Skip to comments.Have We Lost WWII Generation’s “Deep Knowledge?”
Posted on 06/04/2004 5:14:01 PM PDT by qam1
OPINION - 20 years ago Sunday, on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of D-Day, President Ronald Reagan concluded his speech at Omaha Beach saying, We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we may always be free.
This Sunday it will be 60 years since the Allied Forces stormed the beaches and took the cliffs at Normandy in what was the defining moment of the 20th century in the battle against tyranny.
Each 10-year anniversary of that day grows more important as it becomes more distant. In fact, it grows more important because of its increasing distance in time.
According to the Department of Veterans Affairs, World War II veterans are dying at the rate of more than 1,000 each day. Some 16.5 million men and women served in the Big One but only slightly more than 4 million are still alive today.
Let me repeat for emphasis, today we lost another 1,000 World War II veterans.
I thought about this a little bit last year when my grandfather, a World War II Navy man, passed away. I thought about it again this weekend while watching the Memorial Day remembrances and, most particularly, the dedication of the long overdue World War II Memorial in Washington, D.C.
My generation, Generation X as it has been so dubbed by the arbiters of pop culture, got a pass. There was not a credible concern about the possibility of conscription.
I was 17 when the Berlin Wall came down signaling the effective end of communism and the rebirth of freedom in Eastern Europe, or new Europe as Defense Secretary Rumsfeld aptly terms it today.
Since Vietnam and the end of the Cold War going forward to our present War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and Iraq, our military force has been a voluntary one.
9/11 certainly brought home the fact that there is nothing inexorable about freedom, security or even America as we know it. There are people out there who are at war with our ideals and we ignore that reality at our own peril.
Nevertheless, Im left wondering whether or not my generation and subsequent ones dismiss the axiom that freedom isnt free as just old an platitude trotted out on national holidays to honor old people who fought in some wars over some things some time ago?
The answer is probably mixed. Certainly there are those in every generation that answer the call to give of themselves to provide for the freedom of another.
The more than 800 American soldiers that have perished (31 from Illinois) and the 4,600-plus that have been wounded fighting to successfully free 26 million people from the clutches of a murderous dictatorial regime in Iraq are testament to this fact.
But compare those numbers to the World War II figures: More than 405,000 soldiers died in World War II, another 671,846 were wounded in action.
Any wonder why they call them the greatest generation? Not just for the staggering sacrifice in terms of lives lost and lives forever changed but because that generation literally saved the world from tyranny and an entire race of people from extinction.
Would my generation be willing to make such a sacrifice if the stakes were similarly high today? And, quite frankly, arent they?
The tenor of the public discourse about President Bushs handling of the War on Terrorism since 9/11 leaves me wondering.
No speculation is needed about our men and women in uniform. There is an amazing fortitude to their spirit. I watched the National Memorial Day Concert on PBS on Monday and one of the segments was a tribute to those who had been wounded, who had lost limbs, while serving our country in Iraq.
The moral clarity and the sense of purpose of the young men profiled at the concert was chilling and awe-inspiring. How else to describe a 20-year old who has to learn to walk with two prosthetic legs?
When I was 20, my biggest concern was getting into the classes I wanted in college. Some of these young men, whose lives have been changed forever by a mortar shell at the age of 20, as concert host Ossie Davis said, wonder if a woman will ever find them attractive, if they will ever have a families?
That same indomitable spirit that was on display in the Mall in Washington, D.C. on Monday night defeated Nazism and ushered in a period of prosperity, even during the Cold War period, for America unlike any the world has ever seen 60 years ago this Sunday.
Where does that spirit come from?
I turn again to the Great Communicator. From President Reagans memorable remarks at Point De Hoc in 1984,
The men of Normandy had faith that what they were doing was right, faith that they fought for all humanity, faith that a just God would grant them mercy on this beachhead or on the next. It was the deep knowledge -- and pray God we have not lost it -- that there is a profound moral difference between the use of force for liberation and the use of force for conquest. You were here to liberate, not to conquer, and so you and those others did not doubt your cause. And you were right not to doubt.
