|Addressed to Dex - from a BBS poster:
Copied from a SubVet BBS - September
You have often referred to life as it
was for you when you were growing up. Many times it was during WWII. This
isn't a story about the games that we played as kids, but a real-life war
When we went to the Saturday Matinees
at one of our local theaters, they would always show NEWSREELS; our way
of knowing what was going on on the battlefields. One newsreel has stuck
(and will stay stuck) in my head forever.
A young pilot was landing his plane
on a carrier. The tail hook - or his brakes - didn't work as well as he
would have wished, and his plane slide a ways over the deck, hanging precariously
over the side. He tried to open the canopy. He struggled. It wouldn't open.
He was still frantically trying to slide it back when the plane slid completely
off the ship, and we watched him still stuggling, as the plane disappeared
beneath the waves.
An indelible image.
As a little tyke, I was living at Fort
Bragg, on post with my Mother. The men of the 82nd were overseas, I think
the current term is "deployed".
The place was loaded with little kids
and women, what remained stateside of the troopers' families. Occasionally,
returning wounded would return. As a liitle guy, I got to see a lot of
men missing limbs and exhibiting some pretty nasty wounds coming home to
There was also a very understandable
policy that was pretty heartless. If your husband was killed or captured,
the War Department gave the grieving widow or wife of the guy in the Stalag
a week to pack up and clear the post to make way for her husband's "follow
on" and his family. My earliest memories involve a lot of women hugging
each other and crying.
The Commissary was a long one story
wooden building. It was painted white and had a covered porch that ran
about 150 feet along the front of the building. The porch was accessable
by steps leading to the Commissary main entrance. On the left side of the
main entrance to the building - on the front wall of the building covered
by the overhang of the roof - there was a bulletin board about sixty feet
long. It contained notices like what movies were scheduled at the
Post Theater, Innoculations being given at the Post Dispensery, Blood Drives,
War Bond Drives, Scheduled Visiting Dignitaries and Units arriving for
pre-embarkation combat refresher training. And the latest casualty lists
for units based at Bragg - the principal of which was the 82nd Airborne
In the days of WWII there were no "reproduction
machines" so the method of creating copies was "flimsies" and carbon paper.
The casualty lists had a priority of something like the fifth flimsy. All
the letters on a fifth or sixth flimsy looked like they were growing fur
and were hell to read.
The 82nd took one helluva lot of casualties
on every drop: Sicily, Anzio, St. Mere E'glise (Normandy) and Neimegen.
After each combat jump women clutching little children - or with children
wrapped around their legs - sayiing "What's wrong Mommie?"
Women would be running their fingers
down the lists looking for their husbands, starting with the names of the
known dead. There would be outbursts of grief, women holding women crying
uncontrolably. Women yelling "Oh my God...Oh my God... Dick's gone."
That building is still there --- still
at Bragg, but it is no longer a Commissary. It needs either to be
demolished or undergo extensive repairs - but that old bulletin board is
still there. And when I pass it I can still feel the pain of the horror
of human loss and maiming. Believe me Corabelle, there is no movie screen
image that could match that image.
On that porch the wives of heroes were
introduced to their recent widowhood in total bucket saturation. After
Neimegen - where The Old Man's battalion got pretty well chewed up -
Mother moved to Gastonia and bought her groceries at a local store. She
was sick of seeing young mothers have to gather their things, pack up,
leave Post and face the world in their early 20's and alone or with infants
And as for playing Army and war ---
It was what our Daddy's were doing. For real.