Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

From Dad, Love amid the Silence

Newspaper article The Record (Bergen County, NJ)

From Dad, Love amid the Silence

Article excerpt

THE SON is surrounded by memories of war. Not his war. His father's war. And yet, these memories - these tiny glimpses, actually - will always and unfortunately remain fuzzy.

On this Father's Day, only days after the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion of Normandy and as the World War II generation slowly dwindles, those missing memories seem especially profound.

The son is from that generation born in the years after World War II, when millions of soldiers returned from Europe, the Pacific and all manner of other postings to try to reclaim some sense of normalcy. But what struck the son even when he was young was how little his own father talked about what took place on those far-off battlefields.

The son's generation, of course, seemed to discuss everything. It was almost as if the personal lives of everyone had become part of the public domain, with even the most inconsequential matters of life taking on a magnified status.

This is not such a bad thing. Telling one's own story can sometimes help others, or at least offer that small spark of energy to unleash someone else's memories.

But why didn't all those old soldiers tell more?

The son recently visited the Normandy beaches with his wife and a group of friends, most of them from his post-war, Baby Boom generation. And while sitting around hotels or riding buses, the conversations sometimes turned to the memories of their own fathers and what they experienced during the war.

Like the son, so many others remembered their own fathers saying very little.

Maybe the experiences were deeply horrific and gruesome. Perhaps the losses were too great - so many friends killed so brutally. Whatever the reason, it is a common legacy of the World War II generation that they came home and did not say much to the Baby Boom generation about what took place.

The son's own father served in the Marines. Dad talked about Guadalcanal and New Britain and Peleliu, but only briefly, as if they were mere rest stops on a much longer journey. Of course, they were not. Each was a horrific experience, with Peleliu as a terrible precursor to Iwo Jima. But Dad never discussed any of this.

There was an old and faded black-and-white photograph of Marine legend Lewis "Chesty" Puller pinning a Silver Star on Dad's uniform. Dad was only 20 at the time. In the photograph, he seemed dazed and worn out as he stood at attention in a field rimmed with coconut palm trees.

Once, Dad briefly said that a good friend had been killed - a Marine named Campbell. He mentioned occasionally that he carried a shotgun in the jungle because the fighting was so close. And a few times, Dad remarked how he had caught malaria and hated to eat rice in later years because it reminded him of the bug-infested rice the Marines on Guadalcanal had been forced to eat after their supply ships were delayed. …

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