“Setters, Not Pointers”

Yeah, for anyone who watched the interview with Frances Liberty, I realize that’s just a bit off color, but it cracked me up. I’m really enjoying reading her interview, which I chose on Meg’s advice. I also am really enjoying her sense of humor, and of course I’m very impressed by her determination. I find it really cool how she enlisted against her father’s wishes, but that he later came to respect what she had done. In general I really respect anyone who knows what they want to do or what’s right for them and does it regardless of what anyone else has to say about it, and that makes Ms. Liberty very much my kind of person.

Also on Meg’s suggestion, I’m watching next the interview with Ann Caracristi, who worked as a cryptanologist during World War Two. I think this sounds like the most impossible, exciting job in the world. It’s not something I would have the patience for, but it sounds like such an exciting thing to be in on, to be learning the enemy’s secrets and things like that. It is also a very unique way to have a great impact on the war effort of the time. I am kind of intrigued by her idea that leaving the service was the Patriotic thing to do. I’m not entirely sure I understand why she felt that way, however. From her explanation, I can see where it would have felt like the practical thing to do, but I don’t see how it’s particularly patriotic.

Lastly, I’m watching the interview with Rhona Prescott. The first thing I found interesting was that she actually enlisted as she did, in the Army, so that she could go to Vietnam. I think it’s really interesting that with all we hear about people avoiding actually going to Vietnam, she was figuring the angles so as to get there. What I’m really finding ironic is the number of times she requested to be stationed in Vietnam and the army kept sending her elsewhere when she must have been one of a minority of people who would rather be in Vietnam than the United states at that time. It’s also really appalling that her family, who had been involved in exactly the work that she did, wouldn’t believe what she said about her experiences in Vietnam.

Published in: |on November 19th, 2008 |2 Comments »

Across the Universe

I confess, I really liked this movie. So much that I saw the beginning of it twice in the theatre in Rīga, and didn’t see the last twenty minutes until I rented it this summer.
But where it becomes relevant, for anyone who hasn’t seen it, is that one of the major subplots (there are a bunch of them) deals with Vietnam. Max, one of the main characters, is drafted and the video I’m posting here is like a dramatized version of what happens when he gets his letter to report. The end of the video is the best- Max is in the office and the guy asks
“Is there any reason you shouldn’t be in this mans’ army, son?” To which Max replies,
“I’m a cross dresser and a homosexual pacifist with a spot on my lung?”
“As long as you don’t have flat feet.”

The movie also has scenes in which the characters participate in anti-Vietnam demonstrations and it continues the plotline in which Max is sent overseas and wounded in Vietnam.


Published in: |on November 13th, 2008 |Comments Off on Across the Universe


One thing that struck me as weird in this reading was the idea of ‘homecoming’ parades in the 80’s. I realize the idea is ‘better late than never’ but I feel like that’s a really awkward attempt at making things right. I wonder whether that doesn’t do more harm than good, the way a consolation prize for second place sometimes doesn’t feel as good as it ought to. Like, you’re being given just enough to shut you up so that the real winners can get on with their celebration. And then, I’m sure that the politicians who arranged these were patting themselves on the back like they’d made up for all the mistreatment these veterans had gone through and had given them real recognition.

Now, the Vietnam Memorial is great and in the case of monuments like that I really don’t think we can fault them for waiting until the 80’s to put them up’, in some cases. I don’t think it’s unreasonable that monuments would not go up the minute a conflict ended. Being from the DC area, I’ve visited the Vietnam Memorial several times, most recently and memorably on an AP Government field trip and it was a really beautiful, solemn memorial to those who served in Vietnam. Just my two cents there.

Published in: |on November 13th, 2008 |Comments Off on Remembering

World War 1 Vet Remembers Forgotten Ones

After a couple weeks of just plain old blog entries, here’s something I found in the news today, on MSN.com.


Henry Allingham is the oldest living link to the 9 million soldiers killed in World War I.

He is 112 now, nearly blind, mostly deaf and uses a wheelchair — none of which stops him from trying to remind everyone of those long gone.

“I don’t want to see them forgotten,” he says quietly, speaking after the opening of a Royal Air Force Museum exhibition on the conflict. “We were pals.”


For decades, Allingham didn’t talk about the Great War. And then, after he hit 100, he made talking about it his mission — the excitement at the start, the thrill of flying, the blood, the lice, the fear, the dead.

His next task is to lay a wreath at Britain’s war memorial, the Cenotaph, near the houses of Parliament in London, to mark the 90th anniversary of the war’s end. Allingham, Britain’s last flyer; Harry Patch, the last soldier, and Bill Stone, the last sailor, will lay wreaths on Tuesday.

They are the last ones standing, out of the more than 5 million who fought for Britain in World War I. The last survivors in Germany, France and Turkey have died, veterans groups said. The last living American-born veteran is 107-year-old Frank Woodruff Buckles of Charles Town, W.Va.

Dwindling ranks
The dwindling of the ranks has given additional importance to this year’s ceremonies, likely the last major anniversary in which they will be able to take part. It comes after a series of 90th-anniversary commemorations of the war’s worst battles — the Somme, Jutland, Ypres.

