've been told.

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  3. "...an idiot Secretary of State"
    Not really narrowing the field with that statement, Sarge. Just sayin'

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    1. Good point.

      It was Dean Acheson.

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    2. Oh, I knew that. The point was he was just one in a VERY long line of idiot Secretary of States with the last two (giving Mr. Tillerson a pass for the time being) being the penultimate idiots. Mr Tillerson is going to have to work extremely hard to achieve that level of idiocy.

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    3. I wanted to put his name out there. I was going to do that when I wrote the post, I simply forgot.

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    4. Oh, the last two, kinda make all of the others look superb in comparison.

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    5. Sarge/ You should read Achesons book "Present at the Creation" (Post WW II, Korean War and the creation of the UN) for a fuller view of the man..

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    6. Thanks Virgil, I'll check that out. Just to be fair.

      As you might imagine, the Korean War is very important to me personally. I've always been kind of pissed at Acheson for that speech. My father-in-law had to flee for the hills in 1950 so he wouldn't be drafted into the North Korean Army, or worse.

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  4. Most people think of the government as a giant brain controlling many hands. In a democracy especially it's actually many brains trying to control a giant hand. When the people don't care enough to developed informed opinions about what government should do, the hand flails around a lot and smashes things.

    I wish a majority of our fellows would think and study to develop informed opinions. There are never going to be perfect solutions, but a majority ought to be able to come up with a reasonable consensus of what foreign policy and intervention triggers should be. It's pretty clear from our founding documents that we should stand against evil behavior and bolster the development of liberty and democracy. But most Americans are simply too busy with really important stuff to be bothered, and besides, the military and state departments are the tools of our king, the prez, right?

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    1. Oh they do flail, a lot.

      An informed electorate is critical. Too bad the socialists have seized the institutes of education. Can we take them back so American kids might learn something in the future?

      Only time will tell.

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    2. I favor RAH's solution as stated in " Starship Troopers ". However, I'm afraid that it would take a revolution to do that.

      Paul L. Quandt

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    3. "Too bad the socialists have seized the institutes of education. Can we take them back so American kids might learn something in the future?"
      In order to recapture the " schools ", almost all of the current " teachers " would have to be eliminated. A daunting task indeed.

      Paul

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    4. Not sure if the teachers are the problem, I blame the administrators at the K-12 level. College? Yeah, many of the instructors would have to go.

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    5. Oh, I used to agree with Heinlein's solution, now I have reservations. Have had those for a while as a matter of fact.

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    6. We would not only have to send the teachers to a conservative "re-education" camp, but also thoroughly purge the materials used in the K-12+ education industry. See here, for an egregious example: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/staceydash/2017/04/wait-theres-communism-book-kids-now/

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    7. Not only do the materials need to be purged, so do the authors. Unfortunately, we are not talking about a bloodless purge here.

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    8. ColoComment - Oh dear Lord. (And thanks for the link, I like Stacey Dash.)

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    9. Mike - you're probably right.

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    10. The movement by Trump/DeVos to get the Federal Government out of Education is a good thing. It will be hard to do and will take some time for local authorities to accept the responsibility again. I like the point that someone made about Washington- if they knew the answers then D.C. should have the best public schools in the country.

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    11. Concur Ron. But it will take time.

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  5. Some points: I don't know precisely why Americans, almost to a man and a woman, were so thoroughly united for WWII. I just don't. I do know that today, if DC, or San Fan were nuked, for example, we would be split at least 3, perhaps more, different ways. None of this silly "sleeping giant" that Yamamoto feared (for good reason). Today, though, we're just an evil imperialistic monster which deserves to be destroyed...

    Today, our flat screens are more precious to us than our civilization (which brings up a point I've begun trying to make: A major contributing factor in us failing to win the Viet Nam war was color television: Did you know that the blood of GIs in VN was red. WWII and Korean War footage, it was just a blackish gray).

    Finally, it is sadly true. Red lines, "makinig a statement"... that seems to be the only thing we know how to do. There is evil in the world again, one which again wills to destroy an entire race (ironic, isn't it, that it's that same pesky bunch of people that "deserve" extermination?). And yet, we are afraid to acknowledge that harsh, real truth. No, we want to say it's just a teensy, tiny little bunch of ne'er-do-wells. And we are all amateur theologians, and insist that our interpretation of certain phrases which ought to insult our sensitivities, is the correct interpretation--not the interpretation their fundamentalist spiritual leaders assign to those phrases.