You all knew that some things are worth dying for. One's country is worth dying for, and democracy is worth dying for, because it's the most deeply honorable form of government ever devised by man. All of you loved liberty. All of you were willing to fight tyranny, and you knew the people of your countries were behind you.
In reflecting on the upcoming 60th Anniversary of D-day, I wonder if we, the civilian population, have lost that deep knowledge of which President Reagan spoke and that commitment to a higher purpose embodied by our armed forces then and now?
Ping list for the discussion of the politics and social aspects that directly effects Generation-X (Those born from 1965-1981) including all the spending previous generations (i.e. The Baby Boomers) are doing that Gen-X and Y will end up paying for.
Freep mail me to be added or dropped. See my home page for details.
Marines have never forgotten HONOR, INTEGRITY, COURAGE, FREEDOM, PATRIOTISM
It's a shame that most of this country has no idea of the meaning of those words.
Honor, Integrity, Courage, Freedom, Patriotism
"It's a shame that most of this country has no idea of the meaning of those words."
It's also a shame that the greatest generation are the grandfathers of these wussies.
A real quagmire and one that isn't
The dedication of the World War II monument in Washington D.C. provides us with more than just an opportunity to express gratitude to one of the greatest generations in American history for their valor, sacrifice, and devotion to duty has they defeated one of the gravest threats to enlightened civilization in history. It also provides us with an opportunity to examine the historical record of World War II and contextualize it in relation to the current situation in Iraq.
If one wishes to adopt the outlook of the contemporary critics of the Iraq enterprise, than World War II could have been characterized as an endless quagmire that we could never win. Relatively few people are aware that the strategic bombing campaign in 1943 nearly ground to a halt when the deep penetration raids into Germany were called off after the catastrophic heavy bomber losses of the Schweinfurt and Regensberg missions. (So brilliantly characterized in the great World War II movie "12 o'clock High") No one was whining loudly and publicly about the fact that the self defending bomber formation concept was flawed and had revealed itself to be so by not having a long-range fighter escort ready at the time. We are so used to the Air Force sustaining almost no casualties in current day operations that we often forget that the 8th Air Force based in England suffered more dead (26,000) than the entire Marine Corps did in World War II (less than 20,000) There were no loudly public howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win this.
How about the night naval battle off Savo Island, Guadalcanal in August of 1942 in which the United States Navy, defeated by a Japanese navy far better versed in night fighting tactics, sailed away and left the Marines stranded on Guadalcanal with no immediate hope of supply? There weren't any howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win.
How about the slaughter off the Eastern Seaboard of the United States in 1942 in which the U-boats of the German Kreigsmarine during Operation Drumbeat sunk 500 allied merchant and navy ships in a six-month period in the greatest naval disaster in United States history? There was an almost incomprehensible failure to develop an efficient convoy escort system despite the lessons of World War I. Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win, let's make the Secretary of War and Chief of Naval Operations resign.
How about the Kasserine pass in Tunisia in February of 1943? The tough veterans of Rommel's Afrika Corps soundly defeated and routed green American troops, sending them into pell mell retreat. Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire these Germans are just too battle hardened and ruthless to beat.
Relatively little is known of the bloody check inflicted on units of the 1st, 4th, 28th, and 9th infantry divisions by the Germans during the battle of Huertegen Forest during Sep- Nov of 1944 as a prelude to the Battle of the Bulge? The men of these units were attrited horribly in one the most soul destroying campaigns in American history, comparable to the Wilderness and Cold Harbor campaigns of the Civil War. Winston Churchill called it "Passchendale with tree bursts." Or the Battle of the Bulge's disastrous opening on the Schnee Eifel in Belgium where intelligence failures allowed a totally surprised American Army to lose to captivity two whole infantry regiments of the 106th division in the opening rounds of the battle? Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we just can't win.
