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A Soldier Strips the Romance Out of Life at War

Discussion in 'WWII General' started by JCFalkenbergIII, May 31, 2008.

  1. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member Patron   WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mr Marlowe,

    I can only imagine that the uniform made a major impression on her. That is a good thing, after what you had gone through, for the uniform to "grease the skids" as it were.

    So, did she hunt you down or did you go back looking for her?
     
  2. formerjughead

    formerjughead The Cooler King

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    I have to agree with Mr. Marlowe............My wife has a picture of me, taken during GW1 when I was only "a guy she dated" that is in her office. I don't even remember sending it to her; but, it's her favorite.

    Brad
     
  3. W Marlowe

    W Marlowe WWII Veteran

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    Ladies and Gentelmen:

    For the record we got acquainted while I tutored the lady in math. She needed to complete a math course to get her Fine Arts Degree. It was a rock two year courtship but we both learned about each other.

    As Ever,

    Walter L. Marlowe

    ( Airborne all the Way):)
     
  4. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I realize this letter does not pertain To WWII per say, but wanted to share. If it needs to be moved to another thread I'll understand. It does speak to the "Romance? of War" I think.
    Hi all,
    I have been wanting to put out an update for the past week and a half, but I've just been swamped. I promise that I will send something shortly. What I want to do today, though, is to paint a picture for you of the face of this war.
    I took a short flight last night on a Blackhawk helicopter, from Camp Striker to FOB Dragon (Forward Operating Base). It was already dark when we got picked up - the helos landed at our LZ (landing Zone) and the crew signaled us with flashlight flashes to let us know we could approach and board. We lifted off into the dark night, lights out to avoid attention. For those of you who haven't ridden - or don't like to ride - in a helicopter, it's a bit like being on a crazy ferris wheel that does more than go round and round, and it's noisy as hell.
    I could see the lights of Baghdad below - some electric, many fires, but there were no lights for us - just the shadowy outlines of my brothers in the Blackhawk. Occasionally someone would turn his head to look out the window and I'd notice the cat-eyes glowing on the back of his helmet. There was no talking - it's too noisy, and shouting gets old quickly. Besides, your shouts only carry to the guy next to you.
    We dropped onto Dragon LZ after about a ten-minute flight, where we were expected and picked up by Soldiers with Gators who took us to the Headquarters. We dropped magazines from our weapons and cleared them on the way, and then dropped our helmets and flak vests along the wall at the HQ building.
    We all noticed, but did not dwell on the memorial set up in the Dragon assembly hall. Boots, medals in cases, rifle with helmet on top, dog tags dangling off the pistol grip, a picture of the fallen Soldier. We were here because the Rakkasans had sustained our first combat casualty. "Sustained a casualty" sounds so formal and military, I know, but that's the Army for you - cold and impersonal. We're all business, don't you know.
    As we waited for the service to begin, many of us stood around and discussed the business of the day. It's rare to have a few minutes when you simply will not be doing anything else, and crass or not, we took advantage of the opportunity to connect outside of the usual run of meetings, briefings, missions, and generally avoided talking about the fallen Soldier. But that's the Army for you - cold and impersonal.
    Eventually, the Company was formed up and stood there in front of the memorial, waiting. Waiting for what? The distinguished guests, of course. The Division Commander, a two-star general, was due in, and we couldn't start the service without him. He wasn't anything to the fallen Soldier, but he's a politician (you have to be at that level) so he came to offer his condolences. Just one more example of the bureaucracy we deal with every day, even around a memorial service. But again - that's the Army for you - cold and impersonal.
    As the service began, I noticed the precision of the procession of speakers. The Battalion commander, the Company commander, the close friends offering remembrances, the Chaplain providing guidance and words of hope for the living. But all of it timed - the chain of command and friends each get four minutes, and the Chaplain gets ten minutes. Like clockwork. So despite the emotional remembrances that made it obvious the fallen Soldier was respected and well-liked, it was obvious that we still had business to do and we were not going to linger unnecessarily. But that's the Army for you - cold and impersonal.
    I listened through it all, empathizing with my brothers in arms who had lost one so close to them, but I hadn't known the fallen Soldier, hadn't even known of the Soldier, until the fatal incident was reported up to Brigade a few days earlier. I remained composed throughout. Because like so many of my brothers, I too can be cold and impersonal.
    At the end of the remembrances, the First Sergeant called the Company to attention and began the final roll call. "Private John Smith!" he called, and Private Smith promptly sounded off with a hearty "Here, First Sergeant!" "Specialist Allen Murphy!" called the First Sergeant, and Specialist Murphy responded with a loud "Here, First Sergeant," just like Smith. "Lieutenant Alger!" he called next, and received no response. I could feel the distance between me and the deceased rapidly closing, and tears welled up in my eyes. "Lieutenant Tracy Alger!" he called again, but again there was no response from Lieutenant Alger. "Second Lieutenant Tracy Lynn Alger!" he called out for the last time, and there was still no response. Lieutenant Alger was not going to answer, and I wept for her, for her Army brothers and sisters, for her family - though I had not known her. She was one of us - one of the few who cared enough to step up when almost nobody else will - and she was gone. I wept for one I had not known, and I'm just about in tears again as I write this - but that's the Army for you.
    There were three volleys of M16 fire, and the bugler sounded Taps. At the end of Taps, the Soldiers lined up to pay their last respects, stepping up to the memorial and saluting, many of them dropping to one knee to offer a silent prayer, or drop a token of remembrance in front of Lieutenant Alger's boots. Then came the biggest fellow in the Company, a Specialist who was a bull of a man (if anyone can be considered fully a man at 21 or 22 years). He paid his respects, and as he turned from the memorial I could see tears streaming down his face, his countenance filled with anguish over his fallen sister. And that is the Army for you.
    Our first combat loss is a testament to the face of this war. We lost 2LT Tracy Alger, a bright woman of 30, to the same sort of IED that you hear about in the news. In this war, there are no front lines. There are no rear areas. When you leave the front gate of your Camp, you are in Indian country. Don't misunderstand - it's not all bad. But when it is bad, there is no discrimination.
    y'all take care, and I'll talk to you again soon.
    Wayne
     
