Sunday, May 29, 2011
Thoughts on heroes
I have watched several documentaries concerning world war II and battles in the south pacific. The extraordinary death toll is stunning to me, the chances of surviving even one battle were slight.Amphibious landings during the pacific campaign suffered huge casualties, the water ran red with the blood of Japanese and American soldiers. Considering the facts, my father's story is uncanny...
Imagine a young man with little training, confined inside a machine marked as a huge target.The tank moves slow, draws tremendous amounts of anti-tank gun fire and exists under the constant threat of driving over anti-tank land mines. He thinks, in the back of his mind," it will be a miracle if I live through this."
Fighting was so fierce that at times enemy lines became confused to the point that American naval gunfire fell on top of American marines attempting to advance. My father told the story of one friend who crewed another tank that made it safely through a gauntlet of fire only to take a direct hit from an American destroyer off the coast, his tank totally destroyed.I can see where morale could be compromised by actions like these. Was it chance, luck or fate that a young man from east Texas would live through this?
Island secured, back to the troop ship for rest and round two, next landing and another island to conquer. All the while the Japanese can see their grip on control of the island chains slipping away. Proud , fierce fighters, the Japanese provided an environment that bordered on suicide. My father once again rolls ashore and waits for death to knock on the door. All around him he see's friends blown to bits, tanks nothing more than burned out coffins.
Once again he cheats death, once telling us years later that he couldn't understand why all of his friends died and he remained, guilt congealed. Moving from island to island the fleet steadily crushes the entrenched Japanese soldiers. Most fighting to the death, rather than surrender. Finally his journey ended on Iwo Jima , the site of one of the bloodiest battles of the war. Weary and weathered, my father completed his journey through the south pacific alive.After five amphibious landings he lived to tell the tale.
The odds of survival were astronomical, yet he came home to marry and father five children while becoming the youngest man ever elected a sheriff in the state of Texas. Dying in 1980 of lung cancer as I turned twenty years old, I think of the hardships he went through and accepted at face value.He never questioned the right or wrong.
I think of my life so far and wonder " do I appreciate what I have and try to love those around me?" I try, and I hope he looks down on me and thinks so too. I hope he knows that I am proud of him and all military men and women who have followed in his footsteps, many paying the ultimate price! I love and miss you dad.