Or how about the defeat inflicted on the allies during Operation Market Garden (a Bridge Too Far) in 1944 when everyone knew that the Germans were already beaten? Or the horrendous losses off Okinawa? Or the failure to ensure sufficient numbers of tracked landing craft at Tarawa due to a misinterpretation of the meteorological conditions affecting the tides around Betio atoll? Nearly 1,000 Marines died in a 76 hour battle for an atoll smaller than Manhattan's Central Park, many because they had to wade hundreds of yards to shore from Betio's lagoon after their landing craft hung up on the reef. Or the largely unnecessary Pelielu campaign in which 1,800 were killed and 8,500 wounded? Or the bloody repulse at the Rapido River in January of 1944, or the grinding stalemate at Anzio or the entire checkmated Italian campaign, hopelessly bogged down in the Liri Valley before Monte Cassino? Even though the Rapido River attack generated enormous controversy, culminating in a congressional inquiry, it did not commence until the war was over. Or, due to logistical failures, the inability to maintain the pressure on a retreating German Army, shattered in Normandy, which allowed it to refit and regroup behind the Westwall, lengthening the war and costing thousands of lives. Again no howls of quagmire, quagmire we can't win.
We often forget that World War II was no unrelieved string of victories until the final triumph. We often suffered defeat on the battlefield, sometimes catastrophic, but we prevailed because we knew that we had to, since the alternative to victory was just too bitter to contemplate.
Nothing even remotely resembling any of these historical disasters of World War II has occurred in Iraq, but these infantile naysayers who try to pose the situation has an absolute defeat are either hopelessly naïve or determined to demoralize our soldiers and willfully undermine this effort. Despite the setbacks that have occurred in Iraq, there is nothing here that cannot be remedied to this country's favor.
Since President Bush declared an end to major combat on May 1...
... The first battalion of the new Iraqi Army has graduated and is on active duty.
... Over 60,000 Iraqis now provide security to their fellow citizens.
... Nearly all of Iraq's 400 courts are functioning.
... The Iraqi judiciary is fully independent.
.. On Monday, October 6, power generation hit 4,518 megawatts, exceeding the prewar average.
... All 22 universities and 43 technical institutes and colleges are open, as are nearly all primary and secondary schools.
... By October 1, Coalition forces had rehab-ed over 1,500 schools - 500 more than scheduled.
... Teachers earn from 12 to 25 times their former salaries.
... All 240 hospitals and more than 1200 clinics are open.
... Doctor's salaries are at least eight times what they were under Saddam.
... Pharmaceutical distribution has gone from essentially nothing to 700 tons in May to a current total of 12,000 tons.
... The Coalition has helped administer over 22 million vaccination doses to Iraq's children.
... A Coalition program has cleared over 14,000 kilometers of Iraq's 27,000 kilometers of weed-choked canals which now irrigate tens of thousands of farms. This project has created jobs for more than 100,000 Iraqi men and women.
... We have restored over three-quarters of prewar telephone services and over two-thirds of the potable water production.
... There are 4,900 full-service telephone connections. We expect 50,000 by year-end.
... The wheels of commerce are turning. From bicycles to satellite dishes to cars and trucks, businesses are coming to life in all major cities and towns.
... 95 percent of all prewar bank customers have service and first-time customers are opening accounts daily.
... Iraqi banks are making loans to finance businesses.
... The central bank is fully independent.
... Iraq has one of the world's most growth-oriented investment and banking laws.
... Iraq has a single, unified currency for the first time in 15 years.
... Satellite TV dishes are legal.
... Foreign journalists aren't on 10-day visas paying mandatory and extortionate fees to the Ministry of Information for minders and other government spies.
... There is no Ministry of Information.
... There are more than 170 newspapers.
... You can buy satellite dishes on what seems like every street corner.
