Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Thoughts from the left field...

So taking a quick break from pregnancy madness...

Yes, I'm still pregnant.  Please stop asking me that!

I'm at 37 weeks.

Why, thank you, I also think I'm huge.

No, it's not twins.

Yes, I'm aware I could go 2 weeks over.

Thanks for pointing out that I look amazing.  Though your shock that I'm still pregnant kinda takes the joy out of your observation.  Can we talk about something else now?  'K thanks.

One of my favorite "movies" is actually the mini-series "Band of Brothers."  I have a mild to medium sized obsession with the European theatre of war in WWII and I don't know if you remember me talking about it a bit WAAAAAY back in 2009 in this post, which I just re-read and found very funny, if I do say so m'self, so if you want to wander off and give it a good read, just go on ahead and then come back.    Or not.  No pressure.

Anywaaaaay, DR1 is showing "The Pacific" right now.  It's not as good as "Band of Brothers" which is more documentary feeling and includes interviews with the guys who really had been there and done that, but it's good for showing how freaking awful the Pacific theatre of war really was.  And seriously, it was AWFUL.  Why we decided to go back to fight in the tropics two more times in the twentieth century is beyond me...  'Course now it's the "in" thing to be fighting in the desert.  Can we swap to arctic battles, a la Hoth for a while, just to mix it up some?  It would give our submarine captains something to do, at any rate.

Both of my grandfathers served in the Pacific.  As far as I know, neither were in Guadalcanal or Midway or Iwo Jima.  But neither really talked about their experiences very much and we kids were not encouraged to ask either.  Now it's too late because they've both passed away... but I also don't think I'd feel comfortable asking them about something that might have been repressed for a reason.  Towards the end, one of my grandfathers did randomly start telling stories about the war, about arresting Japanese soldiers hidden in caves, but it was all a bit garbled, Gramps being a bit off by that stage.

But the point being, I had relatives that served.  (My dad, for the record, was drafted but got a medical discharge, for which we are all eternally grateful.  My dad and Vietnam would just not have got on well, I'm sure of it.)  And so I asked my DB what his grandparents were doing, you know, while living under the Nazi thumb and all.

The answer: nothing.  Just doing their thing.  Making shoes and whatever the other one did (totally blanked on that one, my bad).  And I had a bit of a mind-boggle.  For the record: there were Danes who sabotaged the train tracks and kept goods from supplying the German army, who made their way to England to volunteer for the war, who smuggled Jews to Sweden, who resisted in various ways - who were right and proper heroes.  But there were far more who didn't really do anything other than what they had been doing before the war.  Only now with more Nazis.

Back to the mind-boggle.

Part of my historical narrative or what-have-you growing up was that Europe totally sucked in WWII and we Americans had to come in and pull everyone's butts out of the fire.  But then you "get educated" and learn that really, America helped a great deal, but we should downplay that bit and spend some time pointing out the plucky Brits, daring French, and stalwart Belgians who were a huge part of the victory.   Oh, and we should sort of tip our hats to the Russians, but only after pointing out that Stalin was a big dick and we hate him lots, the commie bastard, but thanks for distracting Hitler even if it meant shooting your own people IN THE BACK, jerk.  And now it's a full pendulum swing back again - my grandparents were getting shot at so yours could MAKE SHOES??  *boggle*

The DB is mighty embarrassed, to tell the truth.  We had a good long discussion about the role of the military in DK and how it is perceived by the average Dane (an embarrassment and something only homicidal freaks do).  My husband was one of the "lucky" few to get drafted and he hated his boot camp and opted for the civil service as fast as he could.  Strangely enough, it's all the American war dramas he's watched that have given him a different view of the military in Denmark.  (Lord knows his boot camp was a PR disaster.  He was trained "in case someone invaded Denmark."  Who's going to invade Denmark, the DB asked.  "Never you mind!" shouted the drill sergeant, "now go crawl in the mud with your out-dated rifle!")  He's still pretty embarrassed by the Danish Military Might, it's small and managed to get involved in the wrong wars, but now he sees it more as a tool that can be used for good, if the higher ups weren't a bunch of asshats.  He wonders what he would have done if he'd lived in Denmark in WWII.  He also wonders what it would be like to live somewhere were the military is a source of nationalist (although my conservative friends would prefer me to say "patriotic") pride and what would it be like to have all of your friends signing up to go off to war.  (He'd like to think that he would have resist if he lived in DK, but isn't sure he'd have known what to do, but is fairly confident he would have signed up with his friends if he'd lived in the US.)

