Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wife Rule #155: Thanks

Okay, this is not really a Wife Rule. But I don't ever post on my other blog and thus I'm sure no one reads it, and I think these thoughts are really worth reading. So I'm posting them here.

For Memorial Day I want to share a brief presentation I prepared for my daughter's 5th grade class about my grandfather's service in World War II. It is a few of my explanatory words mixed in with some excerpts from his autobiography (whose pages I hastily photographed since I could not get an acceptable scan due to the way the book was bound). I hope you find this as interesting as I did, and that it serves to remind us why we celebrate Memorial Day and honor those who served our country.

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My Grandfather served in World War II as a chaplain in the Army. A chaplain is a representative from a church who serves in the Army to provide religious support for the soldiers. My grandfather served in the Army for many years and was a full Colonel when he retired-only one rank lower than a general, the highest rank in the Army. He was in charge of all the chaplains in his division, which had several thousand soldiers in it. He was one of the first three Mormon chaplains in the U.S. Army.

As a chaplain, he was not a fighting soldier-he wasn't supposed to have a gun, although he learned to keep one on hand, since, as he said, the enemy didn't seem to care that he wasn't a fighting soldier-they would shoot at him with or without a gun.

Even though he belonged to a specific religion, he served soldiers from many different religions-that's how chaplains often worked. He conducted Sunday worship services, held funerals, and provided counseling for the soldiers wherever they went. He served with his division of solders through several different battle campaigns in World War II. He served in the Pacific War, starting in Alaska, then down in many of the islands of the South Pacific, and ending up in Okinawa, Japan. Most of the enemy he fought were Japanese.

My grandpa recorded many stories from his service in World War II in an autobiography he wrote when I was a young boy. I'll read some of his own words about his first assignment after the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor and forced the United States into the war.

"Tokyo Rose" was the name given to several Japanese women, who would do radio broadcasts in English, and tell about the American army's plans. They did this on purpose, so that the Americans would know the Japanese knew about their plans and feel discouraged and lose hope of a surprise attack. This is called Propaganda-the art of using words as a weapon in a war to influence what people thought and how people felt. It worked well. Back to my grandpa's story:

Propaganda was also used by the Americans on the Americans. Here's an example my Grandpa wrote about:

Attu is an island on the far end of the Aleutian island chain that comes off of Alaska. It is very cold there-the ground is rock and tundra. My grandpa describes the first battle as the Americans reached the island:

They had been training to fight in Africa, and their assignment was changed to Alaska at the last minute.

So despite their best preparations, things don't usually go according to plan in a war. Here's another example of a problem they had:

As the division chaplain, one of my grandpa's duties was to arrange for burial and hold funeral services. Here's what he said about this as the Battle of Attu continued.

A chaplain's work is not only for the soldiers, but also for their families. My grandpa wrote hundreds of letters to the "next of kin," or the surviving family of soldiers who were killed.

Even though Chaplains were not fighting soldiers, they performed a very important service and many were true heroes. My grandpa wrote about one chaplain he knew who was given a medal for his heroic efforts to help the soldiers he served:

Sometimes in war we think that all of our enemies are evil and deserve death. After all, the U.S. army used propaganda to try to make the American soldiers believe this and hate the Japanese enemy. Yet, there were times even during battle, when they were reminded that we are all part of the human family and what a shame it is that we were fighting each other. Here's an example:

Realizing that we are not all that different from our enemies can help us reach out in kindness like the chaplain who made the effort to return the book to the soldier's father. The Japanese and Americans have been able to forgive each other and are no longer enemies, but have been close friends and allies since World War II.

Here is my grandpa's summary of the total casualties in the battle of Attu:

Finally, as an illustration of why our brave soldiers fight in wars in the first place, here is a story from my Grandpa's time he served during the battle at Kwajalein, a tiny island in the South Pacific:

He goes on to explain that the battle lasted five days and they killed 5000 enemy soldiers, losing 150 Americans in the fight. This battle destroyed many of the homes of the natives people living on Kwajalein.

Our brave soldiers fight for freedom-not just for our freedom, but for the freedom of good people all over the world. They fight for the freedom to worship as we choose, the freedom to work, the freedom to play, the freedom to marry and have families, and the freedom to live in peace. I am proud to have relatives who served our country in World War II.

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