I just finished reading a book by Steven E. Ambrose called The Victors .
It was subtitled Eisenhower and His Boys : The Men of World War II .
It was more about the front line GIs . I guess , when Ambrose wrote his boys he meant the combat soldiers , who were , after all , mostly boys .
I remember a high school teacher of mine who told us not to call the American soldiers boys .
” They are men ! ” he said . That was back in the Vietnam era . Nineteen and twenty -year olds over in Southeast Asia killing commies for the country . I think we ( USA ) are friends with Vietnam nowadays . Friends with the Japanese . Friends with the Germans .
When the American Army went into Germany Eisenhower made no move to race the Soviets to Berlin . Post war political boundaries had already been decided at Yalta by Roosevelt , Churchill , and Stalin . Take the area around Berlin only to have to turn it over to the Soviets ? Eisenhower knew better than to do that .
Some of the surrendering German officers volunteered their troops to help the Americans fight the Russian armies . They were surprised when the Americans turned down the offer .
I’ve been asked by young Polish students of history : Why did the Americans betray Poland like that ? There are answers , maybe , but no satisfying answers . Poland then lived under communism for the next forty + years .
How about : Well , we’re the good guys , so whatever we do must be right . No , I think we’d better go a little deeper into what nationalism is , into what patriotism means , into what the realities of war are , and into what international politics involves . Then and now .
On the 4th of July we should consider the patriots who fought and died for the nation . Stephen Ambrose makes the point, I want to note , that the WWII soldiers were not fighting out of patriotic spirit , but were fighting first because they had to , and they were fighting for their buddies in the foxholes around them . I’ve read the same, and heard it , about Vietnam vets . International politics and glorious notions of patriotism stay with politicians and parade -goers and with the old men in the capitals .
A friend of mine told me that the Sierra Madre parade used to end with local politicians at a podium in the park giving speeches . I told him that that sounded very American . He agreed and said that he missed those speeches . Where is Norman Rockwell when you need him ?
The world is a complicated place . ” Nuanced ” as they say nowadays . It always was , I suppose . We like to think in simple concepts , however . Hitler : bad ; we : good . Hitler was bad . That’s for sure . We’re good ? God is on our side ? Is it that easy ? Would that it were .