  5. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Thank you for your post, Wayne. It made me cry.... While it may not be WWII, I'm certain our WWII Vets will recognize the similarities of your's and their experiences. Stay safe.
     
  6. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Michelle,
    I'll pass on your comment to Wayne. I'm not ashamed to say it took me over 15 minutes to read this the first time. Had something in my eye and couldn't see that well. If this needs to be removed due to not being period specific I'll understand. I made a vow to Wayne I would not forget Lt. Alger's name even though I never met her and would share this with as many people as I could.
    Rog
     
  7. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Patron  

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    WW2 or not, this is a powerful letter that speaks to the loss that a soldier must feel for every fallen comrade. Thanks for posting it, Biak.
     
  8. luketdrifter

    luketdrifter Ace

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    A letter like this is timeless because it speaks volumes about all faces of war. The last few lines echo in my head. Thank you so much for sharing.
     
  9. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Thank you Lou,
    Another thought on “Taking The Romance Out of War”. While there are those who glamorize and glorify the “Act” of War (and they are few thank God), I believe what is actually happening is the admiration those of us who have not experienced and therefore cannot phantom the physical and emotional toil placed on the Soldier is misinterpreted. I’ve asked myself as I think we all have; “What would I do”, “How would I react” to being in Harms Way. As I read accounts or talk to those who have been, I see someone who has “proven” themselves in a way I never will. And again, Thank God for that! Every WWII Veteran I’ve ever met all said the same thing, “We were just doing our job”. The Soldier who wrote the letter I posted told me, after I made a comment that I wished I could do more, “We all have a part to do, I do mine and you do yours“. “Supporting us and thinking of us is one aspect that plays a large part in winning any war ”. I guess my point is the majority realizes war is Hell. But we do tend to “Romanticize” the iconic image we see in the Soldier. It separates us, we sit here safe, and unites us, they are always in our thoughts. And Thank God for That.
     
  10. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Patron  

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    Thanks, Jack. Putting a face to the name makes this letter all the more powerful.
     
