I ask you in advance to forgive the length of this blog and to trust that you will be grateful if you read it through to the end. The following story came to mind as I have been thinking about the Jimmy Carter/Nobel Peace Prize phenomenon and the nauseating statements of the Europeans and Scandinavians regarding President Bush’s efforts to defend the United States from further attack.
I watched the 10-part HBO miniseries “Band of Brothers” when it aired last winter. I thought it was the best television series I have ever seen, maybe the best movie I have ever seen. The movie is of course based on Stephen Ambrose’s fine book of the same name, and the the movie brings the book to life with incredible fidelity. (The movie will be available in formats for home viewing next month; it would make a great holiday gift.) Both the movie and the book depict the experience of E Company, 506th Regiment, 101st Airborne Division, from Normandy to Hitler’s Eagle’s Nest (as the book’s subtitle states). The movie and the book go best together, as the movie does not quite allow the viewer to understand the unique tactical difficulties confronting E Company in each of the successive battles it fought.
The men of E Company served on the front lines in ferocious, almost unimaginably arduous and brutal combat for the last twelve months of WW II. Many died, many were horribly injured, some survived. God bless Stephen Ambrose for capturing their story before even those who had survived died natural deaths. May he rest in peace.
At the very end of the book Ambrose briefly summarizes the postwar lives of those who survived. One of those who overcame a paralyzing injury suffered at Bastogne and survived was Corporal Walter Gordon. He went to law school and struck it rich through the exercise of great acumen in the oil business.
In December 1991, Mr. Gordon read that the mayor of Eindhoven, Holland had refused to meet with General Schwarzkopf because as general of the forces that served in the Gulf War General Schwarzkopf “had too much blood on his hands.”
Ambrose recounts that Gordon wrote to the mayor of Eindhoven as follows: “On September 17, 1944 I participated in the large airborne operation which was conducted to liberate your country. As a member of company E, 506th PIR [parachute infantry regiment], I landed near the small town of Son. The following day we moved south and liberated Eindhoven. While carrying out our assignment, we suffered casualties. That is war talk for bleeding. We occupied various defense positions for over two months. Like animals, we lived in holes, barns, and as best we could. The weather was cold and wet. In spite of the adverse conditions, we held the ground we had fought so hard to capture.
“The citizens of Holland at that time did not share your aversion to bloodshed when the blood being shed was that of the German ocupiers of your city. How soon we forget. History has proven more than once that Holland could again be conquered if your neighbor, the Germans, are having a dull weekend and the golf links are crowded.
“Please don’t allow your country to be swallowed up by Liechtenstein or the Vatican as I don’t plan to return. As of now, you are on your own.”
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