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Uncle Dave's Memoirs

A couple of weeks ago my Uncle Dave sent me a 2-CD set of his WWII memoirs which his son, my cousin Harvey whipped together. Harvey holds the patent for the Tricorder™*, but I digress.

I knew Uncle Dave fought at Anzio, but that was all I knew about his Army service. That was enough - Anzio was the bloodiest fiasco for the US Army in the European theater. From listening to the CDs, it turns out he first fought in N. Africa, then after Anzio he participated in the liberating of Rome.

If you look up New Yorker in the dictionary, Uncle Dave's photo, voice and attitude are in there. And he took all three to war with him. Some of the pranks he pulled were amazing, until I remember it's Uncle Dave doing them. I like his opening: he was a welder employed by the Navy at the Brooklyn Navy Yard, so of course when he was drafted the put him in the Army as a combat engineer.

Reminds me of my brother-in-law who, when he emigrated to Israel, was the guy who built and repaired radars for the Navy, but when they drafted him they put him in the Army as an ambulance driver.

They made a few other mistakes with Uncle Dave, blowing at least three opportunities to make him an officer, or get him specialized technical training. Yeah, he's a blow-hard, but he backs it up with actual knowledge and skill. After his Army stint he learned to fly a plane, and taught his sons. Stuff like that.

One thing the CD is very vague about is the battle of Anzio itself. He describes the basic strategy, and adds a footnote at the end (probably at Harvey's insistance) to the effect that a lot of people died there, but he didn't personalize it. Didn't mention buddies who never made it home. I guess I can understand that. It would probably trigger nightmares about the images which he's managed to put in the background.

One thing he mentioned which puts the moaning and groaning of the Iraq occupation troops in perspective - in WWII Italy, the troops were short of everything. Armor, weapons, ammo, food. Especially food. They mostly lived off of rations, poorly.

I'm glad he sent me a copy, it's something I'll treasure.

*Okay, the tricorder - Click here to see the patent Click on "Images" to see the schematic.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
Jun. 2nd, 2005 03:12 pm (UTC)
He describes the basic strategy, and adds a footnote at the end (probably at Harvey's insistance) to the effect that a lot of people died there, but he didn't personalize it

My grandfather did the same thing when he would talk about much of his experience in WWII. I have noticed the same thing about a lot of the guys from that generation, maybe it kept them from going crazy since many of them went through a lot.
Jun. 2nd, 2005 10:41 pm (UTC)
Yeah, it's interesting. When I was in college, a lot of guys I knew were in school on the GI Bill after VietNam service, and they reveled in describing the bloodshed in gory detail. One of my dormmates survived Hamburger Hill - I think about 10 out of 100 or so walked away from that one. I remember one night he told a bunch of us at a camping retreat all about it, named the buddies who died and had limbs blown off, etc. The war still was going on at the time.

The WWII vets seemed to do a better job of putting their war behind them. I wonder why.
Jun. 2nd, 2005 10:51 pm (UTC)
Re: the difference between the two wars. I think a lot of it is how radically world views had changed during the two times. For starters many in the WWII Generation were already acquainted w/hardship from the depression and the babyboomer generation (on average) seems to have had a more privledged upbringing.

I heard a story on NPR a few months ago by a military psychologist who stated that when Veterans returned from a popular war they generally readjusted to peacetime life better than Vets of unpopular wars. I actually think this theory holds a lot of weight. The reception from WWII was supportive (almost everyone was involved in the war in some capacity) and the vets were given affirmation for the good they had done rather than being asked to dwell on the "evil" required from combat.

The vets in the Viet Nam War had a totally different experience returning to a country that was either apathetic or hostile to them. In my own family (lots of military) there were relatives who were called "babykillers" when people heard that they were in Viet Nam. These stories were highlighted by more subtle forms of distain and disapproval. But all in all, I think they add up.
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )

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