    No. To eradicate the world of this scourge of evil is now deemed evil instead. We have lost our pole star. We've lost our way.

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    1. I think you make some fine points Jim. Question in my mind is, is this fixable? Or are we doomed?

      We have definitely lost our way.

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    2. "I don't know precisely why Americans, almost to a man and a woman, were so thoroughly united for WWII."
      A couple of points: 1) We/they were only united for the first year or two; toward the end of the war, there was significantly less unity. 2) The unity after the attack at Pearl Harbor and the Philippines was as a result of FDR's lying to the American public about what the US had been doing to Japan. Therefore, the people of the US felt that we had been attacked for no reason.

      PLQ

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    3. What we were doing to Japan was a direct result of what Japan was doing in China.

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    4. Your reply is true, but it doesn't address my comment.

      Paul L. Quandt

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    5. I really can't answer that one way or the other. All I know is that my Dad dropped out of high school at 17 to enlist. Many others did the same. And that was in 1945. People do get war weary, no matter how righteous the cause. The unity after Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with the government and everything to do with the fact that we were attacked. On a Sunday. All I know is from my own studies and talking to the men and women who went through it.

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    6. "The unity after Pearl Harbor had nothing to do with the government and everything to do with the fact that we were attacked."
      I thought that's what I said: " the people of the US felt that we had been attacked for no reason."

      Paul

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    7. Ah, sorry I misunderstood.

      Being attacked was traumatic, with reason or not. I get that.

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    8. Yes, being attacked is traumatic. Then, as now, most people are more concerned about their day to day lives than about international affairs. And, they didn't have the 24 hour a day news cycle that we enjoy ( all sarcasm included ) today.

      PLQ

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    9. Yup, good observation Paul. I too abhor the whole 24 hour news thing. Often times, what they're peddling isn't "news."

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  6. Unfortunately, for the progressives here, the Socialists masquerading as liberal democrats, most of whom think they aren't socialist when they are blatantly so, they think Venezuela is "bad" socialism, just not done right. Whereas 'their' liberal policies, all for the good of mankind, would bring about a utopian society with unicorns and fairies, all of which would be funded by evil rich people.

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    1. Shack.

      Socialism isn't bad, they're just doing it wrong...

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  7. This, from the end of the series, is one of the most emotionally-powerful things I've ever seen on film, anywhere. Makes my eyes really itchy, to this day.

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  8. Hmmm, maybe an interesting point as to what defines a good war.

    WWII - we went balls out, and won. A good war, no doubt.

    Korea - one hand tied behind our backs, a good fight with no outcome. Thus, a bad war.

    Vietnam - both hands tied behind our backs, blinders on, reins in mouth, rains led to Johnson et al. A bunch of good fights for some good (and lots of not-so-good) people and a very bad outcome. Thus, a bad war.

    Iran - Thanks, Carter. Should have been a good war supporting a progressive regime, but... 'nuff said on that.

    Beirut - Should have been a good fight, for good reasons, both hands and legs tied behind our backs, blinders on, ball gag inserted. Bad 'war' indeed.

    Panama - WTF? I mean, I understand some reason for it but, really, WTF???

    Kuwait - Right fight, unleash the hounds of war, photos taken, waaah - STOP!!! Bad war.

    Iraq/Afganistan - Started out as good wars when rules of engagement were 'YES' and then went sour when politicians turned the troops from 'mean, lean, fighting machines' to police. Having to get White House permission to shoot someone who's been shooting you? WTF? Bad wars.

    Conclusion. The only good war is one where, once you start the war, you prosecute it to the fullest extent. Sucks about civilian casualties, but in a lot of situations that line is greyer than the moonless night. Any bad war is one where the powers-that-be stick their greasy fingers where they don't belong and endanger the boots on the ground.

    We can still have a good war. A crusade to remove evil. But we must not allow our politicians to turn our warriors into eunuchs. No more 'arresting and reading rights' to enemy combatants.

    Want to play by the Geneva Convention? Then play by the GC, with none of the liberal interpretation that has screwed that up. Enemy better be wearing some sort of insignia or an attempt at a uniform, no more using 'non-combatants' as equipment transports in the middle of a battle, etc. You want rules? We'll give you RULES!

    Any American life lost is a waste. But to throw away those lives aimlessly, to actually purposely endanger those lives by political stupidity (hey, let's send our rubber boats into Iranian waters and see what happens...) is criminal, and insane.

