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Jonathan Wolfman's Blog
NOVEMBER 12, 2012 6:34AM

Just Wars: For My Dad, and Boomers, on Veterans' Day

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Trying one more time w this one, given yesterday's experience here.
 
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 The story is that my dad, along with tens of thousands of other young G.I.s hunkered down in frozen German forests in December, '44, were sent desert boots and their new boots, the warm ones, the sturdy ones, were sent to North Africa. Trench foot, just short of gangrene. FUBAR.

And a good thing, too, because the Nazis overran my dad's syncopating numb-and-exquisitely-painful position in The Bulge not more than two weeks after he and others with barely any feeling in their feet were evacuated. Trench Foot spared his life and gave me mine.

In England, the story continues, German POWs were assigned to carry injured Americans in cots onto transport ships bound for Boston hospitals. One such German, reading my dad's name on a cot-tag, smacked one of my dad's aching, aching, bulbous and discolored feet as hard as he might. "Juden," he spat. My dad saw stars and he gritted his teeth, tried his hardest not to allow the Nazi any pleasure. Dad recuperated and returned home to Philadelphia and all his life his feet weren't right. He died at 87 in August, 2011. He died a lucky man and knowing it.

Dad never had a sense that he was a victim of the Germans, of history, of anything. He served proudly in the effort to deny Nazis victory. He knew that the nearly half a million American deaths were necessary and meaningful, however regrettable. No Nazi ever shot at him, nor he at them.

In my career as a teacher I became so often aware of what time and distance do to young people who haven't lived through that war nor who grew up in the homes of former Second War soldiers. Many of my students, most of them bright, private school children, had no real sense that the Allies were losing the war for four of its five years. They knew the war lasted from September, '39, through mid-August of '45, but those are book-ends. Their emotional-sense (until I got hold of them) was that Pearl was very bad but somehow, soon after, we turned it around and won. Maybe that's what winning does to future generations. It's sad, too, because it minimizes the boys sent home with trench foot. And the ones blown to bits at Iwo.

There's something else...something that happened to my generation, we Boomers, the generation between my dad's and the ones I've taught. Boomers had never lived through a Just War. We could not regard Korea and Vietnam or Iraq as Necessary and Just, because they were not. Further--and this has been intellectually crippling to some Boomer Progressives -- we had no immediate understanding in our own lifetimes of what a Just War Looks Like, Feels Like, Sounds Like.

When Al Quaeda did what it did, killing as many in steel and fire and concrete as the Japanese Imperial Navy killed in steel and fire and water, most in my generation had no moral referent. I think having been born after the Second War, many Boomers may not fast recognize that between Nazis and Al Qaeda there's a common thread. Both reject what was in fact revolutionary about the French Revolution. Its respect for individuality and law, Romanticism in art and literature (the hallmarks of modernity) are thoroughly rejected by those movements, movements that would forcibly return us to (very different versions of) medieval life.

To my dad and to all who served, served and died and served and lived, I want to say Thank You but of course it's inadequate. I'm grateful to all of your comrades, those whom you knew and the majority whom you never knew, who served in The Second War, those who died -- and the 1,000 who now die each day -- and those who lived, so that we could be here to protect what you saved.  

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I think we owe it to ourselves to make distinctions that accord with history.
Jonathan,I'll try my best.

Here is what I have to offer:Just an hour ago,an old friend of mine told me that she had fought a battle against the holocaust denial.There are still people who live with this misantrophic lie.

There have always been wars and destruction yet I want to believe that some day we will all live in peace."
Jonathan,I'll try my best.

Here is what I have to offer:Just an hour ago,an old friend of mine told me that she had fought a battle against the holocaust denial.There are still people who live with this misantrophic lie.

There have always been wars and destruction yet I want to believe that some day we will all live in peace."
Heidi Bless you, friend. :)
I responded on the cross-post. Given a choice, that's where I'll respond.
thanks, kosh i saw your response there and replied thanks so much!