Hey, Did You Kill Anybody Over There?

On the anniversary of the atomic bombing of Japan and the resulting end of the war, it occurs to me that some people might not know why WWII (and modern) combat veterans were reluctant to share their experiences with their families when they came back home.  Maybe a sample of the kinds of letters that never got written may serve to illustrate the point.


Dear Mother,

Today was a good day.  I didn’t get killed.  Tom Johnson and Bill Rogers on my right, as well as Meriwether Stilson on my left, all got their heads shot off when they were looking over the wall of our trench to see if it was safe to get out.  It wasn’t but they never knew that.  Then the advance was sounded and we jumped over the side of the trench but it turned out to not be a trench.  It was a really steep hillside, and the slope was full of shell holes from enemy fire, plus it was muddy.  It rained the other day, plus we had been throwing our pots full of urine and liquid dysentery shit over the side of the trench, and we slid down in our own piss and liquid shit.  At the bottom there was this little valley that used to be a river.  It was three feet deep in corpses that were half blown-up and three-fourths decomposed and smelt worse than anything.  They were swimming in fat white maggots and covered up with flies that flew off when we fell into the river of dead guys.  Our legs sank down in the soft, rotten flesh that used to be our friends and enemies, and the maggots wormed up into our pants.  We tried not to vomit because we would just be trudging through that too – in addition to the infectious corpses, blood, urine, and liquid shit.  Then we advanced thirty five yards to a trench full of dead enemy soldiers we had just killed with fire bombs, and cleared the trench.  This meant throwing the blackened, stiff dead men out to the forward side of the trench.  It would have been easier to throw them back the way we had come, and tomorrow we will have to climb out over them but for tonight they will absorb at least a few bullets and that is alright by me.  But I didn’t get killed, so today was a good day.

How did you do at the Bingo hall on Tuesday?

Combat was too different, from life in the real world.  It’s not the sort of thing you discuss over dinner with your gramma. It was bad*.  Read this, if you are not sure how to treat your combat veteran loved-ones.

*and he loved it, which is also hard to explain.


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