    I don't want war. I don't want my fellow Americans (and my nephew/godson) put in harm's way. But if we do go to war, we need to go to war to the Death. To a final end, and then follow it up with reconstruction like we did with the AXIS powers after WWII. Destroy the enemy, then fix them the right way. Reconstruction the way Lincoln wanted and didn't get, the way the Marshall Plan worked.

    Any of the above wars could have, should have been good wars. Next time, hang the politicians on the first day and go from there. Let our troops fight.

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  9. I always wondered how many troops in that pic survived the 1st 24 hrs of D-Day let alone the entire ETO campaign. A powerful pic..Dad was a Company CO in the 42nd Rainbow Div. Both he and I were lucky. Having survived the ETO he was on a mile long troop train stopped at St Louis headed to the West coast to be shipped out for China (Japan had half its Army in China) to be thrown into that meat-grinder concurrently with the invasion of Japan when Japans surrender was announced over the station loudspeakers and everyone was told to de-train and await transport to nearby Ft. Leonard Wood. Thank God for Harry Truman and the atomic bomb..

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    1. I had the same thought Virgil. I look at those guys and hoped they all went home after the war. But I know a lot of them didn't even survive until the 7th of June.

      Truman did the right thing. Untold numbers would have died, especially among the Japanese civilian population. Which included a lot of Koreans as well. (My in-laws lived in Japan throughout the war.)

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  10. +1 to your remarks about 'Band of Brothers'. For me, I would also add the beginning and ending of 'Saving Private Ryan' where the elderly Ryan goes to cemetery at Normandy for a last farewell. It always makes me think of my father, although I'm not sure why. His war experience was much different. He was inducted two weeks before the Pearl Harbor attack. He was undergoing training as a medical clerk when they passed around the applications for the Air Corps. He wound up as a B-17 pilot and flew 35 combat missions over Europe with this group---

    http://www.447bg.com/

    Yeah. Guess where I get my screen name.

    If I may, I have an off the wall question. My dad told me that after the German surrender, he flew what I believe were called "Trolley Missions" where they loaded up the ground crews and flew them over German cities at 500ft. I have had no luck trying to find documentation of these missions. Do you have any idea where I might look? Thanks.

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    1. Absolutely agree on the opening and closing scenes of Saving Private Ryan. I get teary eyed every time I watch that.

      Well, your Dad was part of that generation, 35 combat missions over Germany is damned impressive. Your Dad definitely "earned this." As Tom Hanks' character implored Ryan.

      As to the Trolley Missions, there is a lot of information on the internet, just Google the name, but you can start here.

      There are no off the wall questions here when it comes to military history. Thanks for stopping by!

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    2. Thank you for the link! "...just Google the name...". Duh, what a concept. Here I was poring over unit histories and mission logs. Forest for the trees, and all that. My dad was 'lucky' in that an ear infection delayed his departure to England. He flew his first mission January 2, 1945, by which time the odds were greatly improved. One afternoon, while he was visiting the wife and I and kidlets, we got to talking about his missions. At the end of the conversation, he summed it all up in a single word. He called it a "lark". His perspective was of all those who went before him.
      At that time, we lived in Chico, CA. Lots of Air Corps history in that area. Col. Hub Zemke was just down the road, and BG Chuck Yeager not much further in Nevada City. A partner and I had an electric rebuild shop, and one day a leathery old farmer came in, and we got to talking. His name was Fred Rabo.

      http://482nd.org/h2x-mickey

      The second photo down at this link--

      http://www.447bg.com/aircraft%20gallery1.pdf

      --of a B-17 going down with the right wing on fire is probably miss identified on that page. I have seen the same photo elsewhere with that ship ID'd as 42-3491, with Major Fred Rabo as pilot, shot down March 6, 1944, near Berlin. Co-pilot was John C. Morgan. Both survived and wound up in Stalag Luft 1, where Hub Zemke was the senior allied officer.

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    3. Fred Rabo, wow!

      I have some reading to do, I had no idea about radar in the B-17.

      I learn something new every day, usually from my readers. Thanks!

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    4. Heh. Radar. Right. I thought I was reasonably well read for a layman. Then I saw this video. Enjoy.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZTC_RxWN_xo

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    5. I'll have to block out some time to watch that. The comments on the video are "entertaining" to say the least.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)