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Some passing thoughts on remberance

Discussion in 'Honor, Service and Valor' started by lfkirby, Sep 3, 2009.

  1. lfkirby

    lfkirby WWII Veteran

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    When I look back over the span of years, back to my days of service in World War II, I am overwhelmed by the swift passage of so much time. Sixty-seven years have passed since I enlisted and soon that much time will have elapsed since that unforgettable moment when I returned to my home and family. Old now, I still see all the way back, clearly, to the yesteryear of youth and I become startlingly aware of how rapidly the long, wide years have flown. More surprising is that, despite the passing of over a half-century, I can recall most of what happened in those three and a half years in the island war. Not only can I remember many incidents, but more startling, I am able to recall these events in detail as distinct as if they occurred just months ago. An unusual twist to this rush of memory is that the only empty, vacant sections in my recollection are times spent in close combat. This loss deprives me of total recall of the entire three and a half years. I easily remember most of the singular meaningful events that occurred in battle, but I cannot account for all my time.
    For example, I was on the Island of Iwo Jima for twenty-four days. Save the last two days, after the island was secured, all that time was spent under fire. The combat circumstances of the battle were so severe, so violent and so relentless, that all days and all activities bore a certain repetition of brutal similarity that continued unabated and unchanged for the entire duration of the campaign. I remember some particular instances with surprising clarity, some vaguely, and some not at all.
    While in psychiatric treatment at a Naval hospital, after returning stateside in 1945 , I was told that sometimes the mind reaches overload and discards memories too difficult to bear. I'm no shrink so I can't comment on that suggestion.
    Reviewing those days has re-awakened within me the sense of wonder I felt years ago concerning the behavior of the young Marines with whom I shared my youth.
    We are all captives of our emotions and we humans, as the highest form of life on the planet, perceive and experience many emotions: love, hate, anger, fear, joy etc. Within the entire animal world there is but one single emotion common to all living creatures and that is the primal instinct of fear. However, the one basic feeling that is beyond all other living things and is exclusive to man alone is love! It may strike one as incongruous that these two dissimilar and unconnected emotions, fear and love, are the most omnipresent passions of men in battle.
    Fear is so pervasive that it can strip men of their sanity as it continues for hours and days. Under these extreme circumstances, despite the overpowering terror and the persistent instinct for self-preservation, every enlisted Marine knew that each man in his outfit would willingly risk his life to save him. No matter the circumstance, no matter how hopeless the situation, every man was always secure in the knowledge that every other man in his squad would deliberately take his own precious life in his hands, rise up in the face of death, and risk all to come to his aid. This was not supposition. This was beyond truth. This was fact.
    I knew it to be so and it is equally factual that I would do the same for every one of my comrades.
    In combat men live on the edge of death. To live with the fear of death or disfigurement, as an abstract concept, is something that each man has to resolve by himself. But to transcend that terrible fear—to overcome its debilitating effects and to intentionally expose oneself to that possibility of death and disfigurement, to abandon relative safety for the sole purpose of saving the life of another—is an action based on the most magnanimous of emotions. This is the impassioned concept unknown to lower animals. This is the other emotion of combat. This is love in its purest form!
    It was the love each man had for his friends that enabled us to persist in the most demanding of circumstances. Thus it was not patriotism, not bravery, not esprit d'corps that won the day. It was the fear that bonded us together and the love that we had for each other that allowed us to go on until the battle was over and the island was secured.

    Larry Kirby
     
  2. wtid45

    wtid45 Ace

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    Having read what you wrote it has to be said you did so in such a way that those like myself who have not experienced the bond of comradeship in a close knit unit in combat, could somewhat understand why men like yourself were able to fight for and preserve the freedom we enjoy today. Also it puts the words SEMPER FI into context, Always Faithful! :salute:
     
  3. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Larry, what a powerful remembrance. I appreciate your willingness to share it. My father, who died nearly 20 years ago, never spoke of his time in combat in Italy. I wish he had had the ability to explain it as tellingly as you have. Thank your for this. I can only hope that your future posts will be as riveting as this one. You really ought to contact Jack (SouthwestPacificVet) to compare notes. His recollections are equally amazing.
     
  4. DocCasualty

    DocCasualty Member

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    Thank you for all you sacrificed and for sharing this here with us today.
     
