March 9, 2015

The Hard Men: "These guys were by no means exceptional or heavy-duty. They were just regular fellas"


"Called "The Greatest Generation" and for good reason.

"What all these fellas had in common was morals, sense of community, honor, strength, the good old virtues. They vibed calm, deadly if necessary; do the right thing always, no speaking falsely, word is my bond. No showboating or colorful language tossed around just to hear themselves talk, no hey look at me how important I am sort of conduct.

"The Polack that ran the junkyard, he still dressed like a Polack even though he came home from the Pacific with a sack full of ears and a face full of shrapnel. "Wat? Wat? I went dere. I done some tings, I come home. Dat's it."

"These guys were by no means exceptional or heavy-duty. They were just regular fellas, living life and doing things the right way, same as all over the country, men of that generation, Americans to their last breath. What they didn’t do was talk like some kinda punks that had paper assholes. They didn’t have to. They knew their strength and were secure with it.


"Do you think them guys back in the 30s, they worried about the cultural mix? As if what was happening in some yocky-dock country in the Balkans - ooh, the Muslims are this, the commies are that - as if that was gonna affect them having a roof over their heads and food on the table for their families?


"If you didn't work you didn't eat. That's pretty basic. Didn't have to think about injustices to migrant workers or whether women were getting paid the same or whether queers could get married. They weren't reluctant about calling some folks deadbeats, moochers, parasites, like, gee, it's gonna hurt their feelings. People back then (including the women folk who were a hell of a lot stronger than the men sometimes) people had some clear understanding of morals, civic duty, work together-ness."

Posted by: chasmatic commenting on The Top 40: "Hot dog . . .this will bust ‘em wide open. Shove everything you can across!" -- Gen. Omar Bradley


Posted by gerardvanderleun at March 9, 2015 2:57 AM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

I wonder if those guys had been older and been through Anzio, how they'd have gotten off those boats and on to the beach?

No one was sure the landings would succeed.

Posted by: Vermont Woodchuck at March 9, 2015 8:16 AM

Well presented; well written. All true and it's possible to see the whole in individual stories, like the one about the bridge at Remagen. Or the guy jumping on the flaming fuel tank on the carrier deck.

There are millions of stories like that, like my dad's first night in combat. He slept inside an ancient house in the north Apennines, up against an exterior wall. Winter time. He slept like a baby all night, then went outside in the morning and noted that an artillery shell had hit the wall outside directly opposite of where he'd slept.

Try that, Metro Sexual men.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at March 9, 2015 8:36 AM

When you cut it all the way across the middle like Chas did and then look at the revealed end grain the view is pretty stark. In less than 80 years it went from prime rib to road kill right before your very eyes. This is national cancer, killed from the inside out, from the top down. Mourn as you see fit.

Posted by: ghostsniper at March 9, 2015 12:02 PM

That old soldier picture has been shopped and over saturated, you can see the original here:

Posted by: ghostsniper at March 9, 2015 12:25 PM

So how did their offspring fall off the rails? The one thing that they failed to do was pass their values on to their children. Baby boomers (my generation). The cohort of protesting, wacko, dopers. Lazy, inarticulate, pansies. Perverse, promiscuous, disease infested. More spankings all around.

Posted by: Larry Geiger at March 9, 2015 1:10 PM

I dont agree LG, I think they passed it on but us, the sons of the greatest generation didn't pass it on!

Posted by: mhf at March 9, 2015 1:29 PM

Yeah mhf. I was at the tail end of the greatest generation, a couple of years too young to be in WW2. My kids did OK. Their kids went off in all directions value-wise, mostly to their detriment. I have one grandson who seems to have inherited our family values, to coin a phrase.

Posted by: BillH at March 9, 2015 2:14 PM

You can blame the parents in part, but there is a tremendous pressure and even requirement to conform to the established notion. Notice I didn't say plan because I don't believe there is one. I believe there is unbelievable incompetency at all levels, extreme laziness, and the ability to spend more money than is possessed, and cruelty on a level this world has never known. It's impossible to traverse that field and not be scarred in some manner.

Posted by: ghostsniper at March 9, 2015 2:48 PM

Most of those guys in the photo didn't, but the captions are correct. Their elders voted for Roosevelt and his "Four Freedoms". Think of the glorious progress from that day to this: Freedom from Want (the fat lady with the free iPhone and subprime car loan, when in the 30's and 40's nobody was fat); and Freedom from Fear (somebody else will pay all your doctor bills so you can live to be 100 too).

Posted by: John A. Fleming at March 9, 2015 4:19 PM

Interesting that you should post this. I spent the better part of a day watching this Youtube channel, The Medal Of Honor Book. Although I was not around for Korea or WWII, I remember how shabbily Vietnam vets were treated in comparison. Growing up I had Uncles in both previous wars, and neighbors who served in WWI. All were regarded with dignity, people would say in hushed tones "he was in the war" or "he was in the first war" juxtapose that with guys coming home on a domestic flight via Germany, in civvies so he wouldn't get picked out by the hope n'changers. Watch these videos, these guys are just the best.

Posted by: Will at March 9, 2015 6:18 PM

Very true @ the Vietnam generation of veterans. A great group of Americans, given the royal shaft by their countrymen. To this day I brook NO negative voices about our army vets.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at March 9, 2015 8:31 PM

Sorry, Gerard. My double posts seem to happen no matter whether the preview button appears or the post button is used directly. I can't figure it out. Not my fault :)

Posted by: Casey Klahn at March 9, 2015 8:34 PM

Gents, it was not their American-ness, it was their war experience.

