Sunday, November 11, 2018
|Mr. Wiggin's History Class|
World War I was ghastly. The casualties were said to run
In the years following the armistice of November 11, 1918, the event was known as The Great War or The War to End All Wars. These titles survived until an even greater conflict broke out 21 years later. (At least in Europe. World War II in the Pacific had been raging since the Japanese attacked the Chinese in 1937.)
The League of Nations was established in 1919 to provide a forum for international cooperation in the hopes of heading off any more Great Wars. Not only did it fail to stop World War II, but the league continued to exist, like any good bureaucracy, long after its purpose expired. The League of Nations dissolved in 1946.
Was the war fought to protect democracy?Not according to George, a World War One veteran I worked with in my teenage years. George took part in raids across No Man's Land armed with a shotgun and a trench shovel. He claimed to be fighting for Luger pistols and highly-prized German wrist watches. George was built like a bull gnome with powerful arms and shoulders, even at his advanced age. Nothing in George's robust personality led me to doubt his stories.
This idiosyncratic view was held by Jesse, a small wiry Great War veteran who shared the same Hollywood apartment building as I back during the first Reagan administration. A member of the 4th Infantry Division, Jesse would head off to reunions with his fellow dough boys, most in their 80s. Such memories of the war as he shared revolved around the indescribable joy of receiving his army discharge. A group of us were drinking heavily in my apartment one night. We decided to go upstairs, visit Jesse, and serenade him with all the World War One songs we knew. Our catalog consisted of the first two verses of "Over There." Jesse took it well.
Was the war fought to obtain a military discharge?
Wednesday, July 04, 2018
Two of my aunts left Ireland for America in the 1930s. They were required to have a sponsor who would be responsible for them and ensure they stayed off public assistance. They found work, married immigrant Irish men and conceived American children.
Their younger sister, my mother, didn't make the trip over until after the Second World War. Mom had been a nurse in the British Army. Her training included treating casualties of the Nazi bombing of London in 1940, known as The Blitz, battle casualties from North Africa and Europe, and casualties of the German V-1 and V-2 rocket attacks. Mom was under more enemy fire than most of the guys at the bar of the VFW.
So, in windy Chicago, she found work and married an American of Irish descent, a fellow I called "Dad." They also sired American children. My mother worked like a dog raising my brother, sister and I, then returned to nursing.
But she didn't officially become an American citizen for many years. Sixteen, I think. At last, she took the formal plunge and we were all yanks.
And so, to my countrymen, Happy 4th of July! Barbecue, enjoy the fireworks, and be the best American you can this day.
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