  5. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Mr Kirby, thanks for your post. I have only experienced absolute terror a few times in my life and both were for short periods of time-minutes at most. I cannot imagine the sustained fears that you as young man had to endure for days and weeks on end.

    I do hope that the 64 years since war's end have been a good time for you, bought and paid for by several years of your youth spent in pursuits that young men should not have to experience.

    Has the war been something that you have been able to talk about over the years or were the visions left better buried? I had a patient who told me once that he could hide what he he had seen, but the odors stayed with him.

    Did you enlist upon the the attack at Pearl Harbor?
     
  6. brndirt1

    brndirt1 Saddle Tramp

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    Thank you for sharing that with us Sir. My respect for every WW2 veteran grows each time I read/hear stories like this one you chose to give us. Thank you again, for your service to our nation!
     
  7. Totenkopf

    Totenkopf אוּרִיאֵל

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    First I must say, thank you for joining the forum, you are much appreciated here!
    Second, I find myself mezmorized by this insight into comradery among soldiers, it seems like bonding in a form without description. Thank you for risking your life for our freedom.
     
  8. lfkirby

    lfkirby WWII Veteran

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    No, I enlisted in 1942 after high school. I had to wait a month until I turned 18 as my parents would not sign off to let go at age 17. As for talking about the war, it took until 1971 when my oldest son came home, wounded, from Vietnam. He was in a partial body cast for months as a result of being cut down by an anti-personnel "jump - up" remote controlled mine. He was drafted a week after graduating from college. Not wanting to go to OCS he went into the infantry and served as a squad leader with the rank of sergeant. He was awarded the Bronze Star with "V" attachment to go with his purple heart. He was in the hospital for weeks and when he was released as an out patient we began to discuss being in combat. When we began talking about similar experiences we both received a form of cathartic benefit from the exchange. I am so very proud of him for going through such terror and returning to live a normal life. As a result of this exchange I have been able to talk about most of what happened to me. I say most because there are still some things I cannot discuss and, unfortunately, I cannot forget. It is said that time heals all. The passage of time just makes it a little easier to recall events and talk about them. Larry Kirby
     
  9. Slipdigit

    Slipdigit Good Ol' Boy Staff Member WW2|ORG Editor

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    Please also express my gratitude to your son for his service.

    I am glad you both were able to discuss and help each other with the trials you faced.

    I understand your parent's unwillingness to sing to let you go. I would imagine it is hard to send your baby off to war.

    How was boot camp? Where did you report?
     
  10. dgmitchell

    dgmitchell Ace

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    Mr. Kirby - My deepest thanks to both you and your son for your service and sacrifice, and again to you for such a wonderful post. I wish there were a way to direct all first time visitors to this site to this thread for such is its power that even if they read nothing else here, no one should leave without reading your thoughts on remembrance.

    Please keep posting!
     
  11. lfkirby

    lfkirby WWII Veteran

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    To; Slipdigit & ggmitchell,
    First: I went through Boot Camp at Parris Island, SC. and I actually liked it. Being rousted out of bed at 0400 was unpleasant and the non-stop training was tiring. We didn't get a break until lights out at 10:00 PM. Yet ,somehow, the camaraderie, the feeling that you were one of the platoon, (misery loves company) was a terrific emotion. In all the time I was in the USMC I never served in a place where there were any clicques. We all respected one another for what we had gone through together.
    At Pendelton, e.g. we were on our own every day after evening chow. Usually one of the fifty guys in the squad room would yell " Hey, there's a pretty good movie at the theater tonight - or- who wants to go to the slopchute for a beer, etc. The invitation was open to all, no special groups - we were all comrades and we treated each other the same. This sense of belonging and acceptancewas the basis for the cohesion that always existed in any combat unit. All the men in your training unit were your friends and, later, all the men in your squad or platoon were your close buddies and you would do anything to keep them safe.
    Sorry to go on but I would like to comment on Boot Camp at Parris Island. Unlike today's Corps the D.I. never got in your face to scream at you followed by an "I can't hear you" routine. They just spoke directly and firmly and our response was "yes sir" not "sir, yes sir". We were treated like adults and treated with tough love. Punishment for not moving fast enough or making the wrong move, etc, was swift and severe. But after ten weeks you look back and realize that every man in the platoon was was punished in much the same way. Unlike today I landed in sickbay twice for a few stitches during basic training. Both times at the hands of a D. I. who felt that carrying sand in my pockets until my skin was rubbed raw or a sweeping slap on the side of the head was needed.
    In both cases I deserved it. I never made the same mistake twice and I went from a smart-ass city kid to being a proud Marine. Parris Island was good for me.
    Forgive my rantings. I wish there was someway I could post entire descriptions and memories of training and the emotions of combat. It is impossible to tell the full story in a few words. It would take a two or three pages. Perhaps you could ask the site administrator. I don't know how. Remember, I'm 85 years old.
    Also I notice you guys post your medals with your avatar. How would I do that?

