David Bruce: Anecdotes About War

When Hugh Troy was inducted into the Air Corps, he was asked if he had any special skills so they could be punched into a MOS (Military Operation Specialty) card that would label him with those skills forever. The card would determine his military training and military job. The man asking him questions was interrupted and had to leave to answer a telephone call, so Mr. Troy used the time to punch eight holes at random in his MOS card. As a result of those random punches, Mr. Troy was classified as a demolition expert! During World War II, he performed his job well, teaching soldiers how to find and defuse booby traps.

All too often, money is spent on the military rather than on the people. After Sultan ’Ala’u-’d Din had spent much money fortifying Qonya, he invited Sufi master Baha Veled to view the fortifications. The Sufi master was not impressed, telling the Sultan that the fortifications were a good defense against enemy horsemen, but were no defense at all against the moans of oppressed people. Baha Veled then advised Sultan ’Ala’u-’d Din: “Strive to acquire the blessings of thy subjects. These are a stronghold, compared to which the walls and turrets of the strongest castles are as nothing.”

From the Vietnam War is a famous photograph of a naked nine-year-old girl running from a village that has been bombed — she was burned badly by the flames. Today, Kim Phuc is a woman who still has nightmares about the bombing. She says, “Even when I see the picture I can’t imagine why they did it to children, to innocent people. The children didn’t do anything. Why did they have to suffer? The war happened, but in the past. I want to say to the pilot, ‘We have to love each other.’ I can forgive.”

Quakers tend to be pacifists. In 1854, Eli Jones, who was a Quaker, was appointed Major General of a division of Maine militia as a joke. Mr. Jones responded that if he were to accept the position of Major General, he would “give such orders as I think best. The first would be, ‘Ground Arms!’ The second would be, ‘Right about face! Go, beat your swords into ploughshares and your spears into pruning-hooks, and learn war no more!”

Soviet gymnast Olga Korbut won several medals at the 1972 Olympic Games in Munich and won the hearts of fans worldwide. Her father, Valentin, was only 15 when Nazi soldiers came into the village he lived in near Kalinkovich in Belorussia. Despite his age, he participated in some of the ambushes the Soviets laid against the Nazis, and he helped set up mines that destroyed Nazi trains and motor vehicles.

Many soldiers in South Vietnam were killed by North Vietnamese snipers. While in Vietnam, Colin Powell suggested to Captain Vo Cong Hieu that his soldiers wear bulletproof vests, but Captain Hieu wasn’t convinced that they would help. But on patrol a soldier wearing a bulletproof vest was hit by a sniper’s bullet that knocked him down. The man stood up, and Mr. Powell removed the flattened bullet from the vest and showed it to the other soldiers. After that vivid demonstration, more soldiers began to wear bulletproof vests.

Opera singer Maria Callas’ Uncle Filon was a saboteur for the Greeks during World War II. He worked as an engineer at an air base for the Nazis, and he managed to destroy nine German airplanes by putting sugar in their gas tanks. The Nazis discovered what he was doing, so he had to flee for his life. After the war, he was killed by the Communists who tried to take over Greece.

While serving in the Romanian army as required by law, world-class women’s gymnastics coach Bela Karolyi was given the task of hauling around a huge, heavy machine gun mounted on wheels. This was tiring work and after hauling the machine up a hill, Mr. Karolyi decided to ride the machine gun down the hill. He climbed up on it, rode it down, and nearly ran over his commanding officer.

During the Vietnam War, Arthur Ashe played some tennis in Saigon for the American troops. He was plenty nervous about being in a war zone, and when he heard some artillery, he dropped to the ground. However, the soldiers simply laughed and told him, “That’s outgoing artillery. You’ve got to learn to distinguish between the outgoing and the incoming.”

While actor Ralph Richardson was in military service during World War II, he sometimes had to handle very heavy books. The books contained secret information and were covered in lead so they could be sunk into the sea if need be — unfortunately, the books were located at Eastleigh, which is not on the ocean.

Ernest Thesiger, an actor, enjoyed needlework, and during World War I he was popular with the other soldiers, who enjoyed seeing him sitting in the trenches, his hands busy with his needlework. He was a good soldier, and after the war he did his needlework with hands that were scarred from shrapnel.

Phocion was against war. When the politician Hyperides asked when he would advocate war, Phocion replied, “When I see our young men volunteering for military service, our millionaires contributing to the war effort, and our politicians keeping their hands off the public money.”

Comedian Michael Preminger found a unique way of avoiding the draft for the Vietnam War. While Mr. Preminger was in the reserves, a sergeant got on his case about his long hair, so Mr. Preminger hit the sergeant and knocked him down.

In World War II, the troops of General Joe Stilwell were driven back by Japanese troops in Burma. When General Stilwell heard that the defeat was being described as a “tactical retreat,” he said firmly, “I claim that we took a hell of a beating.”

Lieder singer Lotte Lehmann sang in Cuba shortly after the revolution. A notable feature of her bedroom at the Grande Hotel Nazionale was that it had a gaping hole as a result of a shell fired in the revolution.

“War is the killing of human beings. Who can even think that it could ever be ‘just’?” — Mother Teresa.

By David Bruce (War) © 2015, David Bruce, All Rights Reserved

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