Tuesday, September 11, 2007


There were several things that prompted that last entry. It’s partly the date, partly watching the mini-series again. It’s definitely a Sunday afternoon not before bed time program. And partly something I ran across while checking the availability and price of Ken Buns new documentary series. You know how Amazon gives you suggestions to go with what you were looking for in the first place? Well one of them was a film that Clint Eastwood directed, Flags of Our Fathers. It was released earlier this year and apparently tanked at the box office.

It’s about the grinding, bloody battle for Iwo Jima and follows the men who raised that famous flag when the battle was over. And it follows them back to States for a War Bond fund raising tour. I haven’t seen the film but from the description it’s an examination of our need for heroes, who gets tagged and how some of the “heroes” think of the label.

I get a kick out of reading customer reviews, especially the one and two star ones. At least one of them definitely didn’t get it. For one thing, the bulk of the fighting in the Pacific was done by the marines, not the army. At least the service they belonged to right. Makes me wonder if the reviewer saw the film. And he complains about how these men kept “whining” that they weren’t heroes. They weren’t in their own eyes. They did a job. They were part of a team. And I wonder how it felt to safe at home making speeches to raise money while your buddies were going through the next meat grinder and the next.

Mom had a high school class mate who joined the marines. He died on a beach in the Pacific. He died on Tarawa. Just another battle in the history books. Another flag on a box.

And anyone who knows classic country music knows what happened to Ira Hayes. If you don't, do a seach for the Ballad of Ira Hays. Damn, I’m outta here.

Monday, September 10, 2007


I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m a fan of the mini series Band of Brothers. It’s a hard series to watch, and not because the action in the film is about as close to real combat as most of us will ever get. These men were closer to each other than any blood brother could ever be.


Tomorrow is September 11, actually is on the east coast. There will be a lot of speeches about heroes tomorrow and I wonder if we really understand what a “hero” is. It’s a word that’s been tossed around a lot the past few years. Mostly by people who have an agenda to satisfy. Funny thing is, you don’t hear it much from the men and women in uniform. It’s the civilians with those agendas. Especially some individuals who never wore a uniform when they had the chance. They seem quick to provide others with the chance to earn the label they never earned for themselves.


There’s a documentary that goes with the mini series. Interviews with the men from Easy who still are still alive and willing to tell their stories for the camera. Sometimes they have to stop, after all these years the memories are still too fresh. D Day, the days after, Brecourt, Carentan, Bastogne, Market Garden, Landesberg, names the rest of us know only from history books or paintings.


There is a common thread that runs through all their stories. They don’t claim the label of hero for themselves. It’s always someone else. The brother that died at Monte Casino a few days before one man jumped on D Day. The men who never made it out of the planes. The soldiers who never even made it ashore. The heroes for these men were the brothers who came home under a flag or who rest under a marker somewhere in Europe.


At end the former company commander remembers a letter from a comrade. The writer’s grandson had asked “were you a hero in the war, grandpa?” “No, but I served with a company of heroes.”


So, while the word hero is being tossed around tomorrow, please take a moment to think about who your heroes are and why. We had a neighbor who served from day one to the end of WWII. He never talked about it much. He fought his way across North Africa, Italy and Southern France.


And while we’re at it, let’s remember those who could have earned the title and never seized the opportunity. They had better things to do with their time.

Sunday, September 9, 2007


With the anniversary of September 11 two days away, I’ve run across some interesting information. I don’t know if either of these earlier September dates have been mentioned in the press.


I came across both of these other September 11’s in Arundhati Roy’s collection of essays, War Talk. The first is September 11, 1922 was the date Great Britain announced its mandate in the former Ottoman province of Palestine. This followed the Balfour Declaration that supported the establishment of a homeland in Palestine for the Jewish people. Part of the original madate was subdivided into what is now Jordan.


I haven’t been able to confirm that date of the 11 for this. I have found two references that confirm that the announcement was made in 1922 and that it occurred in September. One is in the Wikipedia entry on the Palestine Mandate and the other is in the book A history of the Arab Peoples. A passable history book on Arab Islam and the history of the area into the mid twentieth century. Passable, I never managed to finish it but it’s a fair reference as long as you double check. (I like Amazon because of the reviews. The book has been out since the nineties.) Just a personal comment. Of course the author is biased. I never met one that wasn't. That's probably why the title is A history rather than The history. I've also noticed that people usually complain of bias when the author doesn't agree with them, not when he/she does.


The other September 11 occurred in 1990. On this date, the first president Bush announced the decision to go to war with Iraq for the first time. Interesting.