    Best, Larry Kirby
     
  12. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Larry, a few things come to mind. First, we didn't earn those medals. They come from the number of posts made on the site. Second, your reminiscences are just the kind of thing we like to read. For me, as the son of a former soldier, they are the closest I'll come to understanding what he went through. They are priceless. I'm happy that you and your son were able to talk them through. Finally, have you thought about recording an oral history of your service? It would be easier than typing page after page. I'm sure some of the Rogues could come up with some questions as prompts, and you could just record your thoughts. They could be uploaded to a website and accessed by any who are interested.

    In any case, keep posting. Your name is one of the first I look for in new posts.
     
  13. macrusk

    macrusk Proud Daughter of a Canadian WWII Veteran

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    Welcome to the Forum, Mr. Kirby. Thank you for such an eloquent post. I know I shall be looking for your posts, in the way that I do for our other Veterans. In reading your's and their posts I have learned much about my own father that I didn't get to learn in his lifetime, even though he was a Canadian in ETO.

    Thank you for your service.
     
  14. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    I take it you would like your real medals posted as an avatar? Im sure slipdigit or dg can help you with that too. Great description of basic.. It doesnt change too much.. The emotions seem similar..
     
  15. lfkirby

    lfkirby WWII Veteran

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    Hi LRuss0216,
    A verbal account of anything in which I was involved would be slow and rambling. I do a lot better at collecting my thoughts and writing them down. In past years I used to write political commentary for the L.A. Times and other papers when the Times was owned by the Chandler Family.
    That was over 20 years ago and I wrote under a variety of pseudonyms. The variety of names got me published more often as the Times wanted to vary its political stance.
    Thus, Although I do occasionally make speaking appearances I do much better with my keyboard. To orally describe anything is only effective if you can see you your audience and hear and sense their response and acceptance. You can tell by the reaction if you are on the right track and pace. A recorded description can put peolple to sleep. A written account can be done in a way that keeps the reader's interest without knowing who the reader may be.

    My next post will be a story or memoir about my time in the Marines in WWII. If it is too long I'm sure the site administrator will pull the plug on it.

    Thanks for all the responses to what I have been writing. It pleases this old man more than you realize. It makes me happy to know that what we did so many years ago has not been forgotten.

    Best,

    Larry Kirby
     
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  16. LRusso216

    LRusso216 Graybeard Staff Member Patron  

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    Larry, just continue to do what you are doing. As far as I can tell, there is no limit to the length of a post, other than what you feel like typing. Organize your thoughts, and post as much or as little at a time as you want.

    Rest assured, we are hanging on every word.

    Between you and Jack, we are getting a real window into the war in the Pacific that few of us could get otherwise. It is a pleasure to read your posts, and I hope we are honored with many more.

    By the way, what are some of the pseudonyms you used when writing for the times? I'd be interested in reading some of your commentaries, if they are available.
     
  17. lfkirby

    lfkirby WWII Veteran

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    Hi LROSSO 216

    Ok, I'll go for it in days to come.

    The name most often used in the L.A. Times was Tom Halsted. This was so long ago and of so little import that I doubt you will be able to recover any of the op-ed pieces.

    Thanks for your interest.

    Larry Kirby
     
  18. urqh

    urqh Tea drinking surrender monkey

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    No they are still available. Also washington post. Son is a journo student and broadcaster. Used his micro access to find em. Google your nom de plume to and you still have net references.
     
  19. A-58

    A-58 Cool Dude

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    Mr. Kirby, just start a thread and go with it. Make it easy, start from the beginning and make short stories of your experiences. First hand accounts are much more educational and interesting that regular "book learnin." No mod will pull the plug on you, and none of us Rogues will complain. You are living history to us.
     
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  20. Tomcat

    Tomcat The One From Down Under

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    Thankyou for that matey.
     

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