Are you willing to die for your country? The Authors Collection.
July 1, 2013
“No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country.
He won it, by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.”
— General George S. Patton
Do you love mom, apple pie, and baseball?
Several generations of young men identified those three things as their perception of “country.”
Millions were willing to die for it in the early 1940s.
When someone mentions “your country,” what does it call to mind?
Do you think of your family?
Do you think of your way of life — fast food, fishing, a day at the beach, or taking a nap on your day off?
Were you involved in Scouting? Remember the song, “This is My Country?”
Do images of iconic places and events spring to a high level of consciousness?
Do any elected officials come to mind?
Do you love your country enough to die for it?
Would you lay your life on the altar of freedom for what you see in images of America or what you see on the evening news?
Do you consider yourself a patriot?
Would you be willing to become a martyr?
Recently, I completed the second reading of a book. It isn’t often that I read a book twice, and rarely within the same year. The book worthy of such consideration is: The Wild Blue, The Men and Boys Who Flew the B-24s Over Germany by Stephen E. Ambrose. Ambrose died in 2002 of lung cancer and left a legacy of best selling books on popular history, many of which were involved in a plagiarism controversy. The Wild Blue was one such book. In this case, his sin was the omission of quotation marks although he did cite the sources in footnotes. Be that as it may, no one has challenged the accuracy of his facts about the war — at least not in this book.
The motivation for this blog came from reading the following passage:
“The B-24 had no refinements.
“Steering the four-engine airplane was difficult and exhausting, as there was no power except the pilot’s muscles. It had no windshield wipers, so the pilot had to stick his head out the side window to see during a rain. Breathing was possible only by wearing an oxygen mask — cold and clammy, smelling of rubber and sweat — above 10,000 feet in altitude. There was no heat, despite temperatures that at 20,000 feet and higher got as low as 40 or even 50 degrees below zero. The oxygen mask often froze to the wearer’s face. If the men at the waist touched their machine guns with bare hands, the skin froze to the metal.”
It gets worse.
“There were no bathrooms. To urinate there were two small relief tubes, one forward and one aft, which were almost impossible to use without spilling because of the heavy layers of clothing the men wore. The tubes were often clogged with frozen urine.
There were no kitchen facilities, no way to warm up food or coffee, but anyway there was no food unless a crew member had packed in a C ration or sandwich. With no pressurization, pockets of gas in a man’s intestinal tract could swell like balloons and cause him to double over in pain. The seats were not padded, could not be reclined, and were cramped into so small a space that a man had almost no chance to stretch and none whatsoever to relax. Absolutely nothing was done to make it comfortable for the pilot, the co-pilot, or the other eight men in the crew, even though most flights lasted for eight hours, sometimes ten or more, seldom less than six. The plane existed and was flown for one purpose only, to carry 500 or 1,000 pound bombs and drop them accurately over enemy targets.
It was called a Liberator.”
That passage beckons and I’ve read it several times.
Many of the crew members of B-24s were in their late teens.
Many of the pilots were in their early twenties.
A twenty-three year old soldier in the Fifteenth Air Force was considered by his peers to be an “old man.” (The Fifteenth Air Force suffered a fifty percent casualty rate.)
Do you know many young men between the ages of eighteen and twenty-three?
Can you remember when you (or a man you know) was that age?
The thought of dying for your country is frightening enough, but how many would endure those hardships?
I grew up on a cotton farm in the sixties.
Our tractors didn’t have air conditioned cabs with stereo systems and cell phones.
I doubt our current bombers and other military vehicles are as crude as was the B-24.
Does this all add up to another reason we called it the “Greatest Generation?”
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