Monday, November 12, 2007

Dead Men Walking

The woman thought of The Four Horsemen, she had met War;
a fat man with an inappropriate sense of humor, tended to repeat himself...Terry Pratchett

On my way home from Russia I stopped down in the Fat Alley to see Sam.  Baltimore's on the way home from just about any place, so its an easy stop for a day or two.  Plus if you happen to have a buddy who owns an open air bodega and news kiosk thats
much larger on the inside than is possibly possible, something cool is bound to come up.  Well usually.  Today, however is the day after the famous "11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month" when we celebrate the end of the War to end all of the wars.  Well that 11th hour was way back in 1918 which when we do our sums, comes out at 90 years ago, so you can sort of figure
the average "Dough Boy" doing his part and all that, may well have come 'round on the big wheel and be doing it again.  It's a bit of a tug for a guy like myself you see, as there were quite a goodly number of those WWI Veterans  marching around in my 
childhood and it was not too far since the last Rebel had been laid to rest and no doubt there were still a few Yankees and former Slaves posted around as well.  Yeah, that World War surely could have been the last one if people had any sense at all.  Of course people do not have the sense the God gave a goose bump, so they keep at this war thing like it was a game and could be won in some honorable way.  Well that's about the farthest from the truth that can be gotten and still be on the same planet.  If you look at the way that wars are fought  in a modern sense, your going to see that the same mistakes are made over and over again by arrogant general officers who are by and large clueless about how to prosecute a fight with the weapons at hand.  Take your WWI.  The British had a really cool machine gun called a Vickers but it was not very good in an attack and since the English Generals had decided that infantry charges were "the thing" they only give out like two vickers guns per battalion and they kept them behind the lines in a pure defensive position.  OK?  Well the Germans decided that since the Brits were so all fired hot to charge across no man's land; "Follow me boys over the top" and all that, they put a lot of machine guns out in front of their trenches and when ever the Brits or French or the Americans went "over the top" they calmly shot the shit right out of them. Time after time after time until there was not a single family in the english aristocracy who did not lose an heir in that war.  Not one. And they might still be fighting if not for #1 the invention of the Tank and #2 the invention of that inexhaustible alliance of money and manpower, the USA.   That second situation was so unbelievable to the bad guys on the Continent, that they just had to try it out again in 1941 with the same results.   Of course this gave the US the mistaken idea that "They" could go out and win wars on their own and we all know what happened then.  Or, I should say, maybe we do now.  If you look at the picture I have put up, you will see a pretty extreme show of foolishness.  Those boys walking through that "portal" are  getting ready to go home from Vietnam.  I know this because I walked through that same gate twice. Of course my "two tours" worked out to a year and a half.  Something a lot of Vietnam guys forget to mention is the second tour or extension was six months and for a guy like me who was not out in the field fighting for his life day after day, it was better than finishing my obligation in some stateside soldier town  where every crook saw you coming before you left your rack.   Can't say that my part of the war was all cake but guys had it worse, lots worse.  What I mean about the "foolishness" is these kids did 11 -13 months in country and then went back to the "world."  There was stuff for them to do but they felt funny because the war had made so little sense and you were there and then back on the block with half the people you came up with giving you the evil eye and you starting to get the notion that you may have done something too wrong to make right.  It's like while you were gone, someone came around and took all the 45 rpm records and melted them into those plastic M16 rifles you used, or something like that because those singles sure as hell went some place and got exchanged for LPs with Arty covers and songs that fit together so well that people would just lie around on the floor like pieces of a big puzzle and just become one with the music.  I could see the attraction, but they obviously couldn't see the danger in grouping up like that in the dark; hell a kid with a grenade could just...   Well they couldn't and we could, and even if we hadn't seen the worst we knew someone who had, so we became the universal Vet.  An army of Michael Moore looking fellows in patched up uniforms with funny hats.  See my picture up there?  Those are soldiers in Vietnam.  You see any "Vets" dress like that?  Those boys may have killed some guys a few days ago but you know what they are thinking about?  You really want to know?  OK. They are thinking about soft white bread in the form of a hamburger roll and maybe a stack of 45s  playing on a teal and white record player sitting on the redwood picnic table out on the patio, and "the kids" hanging out  just like--just like before they went away.  Was it this time last year?   What month is it in Virginia anyway?   Those poor fuckers, once they get through that portal it's too late to get shot and they never lost a plane.   In the moment those boys are so happy, but that portal is a phony as a Vegas Wedding and that is so sad for as much as I know and with all the power of my years, I can't raise my voice loud enough to reach them.


Ms. Moon said...

As always, a most thought-provoking post and now I have the thought of those boys wanting soft white bread in my head and it sort of makes me want to cry.

downtown guy said...

That was beautiful.

texino said...

well you could get a nice crusty baggette over there but you just could not get a regular piece of bread.
Not that it was bad, but tell some kid 10,000 miles from home that he can get a burger at the USO in Saigon and it comes on a sort of thick dry bread, well he will start to miss what he grew up with. We are not talking about Vietnamese food. That was great and I was fortunate to work with the people and go to their homes on occasion. It was the Army food. I think that bread came in a big tin can and most of the meats were pressed into tubes and all vegetables were in #10 cans. And if you were not eating that you had C-rations which had been around for a long time, but were actually pretty cool in the way certain baby food is good, like gerbers applesauce and apricots. C-rats were a lot different that the MREs they have now. they had cans of sterno and little two smoke decks of lucky strikes and that G.I. chocolate that you see in all the soldier movies about WW II. One time, when I was blue about something, I traded a couple as cases of C-rats to some ARVN engineers for the use of their bull dozer and drove it around pushing stuff over. Made me feel lots better, and the Vietnamese Army guys (ARVN) were crazy for C-rations. They even had cake and it was good. Most every thing was in a olive drab can bout the size of tuna fish and like I say, it was all tasty save for the ham and lima beans. Oh yeah, the cans did not always say what was in them either but you got so you could tell buy where they were in the case. I could do a lot on C-rations. I'm glad you liked the other stuff. It was harder to write than the ham and lima beans-not better just harder to say is all

miguel said...

"Rangers lead the way" .. and know just what to do with a commy (or frenchy/gook) and his baggett! BTW, i have several of the currently improved MRE for you to try when ever you have the munchies!