“This is the climax of something that has a momentum all its own,” said William Philpott, a senior lecturer in the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London.

Allingham doesn’t talk much about other wars. But he does say in his memoir, “Kitchener’s Last Volunteer,” that he feels sorry for young soldiers fighting in Iraq.

“It was not the same in my war,” he says. “We were fighting for our country and our homes… We had a lot more to lose if we failed.”

He takes your hand, covers it between his, until his long soft fingers completely make your hand disappear. He looks into your eyes, trying to remember if he’s met you before.

He seems glad you’ve come. He has something to tell you.

“We have to pray it never happens again.”

‘Chocks away!’
In a time when many wars take place far from home, it can be hard to imagine the war to end all wars. The assassination of the heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne during his visit to Sarajevo in 1914 touched off a cataclysm that echoed into much of the ensuing century.

Allingham wanted to leave his job in a car plant and join up right away. But when his widowed mother learned of her only child’s plans, she made him promise not to leave. Allingham spent the war’s first months refitting trucks for military use.

After she died of cancer in 1915, Allingham joined the Royal Naval Air Service, a precursor to the Royal Air Force.

He was hoping to go to East Africa. He ended up on the east coast of England.

Only a dozen years after the Wright brothers first put up their plane at Kitty Hawk, N.C., Allingham and other air pioneers set out on elaborate kites cobbled together with wood, linen and wire. They piled on clothes and smeared their faces in Vaseline, whale oil or engine grease to block the cold.

“It was so noisy,” Allingham would later write in his memoir. “I do remember the deafening throb and the chap on the ground shouting ‘Chock’s away!'”

Silent wounds
As a mechanic, Allingham’s job was to maintain the rickety craft. He also flew as an observer on a BE2c, a plane with so little power that a strong wind might push it backward. At first, his weaponry consisted of a Lee-Enfield .303 rifle — sometimes two. In a time of limited radio capability, the airmen flew with two carrier pigeons that would be released with coordinates tied to their feet in case of water landing, so searchers could track the wreckage. They weren’t issued parachutes.

He remembered a pilot who landed his plane after being shot, only to bleed to death while his comrades looked on.

“I’ve wondered since, if I had known first aid and applied pressure to the wound, could I have saved his life?” Allingham wrote. “I’ve thought about that a lot over the years.”

When it was over, he and his wife, Dorothy, had two daughters and he eventually got a job at Ford. During World War II, he worked on measures to counter magnetic mines. But after that, he didn’t talk about wars and armies for the better part of five decades. He wrote that it just wasn’t done — people wanted to forget and move forward.

Allingham retired to the seaside town of Eastbourne and played golf until his eyesight failed at 93. Dorothy died in 1970, but when daughter, Jean, died in 2001, friends say he mostly waited to die, too.

The past comes out
That’s when he met Dennis Goodwin, an independent inspector for residential care homes, who had discovered that elderly men were often not getting the care they needed to address their war nightmares.

Goodwin found himself organizing trips for veterans who wanted to return to the continent where they had fought and pay their respects to fallen comrades. Goodwin encouraged Allingham to share his experiences.

Soon, Allingham began talking to reporters and school groups. He found himself leading military parades. He met Queen Elizabeth II. He wrote his autobiography with Goodwin, “Kitchener’s Last Volunteer,” a reference to Britain’s war secretary who rallied men to the cause. Prince Charles wrote the introduction.

“I still can’t believe that all this happens to me,” he wrote.

David Burner, the concierge of the Crowne Plaza Hotel where he often stays in London, says Allingham tends to “sparkle when pretty girls come up to him.” Goodwin’s wife, Brenda, says he sometimes breaks into song. Peter Dye, the museum’s head of collections, says Allingham’s been known to hit the dance floor in his wheelchair and attempt a conga.

“If he goes a bit too far, his slippers fall off,” Dye says.

‘They died for us’
But it was a subdued Allingham who attended the exhibition opening. The soft lights set off his pale skin and made him glow at the center of the guests milling around the roped-off enclosure.

He sat in his wheelchair, a blanket with the target-like emblem of the Royal Air Force draped over his knees. The medals pinned to his navy blue jacket glistened.

Tears ran from his watery eyes, his body slumped to the side. He was tired. It’s a big responsibility to represent so many now gone. But he’s determined.

He’ll be at the Cenotaph on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, 90 years after guns fell silent.

“I want everyone to know,” he says. “They died for us.”

Published in: |on November 11th, 2008 |Comments Off on World War 1 Vet Remembers Forgotten Ones

Oliver Twist Wants More

And why shouldn’t he?

I was actually discussing this whole topic in the car with my Dad the other day (I went home over the weekend) and so now I have plenty to say about it. I haven’t finished all the reading yet, as of this posting, but I always pick a specific aspect to talk about, something that catches my interest, and tonight I’m going to post about the chapter on Agent Orange. I mean, there’s no other view of this whole catastrophe that you can take than the view that the VA really let down the people they were supposed to be protecting and supporting. It’s absolutely unbelievable that they would ignore the research being done and hire biased employees, and accuse the media of creating the idea of Agent Orange caused illnesses.

