T Nation

Ernie Pyle

Thought this was relevant because it might add some perspective to our debates.

“Ernie Pyle left Europe a week after the liberation of Paris, and after a short stint at home reluctantly accepted an assignment in the Pacific. As the war in Europe began winding down, Pyle started writing a column to mark the victory. He would never have a chance to complete it. This draft was found in Pyle’s pocket on April 18, 1945, after he was killed by a Japanese machine-gunner on the island of Ie Shima.”

On Victory in Europe

And so it is over. The catastrophe on one side of the world has run its course. The day that it had so long seemed would never come has come at last.

I suppose emotions here in the Pacific are the same as they were among the Allies all over the world. First a shouting of the good news with such joyous surprise that you would think the shouter himself had brought it about.

And then an unspoken sense of gigantic relief ? and then a hope that the collapse in Europe would hasten the end in the Pacific.

It has been seven months since I heard my last shot in the European war. Now I am as far away from it as it is possible to get on this globe.

This is written on a little ship laying off the coast of the Island of Okinawa, just south of Japan, on the other side of the world from Ardennes.

But my heart is still in Europe, and that’s why I am writing this column.

It is to the boys who were my friends for so long. My one regret of the war is that I was not with them when it ended.

For the companionship of two-and-a-half years of death and misery is a spouse that tolerates no divorce. Such companionship finally becomes a part of one’s soul, and it cannot be obliterated.

True, I am with American boys in the other war not yet ended, but I am old-fashioned and my sentiment runs to old things.

To me the European war is old, and the Pacific war is new.

Last summer I wrote that I hoped the end of the war could be a gigantic relief, but not an elation. In the joyousness of high spirits it is easy for us to forget the dead. Those who are gone would not wish themselves to be a millstone of gloom around our necks.

But there are many of the living who have had burned into their brains forever the unnatural sight of cold dead men scattered over the hillsides and in the ditches along the high rows of hedge throughout the world.

Dead men by mass production ? in one country after another ? month after month and year after year. Dead men in winter and dead men in summer.

Dead men in such familiar promiscuity that they become monotonous.

Dead men in such monstrous infinity that you come almost to hate them.

These are the things that you at home need not even try to understand. To you at home they are columns of figures, or he is a near one who went away and just didn’t come back. You didn’t see him lying so grotesque and pasty beside the gravel road in France.

We saw him, saw him by the multiple thousands. That’s the difference…


Could you be clear about the perspective you think it adds? What is the significance of this man’s words to you personally?

That we can debate all we want on war, but we should never pretend to know what it is like, unless you’ve been there.

The main concern for the common soldier probably isn’t politics, but being able to come home in one piece.

These people are the ones who would be the first to die in defense of me, and I would have never even met them.

Agreed. But on the other thread, I don’t see anyone pretending to know what it’s like.

I also remember a thread in which AvoidsRoids made the same comment about “actually being there” regarding his Vietnam experience and he was excoriated by several disrespectful people who were against the Iraq War.

Who said war wasn’t hell? It’s just that for me, personally, I think that fascism is its own kind of hell.

In fact, on that past thread, you yourself seemed to be arguing the opposite of what you maintain here. You said of AvoidsRoids,

“From this point of view, no one could have an idea, belief, opinion about anything unless they had a first hand account of an experience.”

And you encouraged the younger to make judgments of military conflicts throughout history to determine what was worth fighting for. Well, in my case, that is why I support the liberation of Iraq from the inheritors of European fascism. And I keep in mind, not only the millions of innocent Arabs that died during Saddam’s reign, but also the many thousands of innocent Iraqis that died under our country’s sanctions.

No, those two points are not contentious. There is a difference between showing respect for those who fight in a war under your countries flag, and arguing the legitamacy of the conflict.

Up to an extreme point, the soldiers have no say in what they do. They have to follow orders or suffer the loss of their job and humiliation.

I can have an opinion contrary to the policy makers in charge, without being disrespectful of the executors of the policy maker’s charge.

I meant that your sentiments on the two threads seems to be inconsistent. You made this statement–to which I can agree–“we can debate all we want on war, but we should never pretend to know what it is like, unless you’ve been there.”

However, AvoidsRoids’ point then was exactly that one “should never pretend to know…unless you’ve been there”

You maintained then that a soldier’s personal experience in a war (in this case, Vietnam) was fundamentally irrelevant to the debate about that war. Now you introduce the element of the personal experience of the soldier for its fundamental relevance.

My point in the earlier thread was simply that people were being callous and dismissive of AvoidsRoids experience as a soldier, not that anyone’s lack of military service should disqualify him from debate, which I tried to demonstrate wasn’t even AvoidsRoids’ point.

too bad he died, did some good writing.
true i cant imagine what war is like.
people can protest and thats fine., but
i would never disrepect a vet of any
war and tell him or her that they’re
wrong for fighting, and a few have come home to be against the war and thats their choice so be it; aand most dont
want to talk about, and those that do,
hold dear to your heart because they fought for you and me ,and will never be
able to appreciate what they faced…

courage under fire…