Me, I have a hard time imagining what it would be like to *not* have seen pictures of my grandfathers in uniform.  Just about everyone I know from the US had at least one relative who has served in one war (or "armed conflict") or another.  My hometown newspaper covers deployments, medals, and graduations of "local" troops.  Conversely, I imagine that it was a lot easier in Denmark to protest the war in Afghanistan and Iraq than it was in the US (to all those assholes who rolled down their windows to yell at us to get behind the Commander and Chief, I just wanna say I TOLD YOU SO! *pbth*).  Yeah, you should have tried to be a pacifist in New England after 9/11 - that was not exactly easy, y'all.  So glad that thousands of people had to die before I was proved right.  *Sigh*

Like many Americans, I'm torn between the support I have for the men and women who voluntarily sign up to put their lives on the line for a noble concept and the disgust I have for the men and women who send those brave souls into pointless conflicts.  I'm as proud of my grandfathers and their generation for going to war as I am of those who fought to bring our troops home from Vietnam.  I will carry placards and partake in sit-ins to promote peace, but I will totally blow your fucking head off if you lay a hand on my family.

It's not Veterans Day, or Memorial Day, or the 5th of May (Denmark's liberation day) - but go on, hug a veteran.  You know you want to.

8 comments:

  1. I was stationed on Okinawa for three years, and we saw the Okinawa episode of The Pacific last week. My first thought was, "There's now way this was filmed on Oki," followed very quickly by the realization there's no way they could film it there...the island was decimated. The entire southern portion of the island was obliterated by the fighting, and the death toll... God, the death toll was tremendous. I think the show got that point across very well.

    The Okinawans have done something very beautiful to remember the battle and the war. They've created a Peace Prayer Park on the southern tip of the island. From the flame near the cliff's edge there are wall segments (like an amphitheater is the best way to describe them) extending out and back into the island. They've inscribed the name of every known person who was lost during the battle: Okinawan, Japanese, American, British, Australian, Korean...it just goes on and on. It is by far one of the most powerful places I've ever been.

    Anyway, that was a lot of reminiscing triggered by your mention of the Pacific.

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  2. We've had military people in my family over the years, usually Navy. Right now, it's a nephew in the Marines who's just been deployed (shout out to the 13th meu!) I also support the people in the forces, but the people who decide where they go and do? Those people need to be bitch slapped around the room then sent to bed without supper. I was glad to hear that hubs' grandfather was in the Resistance here, being a pain in the butt to the Nazis and helping to fight them.

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  3. One mustn't forget there was a very large number of Danes who rushed off to join the SS. They tend to downplay that bit, for some reason.

    But yeah, good for the Resistance! What's funny is I once read a description of how Danes resisted the Occupation, and it basically involved them being emotional zombies and utterly unhelpful. As opposed to nowadays. Ha!

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  4. My cousin, the biological one that I've met all of once, is stationed in Japan right now, but spent a fair bit of time in the Gulf over the last decade. And then, of course, all of my grandfathers, biological and real, were either in the second World War or Korea, so yeah, it's hard to not support the military.

    That said, just because I support the men and women and their families who choose to fight and be ready to fight should the need arise, like you I hate seeing that sacrifice wasted on something it's not meant for. Blood sacrifice should only come when there is no other alternative.

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  5. Heh, I had originally written a looong reply to this, but naah...just want to say that it is important to consider the size difference between Nazi Germany and Denmark. Today the Germans outnumber the Danes 15 to 1, and the numbers probably weren't that different in 1940. Not to mention that Denmark is flat and open, which makes it easy to invade.

    Yes, it would have been more noble to have fought to the bitter end and suffered horribly, but surrendering was the logical thing to do. Had they not, then the original 6 hour battle would have likely lasted just a few more hours, but resulting in a staggering amount of civilian deaths.

    There was a fight, but it was like a mouse singlehandedly trying to stop an elephant.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Weser%C3%BCbung

    As for my own family, I believe one of my great uncles was in the resistance, the rest were more brawling lignite diggers.

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  6. Anonymous6:59 PM

    Denmark did a little more than make shoes ... they also made guns, not to mention all the pork that fed (literally) the German war machine. Sure, there was a resistance but it only really started in 1943 after three years of "samarbejds" policy (just like Vichey France) and a couple of decisive victories by the Allies that pointed to Germany losing the war.

    As Heidi points out, lots joined the SS and there was a Brigade strength military force fighting alongside the Germans on the Eastern front. This is something seemingly missed in the war time accounts ...

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  7. But saving almost all of Danish Jewry (over 7,000) was something Danes should be proud of.
    We thank the brave men in their boats:
    http://jerusalemhillsdailyphoto.blogspot.com/2008/04/denmark-square.html

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Keep it clean, don't be mean....