On Remembrance Day, poetry seems to belong to Dr. John McCrae and his poem “In Flanders Fields.” McCrae wrote this poem on May 2, 1915, one day after a close friend was killed by a German shell. The “speakers” in his poem are the Dead buried in Flanders Fields who tell of their lost ability to love and be loved. They demand the living continue their battle or they will not sleep. A contemporary of McCrae’s, Robert Service, who drove an ambulance and worked as a stretcher bearer in the same war, wrote with more compassion particularly in “Only a Bosche”. Continue reading Only a Bosche
“Older men start wars, but younger men fight them.” So said Albert Einstein.
And he was right, dead right. And no where was the slaughter more tragic than in World War I. For the Great War was the War of Attrition. It was acceptable to our politicians and generals if 10,000 men on our side died in a battle along with 15,000 men of the enemy. That’s what attrition is all about. Grind down the enemy and their resources by expending our men and resources. Just be sure their losses are greater than ours. If both sides are approximately equal in men and resources such a strategy exercised successfully will win the War… eventually. But at horrible costs. Continue reading War of Attrition
Last week the Doomsday Clock moved one minute closer to midnight. Time now, 11:55 PM. Five minutes to doomsday. This symbolic timepiece was conceived to reflect nuclear danger in 1947. Originally set at 11:53 PM, since then it has limped along through 20 changes. In the last few years, the original concept has fizzled into uselessness.
The most blatant limping began on the evening of October 22, 1962 when President Kennedy came on TV and announced that the Soviet Union had installed missile sites capable of delivering nuclear warheads on the United States. Construction of sites was also underway for delivery as far north as Hudson Bay and as far south as Peru. The U.S. proposed that 1) ‘All ships of any kind bound for Cuba from whatever nation or port will, if found to contain cargoes of offensive weapons, be turned back’ and 2) ‘It shall be the policy of this nation to regard any nuclear missile launched from Cuba against any nation in the western hemisphere as an attack by the Soviet Union on the United States, requiring a full retaliatory response upon the Soviet Union.’ Continue reading Doomsday Clock Fizzles Along
Last week I visited the Canadian War Museum in Ottawa. I took a few pictures in the World War I section and then put the camera away in frustration. On the way over, I had made the mistake of driving by that mausoleum on Parliament Hill. My ability to focus on gas attacks and trench warfare was gone: by the time I reached the museum, all I could think about was the war in Afghanistan. Continue reading Keep Your Enemies Closer
I picked up my poppy this year on November 9 from an attractive, middle-aged lady who was standing outside my local Valu-Mart. It was closer to Remembrance Day than usual but, like I do every year, I had waited to see if I could get my poppy from a war vet. They’ve always been easy to spot with their medals and all and, when they have been willing to talk, I like to ask them about their war experiences. But this year, every place I went the only people offering poppies for Remembrance Day were younger members of Legion who clearly didn’t qualify as vets.
I mentioned this to the lady and she smiled pleasantly at me. Then she said, “My grandfather fought in World War II and my great-grandfather was at Vimy Ridge. Perhaps that is enough to let me qualify for you this year?” Continue reading Remembrance Day, 2009