The Horrors of War

Essays, Stories, Adventures, Dreams
Chronicles of a Footloose Forester
By Dick Pellek


The Horrors of War


Many military men and women who return from war are reluctant to talk about it but there have been enough stories and brief flashes of graphic descriptions that have leaked out or escaped from their lips to keep the worldly knowledge of the horrors of war alive in succeeding generations.  And sometimes the stories, the flashes of reverie, and the retelling come from adults who as very young children were eyewitnesses. Some have told their personal tales as prisoners of war. Horrible things tend to be candidates for hard-wiring into our brains, even as young children.  The flashes of memory might be random, incomplete, or dissociated from their settings; but the brilliance of those flashes fuse those horrors into their brains where they remain for a lifetime.

The Footloose Forester was inadvertently associated with many people who witnessed war in the distant past, the not so distant past, the recent past, and knows more than a handful who not so long ago were active witnesses or fighters, or were caught up as refugees in the realms of active warfare.  As a chronicler about real people and events, the Footloose Forester at times is reluctant to name some people who are personally close to him but who have nevertheless related things that put their own perspective on the sad past that lives in them. 

A recent visitor to our home told us that as a young girl in SE Asia, she recalls seeing the Japanese soldiers who came through her village, wielding bayonets among the populace.  She related seeing the dot of red blood in the middle of the forehead of her mother who was shot right in front of her.  She recalled these things without showing the emotion that surely scarred her for a lifetime.  As if that is not enough, she knows of military men, including one in her own family, who were wounded in wars that are not yet over.  The past was horrible but so is the present.



The left arm of a civilian who he knew in Viet Nam carries a large scar from a .50 caliber machine gun bullet, and the left arm of a career soldier who recently died was riddled with bullets in the Korean War.   The son of a survivor of the Bataan Death March told us how his father was tortured as a prisoner of war in the Philippines during World War II.  In our neighborhood, there are many wounded veterans from the Viet Nam War.  Those wars are over, but war itself is not over in the minds of those who sacrificed, suffered, and remember.

The Footloose Forester, as observer, hopes that the horrible lessons of war are not forgotten, precisely because they are horrible.  He is grateful for the convenience and the oportunities to edit and update these personal chronicles (this paragraph is an update in late 2022) because he is haunted with memories about current news of ongoing wars and is old enough to personally know many people who fought in World War II, the Korean War, and Viet Nam.  Those older people are part of his own age-group cohort and he most easily relates to their stories.  Besides, with the usual time lapse in creating and processing wartime documentaries, a good deal of biographical information has now been incorporated into such splendid TV real-life dramas such as Band of Brothers, which has a factual framework for its 10-part series.  And with revisiting the episodes that are based on historical events, the Footloose Forester can attest that he himself knows a few old soldiers who landed at Normany in 1944, who crossed the Rhine in a Sherman tank, who were shot down while on a bombing run over Frankfurt, who were prisioners of war in Stalag-14, and in Malaya, who were tortured by the Japanese, and who were survivors of the Bataan Death March.  A few flashes of reverie also include seeing bullet holes in the torso of a GI as he lay on a gurney at a field hospital in Saigon.  The memories come back, sharpen a bit, then fade...but never go away.

There are tears in my eyes as I write some of these chronicles. Too much of history is a sad reminder of man's inhumanity to man, especially in the free-for-all carnage that comes with war.  And along the way, the Footloose Forester was inadvertantly present, in passing, to acknowledge the sighting of General Mike Abrams in Viet Nam, long after seeing him standing in the turret of a Sherman tank (on documentary film) during the Battle of the Bulge in 1944.  And recalling that PT-109 was mentioned in the book Profiles in Courage that led to a deep respect for the courage of President John F. Kennedy, who visited our Army post in Germany 1963. No intention to be a name dropper here; they were duly destined to become flames of inspiration for many of the Chronicles of the Footloose Forester.        





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