  11. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    Thanks Jack for helping me keep my word to not let Lt. Alger be forgotten. There are those who we'll never know and those who we'll never forget. We should do our best to Honor them all. I see this forum site as a way for us to do that. I read the stories, look at the pictures, study the maps and ponder what happened, less to relive History but to remember those who lived it. That is what brought me to the site and that is what will keep me coming back.
     
  12. 26Charlie

    26Charlie Member

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    The govt needs to keep the home front as isolated from the horror because they need to maintain support from the population and keep a steady stream of recruits joining up for replacements.

    Now that the press and the soldiers themselves can convey more of that home than ever before, it tends to put more pressure on the leaders waging the war. I hear more people saying thats a bad thing - and it obviously can be in most circumstances. But when you give it some thought, it can be a check on our democratic system for the good. The worst kind of pressure on a war president - IMHO - looks not to be from waging the war incompetently, but rather from the people believing they were deceived to support a war that wasn't well thought out, or has ulterior designs that are being kept secret from them. Its doubly bad when the people feel deceived and the war is being waged incompetently too.

    What is it with home front america when the leaders object so mightily to graphic images of war displayed on their tv screens? Or even how we aren't shown the aftermath of accidents that mutilate the bodies? I was reminded of that when viewing a foreign news program and a scene of a plane crash victim helped me realize i'll never see that on our airwaves. We may be the only country that has such a sheltered population from icky things. If we were to ever see it in real life, it might be too dibilitating for many people to cope. A time magazine frontpage, during the war in beirut, showed one side's combatants standing over the bodies of their enemies, with flowers in their gun barrels, while one of the dead had his brain matter was exposed. This set off a storm of complaints about it being too graphic. They didn't want us to see what war does. No way! Even so, that display still couldn't land a publisher in jail, the way it would if they showed an image of a woman's exposed breast. That would be illegal to show because its deemed obscene - but war isn't?

    If we're committing our troops to a war, its my believe that we have to sacrifice something and the minimum should be having to be exposed more often to images of what war is going to be like - and we should be made to see that every day that we believe the troops should endure it - in our name.

    I believe that will have a positive affect: It will make more people get involved in the process when a president wants to start another war. If the true facts can honestly be established and those facts are vigorously debated and they support a military commitment, then the country will be on the same page going forward with the dissent factor kept to an impotent minimum. Nobody can claim they were fooled about what that commitment will mean - to everyone.


    "Death, has a tendency to encourage a depressing view of war."
    Donald Rumsfeld