I believe what I’m reading, but it’s absolutely incredible that they would do so little after all their promises and especially in the face of what Vietnam veterans were going through. The VA at this point seems to mirror the rest of the society of that day in their treatment of veterans. As society looked down on them and treated them badly, so did the VA. Society was not providing them with jobs, while the VA did not provide them with pensions to make up the lack. Society was not concerned with their problems, on the whole, and  blamed them for problems they had like drug addiction and PTSD which were war related, not caused by the veterans themselves, and the VA seems essentially to be doing the same thing, and leaving the veterans to take care of these problems entirely by themselves.

Published in: |on November 11th, 2008 |2 Comments »

Born On The Fourth Of July part 2

This was a pretty intense read. I didn’t know much about the Vietnam war or what went on there, and although I wasn’t surprised particularly by anything I read, it was still kind of difficult to read about such terrible things in such detail. It’s also difficult to see what happens through the eyes of someone who was there and who participated in these events.

I’m wasn’t sure at first that I understood the part about him shooting the guy from Georgia, and it was really confusing when he alluded to the incident earlier in the book without explaining it until much later, but that is a particularly tragic chapter. I am still not sure whether he actually shot that guy or not, though it’s clear that he believes he did. But while he’s certain in the beginning, he seems to try and talk himself out of it until he talks to his Major who kind of absolves him of guilt, real or imagined.

Published in: |on November 5th, 2008 |1 Comment »

Born On The 4th Of July

This book includes some seriously heavy content… I think we’ve gotten just the tip of the iceberg as far as the experiences of Vietnam veterans are concerned, but so far we’re already getting a look at some of the things veterans of that war went through.

One thing which really stuck out for me is the sub-par conditions in which he lived while in the hospital. It’s a pretty graphic description, and he’s fairly explicit about his thoughts and feelings during this stressful time. It’s quite an eye opener, even though I think we’ve all kind of got this view of the Vietnam era as the absolute low point for American veterans. As intense as I am kind of expecting this book to be, I’m very interested in learning more about this.

Published in: |on November 3rd, 2008 |2 Comments »

The Cloud Side of the Silver Lining

Up until now we’ve been talking about how much better things were going for veterans at this stage in history- how they were treated better than veterans of earlier wars and how things were looking up.

These chapters are like the asterisk at the end of that statement.

In the first chapter, we read about the experiences of female veterans, and basically what I got from this was that they were expected to go back to cleaning the kitchen and having kids while the men went back to work. This seems not to have been an entirely popular choice, and on top of that, female veterans were not even treated as veterans of a war. Their mental health problems were not taken seriously by professionals in that area, and they were not afforded the same consideration as male veterans by veterans groups.

The next chapter, about veterans who were racial minorities, is about as cheerful. Again, these veterans were facing serious discrimination. One thing that was on a more positive note, however, is the way in which some of them worked together for more positive goals. One great example of that would be the Hispanic veterans group in Texas which worked for improved education in their areas.

Published in: |on October 27th, 2008 |2 Comments »

A Little More Modern

So it looks like this is the turning point in the way Americans viewed veterans and their place in our society. The way they talk about the American people’s reaction to returning veterans is much more positive than what veterans faced in previous wars we’ve studied. One thing that really stood out for me is when Gambone talks about society’s reaction to monetary benefits for veterans. He says their reaction was not ‘Why?’ but ‘How much?’ and I think that this is much more the reaction we see from people today. We really value our veterans and feel that we owe them a lot, which definitely was not the case earlier in our country’s history.

And this change came about because World War 2 was a popular war, and people supported it. They felt right and justified in having soldiers involved in the war and because they supported the war, this support later transferred to the people who had fought the war, because essentially they had done the ‘dirty work’ or the ‘hands on’ aspect of this national project. I think we could refer to the Vietnam period as a backslide (I believe that’s where we go next) in terms of the way veterans are treated, but I see in World War 2 the basis for modern day treatment of and attitude toward veterans.

Published in: |on October 22nd, 2008 |1 Comment »

Many Die, U Shall Also

That book was a really really good read. I was sorry to finish it, even though it has to be done in time for me to write my blog post.

I haven’t totally digested what I’ve read, but I like what Fussell has to say about public perceptions of the war after it had ended. He talks about J. Glenn Gray’s idea that when the atom bomb was dropped the soldiers still stationed in Europe were somehow ashamed of that. I don’t think that idea makes any sense at all. Wouldn’t any of us be glad to avoid the hell of going back to war in yet another country? As Fussell points out, it is a really idealistic thing to judge the decision to drop the atom bomb by whether it was moral. For the soldiers there, it wasn’t a matter of right and wrong it was a matter of life and death- their own, not that of the enemy. I hadn’t thought a whole lot about that, even though over the years I’ve sat through numerous classroom debates about whether this was right or not. Seeing it through our author’s eyes, there’s no debate to be had. It’s kill or be killed, on a much larger scale.

Published in: |on October 20th, 2008 |2 Comments »