On this day in 1945 , that guy Adolph Hitler issued an order that everything of value in Germany was to be destroyed . It was later known as the Nero Order , named after the Roman emperor who was thought to have ordered the burning of Rome . You know , the guy who fiddled while Rome burned . I don’t think Hitler could fiddle , but he was hunkered down , at the time , in his underground bunker .
I don’t think of the war much , that war . I don’t think much of the Korean War , or the Vietnam War , or of the Gulf War that I watched on a tv screen in Switzerland , or of the wars in Afghanistan , or Iraq . I don’t even think much of the Cold War , even though I guess the Cold War was my childhood companion as much as my pal Mike Dolan was , or Larry Bye , or Monty Cleeves , or the Arian twins . I never think much of the Falklands War , or of that little war Reagan waged in the Caribbean , or of the war in Angola. I think even less of the earlier wars in Nicaragua , the civil war in Spain , the civil war in Ireland , or , for that matter , the Great War , the war to save democracy , the war to end all wars . Who thinks much nowadays of that brutal killing spree ?
I wonder sometimes about the phrase ” The Greatest Generation ” , my father’s generation . I remember my uncle Frank explaining it once to me like this , Frank the B-17 pilot who had been shot down over France in 1944 , whose plane he had named after his brother Joe , a Marine pilot who had been killed during the Battle of Midway earlier in the war : ” There was a job to do “.
There was a discussion out on my back patio , one evening , about war . Willie , whose father had been a Spitfire pilot in the Battle of Britain , was touting the ‘greatest generation’ concept . Willie said something about World War II being , perhaps , the last good war . Bill was there , sitting across from Willie . Bill , who wound up with the U.S. Army in Thailand during the Vietnam War , sees absolutely no glory in war . ” Tell that to the dead guys , ” Bill said sourly . I tried to give Willie a subtle signal . Bill has had enough of bad stuff , enough for a lifetime . He doesn’t even read bloody mystery novels . No horror flicks for him .
Today is the day , too , in 2003 , that President Bush began our war in Iraq. A young security guy at the pool hall where Willie , Bill , and I play every Thursday enlisted right away . He was enthralled with the signing bonus that he told us he would get , and the generous death benefit if he were to be killed in combat .
Wars always start out glorious . Every war I’ve taught about or read about started out glorious . Home by Christmas ! Lincoln , as I remember , originally called up 75,000 volunteers for ninety days to put down the rebellion by some southerners . And , how’d that work out for you , Mr. President ? Bush’s guys thought that Saddam’s regime would collapse and the Iraqis would immediately rush to support the American liberators . And , how’d that work out for you , Mr. President ?
I have the luxury of not having to think too much of war . I am not a warrior . I don’t have friends or relatives at war now . My friend Phil’s son signed up for the army several years ago and trained as a cook . Being Korean and speaking Korean , he was promised duty in Korea . But he was stationed , instead , in Iraq . He came home safe and he won’t talk about his time over there , not even to his parents . My father never talked about his time in the Navy during the war , as far as I know . As his brother Frank had said , they had a job to do . They did it , and they moved on .