[lit-ideas] Gathering the Ships & troops

  • From: "Lawrence Helm" <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Wed, 7 May 2008 10:20:47 -0700

I was struck by the Gallup reference as well, but for me it was striking to
see things said about World War II-eligible young men I thought couldn't be
said about any generation prior to Vietnam.  Some of those things Gallup
said do seem a little harsh,  Were young Americans prior to WWII, for
example, politically sophisticated enough to know the difference between
Left and Right?  I doubt it.  But Gallup could merely be referring to these
young men as being children of men who wanted unions.  Back in those days
such a young man might be considered a leftist.  

Unlike Professor Paul, I wasn't old enough to be eligible for World War II.
When it broke out I was ten.  I was, however, old enough, barely, to get
into the Korean War.  I was the only person in my graduating class who
joined the Marine Corps.  And my friends, the ones who teased me by calling
me such things as "bullet stopper," waited to be drafted into the Army.
Were they flabby, pacifistic, yellow, cynical, discouraged and Leftist?  I
never thought so.  They were much more cautious than I was -- much less
willing to take chances, but when the draft called them up, they went.

And that is what happened in World War II.  The draft boards didn't call
everyone, but of the ones called, the vast majority accepted training and
eventually did a creditable job against the Germans.  They weren't up to it
initially, as Rick Atkinson tells us, but they learned in North Africa and
Italy and were eventually a match for the Germans.

It is worth noting that most of the Germans who fought against us were also
drafted.  They were subjected to military training from an early age and
expected to serve in some military force when they were of age.  

No doubt there were German volunteers.  I have no statistics on those.
Those in the Marines volunteered.  Some of the volunteering was a bit
specious.  Some decided that if they had to serve then they'd rather be in
the Marines than the Army.  One of the guys in my boot-camp platoon was in
this category.  He beat the draft by joining the Marine Corps.  My
recollection is that he did well enough.  I personally know of one other
person who "escaped the draft" by joining the Marine Corps.  This happened
during the Vietnam period.  His rationale was that if he was going to be
shot at, he would rather have Marines looking out for him than people who
had been drafted.

Atkinson describes Patton in some length.  He was conscious of the
tendencies Gallup describes and was threatening in his speeches to his
troops, even to his officers.  He kept them fighting by kicking their butts
until they did.  He warned them that if they ran from the German guns, they
were going to have to face his guns on their way back.  

Before going off to North Africa, Patton visited his hero, General John J.
Pershing at the Walter Reed Army Hospital.  "A feeble eighty-two, Pershing
had reminisced about their adventures in Mexico, where Patton had served as
an unofficial aide-de-camp.  'I can always pick a fighting man,' Pershing
said.  'I like generals so bold they are dangerous.'   Patton kissed
Pershing's hand, as desiccated as a fallen leaf, and asked for his blessing.
'Good-bye, George,' the old general replied.  'God bless you and keep you
and give you victory.'"

Lawrence Helm
San Jacinto

-----Original Message-----
From: Robert Paul
Sent: Tuesday, May 06, 2008 12:49 PM
To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
Subject: [lit-ideas] Re: Gathering the Ships

> And the raw material that would eventually make up the invincible 
> American Army?  "A Gallup poll of October 1940 found a prevailing view 
> of American youth as 'a flabby, pacifistic, yellow, cynical, 
> discouraged, and leftist lot.'"

Boy, how did Mr. Gallup do it? He absolutely nailed us: refused to fight 
for King and country [check]; complained about having to walk or ride 
our bikes to school and to attend PE class when we got there [check]; 
listened to decadent Negro music [check]; refused to take part in sports 
and games of any kind [check and double check]; read everything by Marx 
we could get our hands on (by flashlight, under the covers) [check]; 
hung out at the corner drugstore where we were taught the meaning of the 
word 'cynical,' along with other  useful expressions such as 'I feel 
angsty all over' [check]; carried petitions backing strict gun control 
around the neighborhood [check]; stopped thinking about girls and began 
to think exclusively of the meaning of life, which turned out to be zero 
[check]; were scared out of our pants by Abbott and Costello Meet the 
Wolfman (as well as by bumps in the night) [check]; made fun of Reverend 
Feenstra behind his back, knowing that that stuff was just the opium of 
our mums and dads... but Mr. Gallup already knew all about us from 
interviewing six teenagers squatting in a loft on Henry Street. Or from 
reading the Chicago Tribune-by flashlight, under the covers, at night, 
from whence all knowledge ultimately comes.

Duke Madison Trumbull
Professor of Ancient Merriment
Mutton College

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