... Foreign journalists (and everyone else) are free to come and go.
... A nation that had not one single element -- legislative, judicial or executive -- of a representative government now does.
... In Baghdad alone residents have selected 88 advisory councils. Baghdad's first democratic transfer of power in 35 years happened when the city council elected its new chairman.
... Today in Iraq chambers of commerce, business, school and professional organizations are electing their leaders all over the country.
... 25 ministers, selected by the most representative governing body in Iraq's history, run the day-to-day business of government.
... The Iraqi government regularly participates in international events. Since July the Iraqi government has been represented in over two dozen international meetings, including those of the UN General Assembly, the Arab League, the World Bank and IMF and, today, the Islamic Conference Summit. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs today announced that it is reopening over 30 Iraqi embassies around the world.
... Shiva religious festivals that were all but banned, aren't.
... For the first time in 35 years, in Karbala thousands of Shiites celebrate the pilgrimage of the 12th Imam.
... The Coalition has completed over 13,000 reconstruction projects, large and small, as part of a strategic plan for the reconstruction of Iraq.
... Uday and Queasy are dead - and no longer feeding innocent Iraqis to the zoo lions, raping the young daughters of local leaders to force cooperation, torturing Iraq's soccer players for losing games, or murdering critics.
... Children aren't imprisoned or murdered when their parents disagree with the government.
... Political opponents aren't imprisoned, tortured, executed, maimed, or forced to watch their families die for disagreeing with Saddam.
... Millions of long-suffering Iraqis no longer live in perpetual terror.
... Saudis will hold municipal elections.
... Qatar is reforming education to give more choices to parents.
... Jordan is accelerating market economic reforms.
... The Nobel Peace Prize was awarded for the first time to an Iranian
-- A Muslim woman who speaks out with courage for human rights, for democracy and for peace.
.. Saddam is gone.
... Iraq is free.
....The handover of power is on schedule.
.Terrorists are being drawn to an arena in which our military can kill or capture them
Our magnificent soldiers, sailors and airmen still have more tough work to do which will undoubtedly be done with the same mix of courage, humanitarianism, innovation, and competence that has characterized our effort in Iraq to date, Abu Ghraib notwithstanding. But when you compare this effort to that other great effort of World War II that we are presently commemorating, this one looks to be comparatively well in hand. All this was accomplished at almost no cost in strictly military terms, and yes, I am aware that the brutal calculus of war is soulless and necessarily heedless of the irreplaceability of individual human beings. But we must also realize that wars in the national interest, as I believe this one to be, require that we be prepared to accept this as a condition of our national security.
Again, I wish to express my undying gratitude to a generation of Americans who showed us how to prevail in a REAL quagmire. And to the Americans who are now getting it done despite those who say they can't or shouldn't. As the ever brilliant Mark Steyn said best in his 30 May editorial:
But that's the difference between then and now: the loss of proportion. They had victims galore back in 1863, but they weren't a victim culture. They had a lot of crummy decisions and bureaucratic screwups worth re-examining, but they weren't a nation that prioritized retroactive pseudo-legalistic self-flagellating vaudeville over all else. They had hellish setbacks but they didn't lose sight of the forest in order to obsess week after week on one tiny twig of one weedy little tree.
There is something not just ridiculous but unbecoming about a hyperpower 300 million strong whose elites -- from the deranged former vice president down -- want the outcome of a war, and the fate of a nation, to hinge on one freaky jailhouse; elites who are willing to pay any price, bear any burden, as long as it's pain-free, squeaky clean and over in a week. The sheer silliness dishonors the memory of all those we're supposed to be remembering this Memorial Day.
War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling, which thinks that nothing is worth war, is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself. - John Stuart Mill ~ (1868)
I'll drink to that. U.S.M.C. 1965-1969... About two months ago I had the PRIVILEDGE of buying a few beers for a young Marine heading back to Iraq for his second trip.
