February 24, 2012
When Men Were Real Men
Apropos of nothing, here’s an item from the late Abigail Van Buren’s advice column in the Washington Evening Star of September 3, 1963:
DEAR ABBY: I just read the letter from A Buddy’s Buddy who cried along with the guy who didn’t want to live any more because he got a “Dear John” letter from his girl back home. Well, I feel sorry for all the commanding officers who have to play wet nurse to a lot of slobbering crybabies who want to blow their brains out because some two-timing little tramp gave them the brush. A real man would go out and celebrate getting rid of her. If A Buddy’s Buddy is typical of our men in uniform today we should recall some of the old soldiers from World War II. CAREER MAN.
Posted by Jerome Doolittle at February 24, 2012 06:38 PM
I've been reading *Demobbed*, a book by fellow Orwell maven Alan Allport on the experiences of returning WWII soldiers in Britain. (http://www.alanallport.net/). The men he describes were not the pig-iron stoic/cynic types who the Dear Abby writer invites us to "remember". Or I suppose they might have curdled into such by 1963, but per Alan they hadn't yet done so in, say, 1946. Instead, many returning British soldiers became highly emotional on discovering they had been rejected or replaced by women they'd left at home. Some were perpetrators or victims of murder as a result.
I suppose there's a different story in every family. My dad's father ran off in 1928 and left my grandmother with grandma and the two children to raise on her own in order for him to start a very long and very storied affair with the military. It was an extremely successful military affair but in terms of sending home child support to his family, things could not have been worse for those 3 left behind. They were on their own and they had it very, very rough. During the great depression. She and they managed to survive somehow but all three of them were scarred for life.
I understand the man they called "Wild Bill Donovan, The Last American Hero" at least in a book I once read, who was really a fellow by the name of William O. Donovan essentially did the same thing to his family. One of his children remarked about that book "so now I know what my dad was up to all those years". He was straight up Irish Catholic too with all of the negatives and positives that went for those raised as Catholics in the late 1800s to the early 1900s. He was known for such things when he was a prosecutor as raiding the club he belonged to for serving alcohol I suspect there were many similar stories from that era. A lot of fellows ended up running off and marrying their country and leaving whole families behind.
I suppose tales like that were maybe a good thing for the country, but not so good for the folks back home, but they were part of the country too. so that's kind of hard to say on behalf of my dad. What good is a country for folks who had to grow up like my grandma and those two kids did? Well, at least the country later treated my dad quite well, he was very lucking in that he landed in Italy as the war was ending and ended up getting a good degree on the back of the taxpayers. The kids today aren't getting that kind of support, even those who joined the military. However many kids just like those two were scarred for life from the depression and the pain of not knowing their fathers. I suppose what children from that era went through in their youth entitled many of them the right to claim the title of the greatest generation. I don't think it's something they would have wanted though.