My German father and uncles had the same air of quiet competence and discipline, unlike my younger German cousins.

After the war and service in the Reichsmarine, where his ship had a short and unsuccessful discussion with a British cruiser, my dad came to Canada in 1951. He wound up hanging about with ex-service men from the UK, Canada, the USA and many of the countries of Western Europe. They all had it. That idea that they could and would handle anything.

Also, they all were able to say 'fucking civilians' in multiple languages.

Posted by: Fred Z at March 10, 2015 6:20 AM

My compliments, Fred Z. My heritage is German, but my father's generation fought for America in WW II. Your father was a brave man, but I do beg to differ with you concerning the character of the service of Americans vs Germans in the war.

Let me ask this question, please. Is courage a moral quality?

Posted by: Casey Klahn at March 10, 2015 10:20 AM

"... the same air of quiet competence and discipline ..." good point Fred. Military service attracted the stand up guys and service in any of the regular armed forces refined the traits. This could be seen in any country's armed forces.
disclaimer: psychos and other whackos were directed into more specialized endeavors and they made the regular guys a bit nervous. Fortunately their lifespans were shorter.

Casey, I submit that courage is a moral quality. Where it gets a bit sticky is when looking at the cause for which the courage is displayed. None of the soldiers drafted or enlisted did much analysis of the leaders' motives, they just served. The option of service for Germans was the army or the concentration camps, not as guards. I have heard anecdotes about virtues displayed at the field level where one soldier did something good for a fellow soldier. Didn't Gerard post a story a few months ago about a German pilot that guided an RAF flier toward home?

In this comparison of German to American men (and women) we can see the good traits of citizens, parents, neighbors, any who answered the call to their country.
In German or English it's like these guys said "well, my country needs me, I'm gonna do the right thing" and after the war they came back to civilian life and got on as "normal" as they could. Fred, I worked in Canada for a few years and had occasion to work with some ex-patriot Germans. They were like any of the other immigrants to Canada, good people that wanted to work hard and have a good life.

"... They all had it. That idea that they could and would handle anything ..." which virtues contributed to countries depleted by war. Look at the boom years after WWII: United States, Germany, Japan all made outstanding comebacks to dominate commerce, space, technology, so forth, for the ensuing decades.

Posted by: chasmatic at March 10, 2015 11:35 AM

I forgot this thought:

What we are talking about here is the morals, character, virtues of citizens back in a time when such traits were simply exhibited.
No big deal. Leave the front door unlocked, the keys in the car at the curb.

That time frame, from the decades leading up to it will never be seen again in this country.
I'm not able to explain why but I can mourn the passing of those traits.
I can live my life at the same level of virtue as best I can but those values are going, going ...

Posted by: chasmatic at March 10, 2015 11:44 AM

I should have mentioned that my dad was drafted.

One day he was a freighter engine room apprentice for what is now HAPAG-Lloyd, the next day he was in the German navy, with his freighter having been given a deck gun, a Reichsmarine flag and a load of torpedoes.

As for the character of the men, I wasn't writing of that, just their toughness and competence. There were some pretty foul men in the German forces and no doubt that the allies were morally the best of the best.

One of my uncles (by marriage thankfully) was a Waffen SS corporal. He's over 90 now, a bad bastard then and maybe still. Even now, no-one sane would screw with him, and anyone seeing him for 30 seconds would know not to screw with him. He oozes toughness and competence still.

Posted by: Fred Z at March 10, 2015 6:29 PM


Suckered into FDR's war of choice for the sole purpose of emerging as a playah at the table for benefit of the fed & league of nations/UN/CFR; the hapless souls enlisted & drafted are remembered as jes' doin' what come natural?

Do you believe people are really that stupid?

(cue the John Phillips Souza marching band, flutter the national rag, child reciting pledge of fealty, patriotic jingo/chant/slogan)

Posted by: itor at March 10, 2015 7:27 PM

itor, you talk like a sausage.

Posted by: chasmatic at March 10, 2015 8:23 PM

Fred Z: I respect you for your candor! The SS uncle: good story. I had a landlord who owned a house become winery, and he was a Luftwaffe pilot - Russian Front. Jerk of large proportions.

The WW II vets I have associated with were pleased to honor their past enemies because of the respect of combat experience. I recall seeing some Ted. films of their guys in Italy, and they were consummate professional soldiers. You can see it in the way they knew exactly where your head and eyes go at a berm or parapet.

Take care.

Posted by: Casey Klahn at March 11, 2015 5:54 AM

itor has a point, chas. He may be a troll from hell, or not, I don't know. But staying out of the war was a very big and very popular issue in at the time. FDR lied (when did he not?) about his intentions or he would not have been re-elected in 1940. All the time he was working to involve the USA. Then had to make the Why We Fight movies in 1943 because even then not enough people were sufficiently motivated.

Do you ever look at Europe now and wonder if in fact Europe would not be so far along the road to extinction had America let them reap the full harvest of the Treaty of Versailles? And we are closing on that demographic and cultural gap fast.

Posted by: james wilson at March 11, 2015 12:42 PM

"Why of course the people don't want war.
Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece?
Naturally the common people don't want war; neither in Russia, nor in England, nor in America, nor in Germany. That is understood.
But after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship.
Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders.
That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.
It works the same in any country.” Goering

Posted by: chasmatic at March 11, 2015 1:54 PM

Chas, that's why my daddy never trusted "anybody" . I never understood why

Posted by: Mhf at March 11, 2015 7:41 PM