First trip was as a scout in a L.A.V. unit going into Bagdad. His second trip was with Force Recon. He said they weren't going to be police men, but to kick some serious @ss. Semper Fi y'all
HUH? Which Generation won 3 wars and which generation can't let go of one that happened 30 years ago and sees it in every little skirmish?
I think you meant, It's a shame that the greatest generation are the Fathers of the worst generation.
I have been waiting for someone to say that. I don't like the fact that you did only because it's true. The only thing I can think of is these brave men who couldn't wait to go back to their real jobs put too much time and effort into it. They forgot that their primary jobs were to raise their children to adulthood. Sad.
I have a friend from Serbia, she is 81 yrs old. She had lost her parents when she was about 5 yrs old. She was raised in an orphanage. She had two older brothers who she had lost all contact. I had lunch with her today, and I ask her about her life as a young woman. Her story brought tears to my eyes. She loved American soldiers. They had saved her life more than once .(just trying to make a long story short.) She said she will never forget the kindness of American soldiers. And still thanks God for America.
For their actions in the war, they deserve the "Greatest Generation" moniker.
However, a thought occurs to me: if the "greatest generation" had not coddled, spoiled and otherwise allowed their baby boomer off-spring to turn into a bunch of self-indulgent liberal brats, would America be such a screwed up place today?
Were the "greatest generation" the "worst parents" when they came home?
Something to think about...
That's what I meant.
I think that since WWII, the quality of public education from K-12 through undergrad has declined astonishingly.
Whereas the "GI Bill" was intended to give lower-middle-class veterans the benefits of collegiate studies in all fields, today the humanities departments would be unrecognizable to those heroes.
As usual, we must "Blame the Baby Boomers."
In the three wars you cite as being won the majority of mid to senior level officers and the DOD and the politicians were boomers.
The "Greatest Generation" post-war brought us Viet Nam (and the resultant damage to the military), school bussing, the immigration changes that have led us to where we are, the Great Society (aka the welfare state), Roe v. Wade (how many boomers on the bench for that one?), the decisions in media (movies, TV, music) that led to the MTV morality (or are you too unaware of the changes of the late 60s, eg via Norman Lear?) and so much more.
you seem obsessed with consigning all that is vile, weak, ugly to boomers (your mommy and daddy) and all that is noble, strong and wise to the "GG" (Grandma and Grandpa). Whatever mommy and daddy did to you, I suggest you deal with it with them or on the couch, your blanket (and factually inaccurate) condemnation of anyone born from 1946 to 1965 is tiresome and frankly, makes you appear to be whining.
Good point on the offspring of the GG. The ones I'm related to are some of the most self-absorbed, greediest people on the planet. My in-laws vote for Democrats because they're terrified their gravy train of hand-outs (which they DO NOT NEED!) is going to take a hit. You should hear them bitching about the Medicare RX plan. It's not GOOD enough! I can't even stand to be in the same room with them.
Just looking at the divorce rates, latch key kids, etc. the boomers were the worst.
While I think spoiling the baby boomers was a problem I think the WWII's biggest problem with parenting is the fact they are set in their ways and not good at reacting to change and at that time the world was changing rapidly with T.V., The suburban lifestyle, college life, drugs and such and they were unable to cope and the baby boomers just ran wild on them.
What a workmanlike and soaringly excellent report you have compiled!
There is one little turnstile in Iraq's developing freedom: the Right to Keep and Bear (fire-) Arms may be deliberately excluded from their Constitution. Even still, America has donated the rule of law to these newly-liberated people.
I blame the Baby Boomers, too.
I am Gen X, a member of the 13th American generation born since the Revolutionary War, and I was born after the Baby Boom.
My wonderful Father served in the U.S. Army in World War Two, in the Pacific Theater of War. He was a better man than any other whom I have met.
Grandpa was once a cowboy, and served in the U.S. Army during World War One.