Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Guest Post: What A Difference!

What A Difference!
Colonel Donald J. Myers USMC (Ret.)

During the memorial day weekend, a couple of the cable networks showed an array of war movies one after another. It was fascinating to watch how the United States military was depicted at different times. What was more fascinating was the number of stars during World War II who volunteered to serve in the military with many of them risking their lives in combat roles. Clark Gable and Jimmy Stewart immediately come to mind while flying bombers in Europe. Several went into the Marines to include Lee Marvin who was wounded on one of the islands and Tyrone Power who was a marine pilot. Humphrey Bogart served in World War I and tried to enlist in WWII, but was refused because of his age. Audie Murphy was the most decorated soldier and Neville Brand was the fifth most decorated in WWII. To see an entire list go to "Actors in WWII" and you will be amazed at the names and more so with the numbers.

Many of the stars who did not serve actively, participated in bond drives or entertained the troops overseas. Bob Hope continued doing that almost until he died. These shows were well appreciated by the troops. Sad to say, but I never had the opportunity to see any of these shows during my many tours overseas to include combat.

The movies themselves sent a message to the audiences throughout WWII and into the fifties. That message was patriotism and support for the American servicemen. In many instances, the enemy was depicted in a very biased nature, but remember we were fighting for our survival and early on, the outcome was in doubt.

Starting in the 60's, the mood changed and many movies depicted the military in a negative manner. The movie "Platoon" showed every negative aspect of the Vietnam War and presented all these negative aspects in one platoon as if that was the norm. Nothing could be further from the truth. The troops who served in Vietnam served with distinction and did their nation proud. I continue to correspond and meet with many of those troops that I served with in Vietnam and with very few exceptions they all did very well for themselves since that time. The media and our education system continues to paint a false picture of those veterans. The first time that I taught a course on Vietnam, it was held in a high school classroom. The current history book was in the room so I checked to see what it had to say about the Vietnam War. Remember, this was the longest and most divisive war in our history at that time (1995) and there were two paragraphs about it. One would have thought that President Nixon had started it.

The only positive movie during that time was "The Green Berets" and it was panned by the media. Years later "We Were Soldiers" was released and it showed the Army in a positive light and was quite reliable in following the book, "We Were Soldiers Once and Young."

We had over 11 million people serving in the military during WWII and according to the government, there are only about one million vets surviving. Vietnam is the most populous group of vets and they also are dying off at a rapid pace. War is a terrible thing, but there are not many years throughout history when war was not being waged in some part of the world. There always seems to be someone or some country that wants something that another individual or country has. Some people are just born evil. It's nice to think that if one treats others well that it always will be treated well in return. Unfortunately, that has proven not to be true. It is better to be nice and treat others according to the "Golden Rule" but be prepared to act if the response is not positive.

Donald J. Myers, a retired colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps, is a regular columnist for Hernando Today. He lives in Spring Hill and can be contacted at dmyersusmc@aol.com.

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