Big Bertha

Big Bertha
Circa 1940, on the streets of Rochester New York, Bertha does her work.
"I don't make hell for nobody. I'm only the instrument of a laughing providence. Sometimes I don't like it myself, but I couldn't help it if I was born smart."

1st Sgt. Milton Anthony Warden.
"From here to Eternity"

Paul Valery

"You are in love with intelligence, until it frightens you. For your ideas are terrifying and your hearts are faint. Your acts of pity and cruelty are absurd, committed with no calm, as if they were irresistible. Finally, you fear blood more and more. Blood and time."

The Wisdom of the Ages

"When a young man, I read somewhere the following: God the Almighty said, 'All that is too complex is unnecessary, and it is simple that is needed',"

Mikhail Kalashnikov
"Here lies the bravest soldier I've seen since my mirror got grease on it."

Zapp Brannigan

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Happy Armistice Day!

"Something strange seems to happen when a man is hit. There is an almost alchemic change in him, and in other's relationship to him. Assuming he isn't killed outright and is only wounded, it is as though he has passed through some veil isolating him, and has entered some realm where the others, the unwounded, cannot follow. He has become a different person, and the others treat him differently."
James Jones
No. It's not "Veteran's Day". Do our vets deserve a day of their own - a day when their banks won't be open, nor will their govt. offices, but when they'll be able to reap "Huge Veteran's Day savings!" on whatever crap WalMart is foisting off this week, but who still, in all likelihood have to work (if they have work) - do they deserve to be remembered? Hell, yes. But not today. This day's taken.
Eisenhower, in the year of my birth (1954), declared that the day, formerly known for commemorating the end of history's bloodiest and most pointless debacle, should instead honor our veterans.
This is about the same time that he decided that anyone in WW2 who rated a Combat Infantryman's badge probably rated a Bronze Star as well... automatically - thus cheapening the entire deal for everyone.
But I digress. Veterans deserve our respect if not adoration but they also deserve their own day, not just a re-branding of a legitimate commemorative event. How about Memorial Day, the day formerly known as Decoration Day? That'd work.
The problem is that Americans have trouble wrapping their heads around Armistice Day. From their perspective, WW1 blundered along until their triumphant arrival in 1917... even though their first significant action was a 120-man raid conducted eleven months later (March 9, 1918. Led by that grandstanding Bozo, Douglas MacArthur, West Point class of '02, who, with the rank of full colonel, led the raid wearing a soft cap, his West Point sweater and riding breeches - carrying a riding crop. What an asshole).
No, Americans don't understand how much of that war was fought well before they even showed up. The Madogre, along with other "Neo-natal-cons", feels, and I'm sure with absolute sincerity, that France and Britain would have lost without our 11th hour contribution.
Well, no. But we did acquit ourselves admirably during the time we were there. We have Belleau Wood and the Argonne Forest where we shined, well and truly. We did make the same stupid mistakes that the Brits and the French hadd and so suffered comparable casualties.
No, the war was 80% over before we ever pitched in. The principal players, France, Britain and Germany, essentially wore down each other's manpower and economies until someone had to cave. It happened to be the Axis who were blessed with their own "proto-G. W. Bush" in the form of Kaiser Bill.
So, on that note, an examination of some lucky guys who got to "come home"...sort of.
Above, a Poilue ("surrender monkey" to you neo-natal-cons) who's suffered a (how can you describe it?) disfiguring, facial injury. In the first war these guys were common - 12% of wounded. It's what happens when you're living in a trench and the only part of your body regurlarly exposed is your head.
These folks have been largely invisible. Can you blame them? But the people who they fought on behalf of didn't want to see them either.
Everyone's favorite evil Brit Grandmother, Margaret Thatcher, requested that veterans with unpleasant, disfiguring injuries not attend a Falklands victory parade as it may turn the public against the idea of war.
Well, Duh.
The guy above was the beneficiary of a program where French artists, using molds of the soldiers face, constructed a paper-thin, silver mask which was then put in place and painted to match his skin tone. Even to the point of adding the mustache.
The cigarette might be just for the photo.
However, there's no denying the effect it had on this poor SOB. Look at the body language, especially the hands. He's far more comfortable - just from wearing half of a Halloween mask. Says a lot about what his pre-mask self-esteem must have been.
The Brits did this as well. They had a place known to the Tommies as "The Tin Noses shop".
Most impressive for the Brits was the contribution of a Kiwi surgeon named Harold Gillies. He pioneered many of the techniques used in modern plastic surgery, a boon to burn victim's, guys like out friend above and, unfortunately, vain starlets.
An artist by the name of Macalister did a striking series of watercolor portraits of some of Gillies' patients. They can be seen here.

On this note I'll end my angry diatribe. I'm not even going to invoke the memory of my Dad whose 3rd. purple heart kept him in Army hospitals for 2 1/2 half years - where he got to experience the skin-grafting technique illustrated above. His was hand-to-side. Slightly less uncomfortable - but he always had a scar the size of a good-sized steak under one arm from it.
So, veterans, Good on 'ya. I'm embarrassed to share any distinction with you. All I did was hold down a job.
And, Dick Cheney, Al Gore and John Kerry were in position, and in costume. Where the fuck were you - five times? You miserable coward.
And goodnight Jim Boussard...wherever you are.

3 comments:

The Earth Bound Misfit said...

Apparently there is one living veteran of the American Expeditionary Force, Mr. Fred Buckles, of Charles Town, WV.

I think he ought to receive a full state funeral when he dies, as the representative of the two million Americans who were part of the AEF and as a final thank-you to those men.

If you agree, then I ask that you blog about the idea and also contact your congresscritters.

Oliver Hart-Parr said...

Amen to that. I'm on it.

Andy Sparrow said...

Another great post Dan. Don't mince your words or sugar coat things, let it all out. Nice subtle dig on ogre, he's definitely gone off the "right" end of the dock. Was waiting for a Smedley Butler quote, but you seemed to have gotten your stride without.
Keep up the good work.Outhere,
AOS

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