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  13. Biak

    Biak Adjutant Patron  

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    I found this buried on page 5 of today's newspaper. The only reference to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
    - Retired firefighter Ed Johann was a teenage apprentice seaman on Dec. 7, 1941, when he spotted Japanese planes coming in over Pearl Harbor.
    He thought they were U.S. aircraft conducting drills until explosions and flames erupted from stricken ships in the harbor.
    Then came screams of sailors; the stench of burning oil and flesh.
    The 86-year-old Oregonian is due to return Monday to Pearl Harbor for the first time since World War II to attend a ceremony marking the 68th anniversary of the attack.
    "I really don't know how I'm going to handle it," said Johann, from his home in Oregon. "When I think about it, all I have is unpleasantness. I'm sure it's not like that now."
    Then, he and two other sailors were waiting to ferry passengers on a small boat to and from the USS Solace, a hospital ship that was moored in Pearl Harbor.
    Johann's motor launcher boat rushed to the USS Arizona, which was hit by several bombs, one of which struck her forward ammunition magazines and set off a massive explosion. Already fueled and manned when the attack began, their 30-foot boat was the first rescue vessel to arrive at the scene.
    They found the water littered with people - some wounded, some dead, some unharmed. Many were covered in the leaking oil from the ships.
    They loaded as many as they could and delivered them to the hospital ship before returning to the USS West Virginia for more.
    "As we're pulling them out of the water, a lot of times the skin would come right off the arm," Johann said. "They would just be black with oil, except maybe you could see the white of their eyes."
    The planes kept coming. Dive-bombers plunged out of the sky, dropping bombs and strafing the water and ships with machine gun fire before roaring back up for another round. Torpedo bombers flew in level to drop their submersible weapons for underwater assaults.
    The burning, sinking vessels at first lowered men into Johann's makeshift rescue boat. But some sailors started to panic and jump into their small ship, forcing it to pull away so it wouldn't sink too.
    "Some of the sailors would be like in shock and some of 'em would be like going out of control, screaming and hollering," Johann said.
    The next morning - after nervously worrying the Japanese planes would return - Johann's boat unloaded men from the Solace who failed to make it through the night and delivered them to land.
    "We had them stacked like cordwood in our boat. The open end where the feet was sticking out was these big brown tags that said 'unknown, unknown,'" Johann said. The military hadn't adopted dog tags yet and many couldn't be identified.
    The attack sank four U.S. battleships and destroyed 188 U.S. planes. Another four battleships were damaged, along with three cruisers and three destroyers.
    More than 2,200 sailors, Marines and soldiers were killed.
    "We didn't survive by any skill," Johann said of his boat. "It was just luck, pure luck. Because all we were concentrating on was trying to save people, and not save ourselves."
    Johann served the rest of the war on the USS Wright, a seaplane tender.
    Every Fourth of July, he goes to bed early to avoid the fireworks because they remind him of Pearl Harbor's explosions. Even so, the blasts keep him awake.
    But the horrors he went through also led him to become a firefighter.
    "I think I had it in my mind," Johann said, "I wanted to help people."
    For years, Johann said he wouldn't go to the annual observance in Hawaii in honor of those killed in the attack. But now that he's 86, it seemed liked a good idea.
    "If I'm ever going to do anything like that I'd better do it now," Johann said. His son, who lives on Maui, will accompany him.
    Organizers expect between 40 and 50 survivors of the attack to come. Overall, some 2,000 people are expected to attend the ceremony on a pier overlooking the spot where the Arizona sank.
    The bodies of more than 1,000 sailors and Marines are still on board, and small drops of oil continue to rise from the battleship.
     
  14. W Marlowe

    W Marlowe WWII Veteran

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    The loss of talented junior leaders hit small units very hard.
    God keep rthem all.

    As Ever,
    Walter L. Marlowe

    ( Airborne All the Way):)
     
  15. Volga Boatman

    Volga Boatman Dishonorably Discharged

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    My time on this website has been enriched by posts like this. It has taken a little bit of time for me to get around to the 'stickys', but now that I'm 'here', I'm finding it's actually a far more rewarding experience. I particularly appreciate this line....

    "I hope and pray that the time will never come when for bombs are rained down from the heavens and with death and destruction come the real meaning of despair, sacrifice and fortitude. Then you will have to live as we are living now, in the true full meaning, War Conscious."

    I hope, someday, we can reach that dream, the one this soldier shared, the one they all shared, that this would be the last time we had to do this. Sad really, when we consider the number of people since then who have had to become "War Conscious, in the true full meaning."

    Christ Almighty....whatever happened to that post-war dream?
     
  16. Totenkopf

    Totenkopf אוּרִיאֵל

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    The sad fate of German war dead in the East

    [​IMG]
     
  17. WWIIVetGrandkid

    WWIIVetGrandkid Member

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    Thanks for sharing the letter. It just goes to show you that war is a terrible thing. I really think that hearing about the war directly from someone who experiences it teaches you a lot more than just reading a textbook or watching a movie. That's one of the reasons why I loved WWII in HD.
     
  18. Totenkopf

    Totenkopf אוּרִיאֵל

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    Disturbing.


    [​IMG]
     
  19. Radar4077

    Radar4077 Member

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    yeah I agree. no movie, game, ect. can tell you exactly what the war is like.
     
  20. Vest

    Vest Member

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    Thank you all, for these, I'm not sure what adjective to use, letters and photos, that truly shows the horror of war.
    They put large parts of the entertainment in todays world in perspective. :)

    Knowing a bunch of soldiers who have been posted in ex-Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afganistan, I have a fair grasp of what war can do to a man, but these letters explain it in a more understandable and direct way for me, as I mostly just have seen the aftermath.

    If some of these letters where where posted at the beginning of every book concerning war and read aloud before every war movie and at the beginning of every war game, the world might become a better place in time.

    Vest
     

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