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Thread: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

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    World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    I'm 85--born in 1935--lost an uncle in the Pacific--flying B24's--lost high school mates in Korea--lost squadron mates in Viet Nam--My main
    interests are "WW2 history and British Cars'--Mainly the Pacific war in WW2. When i was commissioned in 1958 as an Ensign, US Navy--took the oath
    of office with words --containing phrases like "defending the constitution against all enemies, both foreign and domestic"- I have always been in the
    habit of reading the local obits--4 out of 5 men (and some women)--born between about 1923 and 1927 were WW2 veterans--(Veteran's
    day was monday)

    It is not uncommon for children and grandchildren of WW2 vets to say that they weren't aware of their dad's or granddad's experience in WW2--
    Until they read their obit, by a squadron or army mate--the old vet, when questioned--would refuse to talk about it--too
    many painful memories. Many of them had nightmares for years to come--or never got over it--mental hospitals-suicide--or wondering
    on the fringe of society, never fitting in.

    What has the this to do with the title above "would I have served honorably"? When I received my "Wings" as a Naval Aviator, 1959--
    I was fully qualified and trained to fly from both Aircraft Carriers and land bases and engage the enemy, as my oath of office dictated.

    If I had received my commission and wings in 1943, I would have flown off a carrier --Battle of Leyte Gulf--Guadalcanal--Battle of
    the Philippine Sea--(otherwise known as the "Marianis (sp) Turkey Shoot" Tarawa--Iwa Jimi--Okinawa--and dozens of other lesser
    known battles only briefly mentioned in history books--would I at 24 have served honorably? I would have been the oldest pilot
    in the squadron--most pilots in WW2 were 19 to early 20's--some were even 17 and 18--lied about their age--The first
    president Bush was 19 when he was shot down in the Pacific and rescued by a US submarine--

    So, the original question "would I have served honorably? I don't know--very few of us are ever really tested for courage
    in the face of adversity--such as having to fly through anti-aircraft fire from a Japanese ship that you're trying to bomb, and kill
    as many of the sailors as you can, while trying not to remind yourself that the sailors are young men like yourself, only doing
    their duty to their country and their Emperor.

    Reading personal histories of Japanese pilots who survived the war is very interesting--some Japanese military members
    were very well educated before the war and after the war went on to rebuild their country--

    A side note---for years after WW2, there were 100's of Japanese soldiers holding out on islands in far away places. waiting to be rescued--
    The last holdout was on Guam 1967 or 68--interesting--I was flying in and out of Guam for Pan Am then and running in the hills where
    he was holdup--probably watching me--American soldiers of Japanese descent would go in to the jungle and try to tell him the war over and come out--
    He said he would surrender if his "commanding officer" ordered him to---surprisingly enough, he survived the war, located in Japan--
    flown to Guam--and ordered the holdout to come out and surrender--he came out--saluted his commanding office--and surrendered ,
    with both American and Japanese reporters in attendance----

    I often wondered what he thought about over the years back in Japan--
    Last edited by Harold; 05-29-2020 at 04:02 PM.

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Always a difficult question: what is "honor", when ordered to do something considered dishonorable. That dilemma has existed since humans first walked the earth.

    Here's more on the last Japanese to surrender, Shoichi Yokoi:

    http://www.wanpela.com/holdouts/profiles/yokoi.html

    Tom M.
    Mac & Phyllis Take a Trip: http://nutmegflyer.com/trip-details-daily-updates/
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Two very fast responses.

    1. The very fact that you ask the question means you served honourably.

    2. The relationship between honour and courage is interesting. We think about courage as a bold act in the face of adversity like bombings and so on. In reality honour and courage are tested a hundred times a day. In how we treat superiors and subordinates (not just military) how we speak of others, how we speak to others, how we behave when others aren't looking. What our moral compass is (and if we have one!) and how we are willing to follow it. The list goes on.

    So, to repeat, the asking of the question itself indicates honour, the willingness to hear the answer indicates courage.

    John-Peter Smit
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  4. The Following User Says Thank You to JPSmit For This Useful Post:

    John Turney  (05-30-2020)

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Funny thing about that. Had some WWII SubVets tell us we couldn't be real Submariners as we'd not been depth-charged. Until my buddy stood up (Flasher, SSN-613) and related being on board while mining Haiphong Harbor, and being depth charged by Russkies in aircraft.

    Like the perils of flight, you know, twin engines and you lose one on takeoff...identify, stab the rudder, lean into the good one, feather the bad one.....and need a stiff drink afterwards.

    Coming out of Naples in probably early 1974, sortie-ing to escape a monsoon, hurricane, or whatever.....and getting pooped by a rogue wave, and shoved down to 125' with bridge hatches open, three men on the bridge, saltwater everywhere....electrical equipment shutting down, keeping 8-12" of saltwater away from the battery hatch (human circle, bedding EB Green AKA green duct tape) until we got back up and pumps dropped the level....can't get to berthing to get uniform as 110VAC in the water on the deck....

    Courage comes from action, not necessarily self-preservation. Would you have served honourably? many did, a few did not. Carrier Qualified? Yeah, I think you would have. Had relatives in that conflict. usually too busy keeping their heads down and running off a magazine to think of dishonour.

    Most folks I have know or talked with from that conflict said you didn't think about yourself, just did what had to be done.
    As far as not talking about it.....many reasons. Don't want to remember the carnage, sometimes don't think it was anything special they did (heard that a LOT). Nightmares? yeah. Used to call it "shell-shocked", now PTSD. Guilt sometimes.....when you survived interaction with the enemy and others around you didn't.
    Same stuff with Krean War vets, and more specifically VietNam. We know what that was like. I ws 68-74. Honourable? Maybe. I joined, primarily due to TET Offensive and the buildup....pulling folk's 2S deferments...and I determined I wasn't going to Nam as a ground pounder. Yet I ended up in life-or-death situations for not just me but another 130 guys on boards.
    Last edited by TOC; 05-30-2020 at 05:38 PM.

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    JPSmit your response "honour and courage" was very thoughtful and well expressed--thank you!!

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Quote Originally Posted by Harold View Post
    JPSmit your response "honour and courage" was very thoughtful and well expressed--thank you!!
    You're welcome, I think honour and courage are needed in these days maybe more than ever.

    John-Peter Smit
    1976 MG Midget
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    1958 Fiat Multipla (Barn art)

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    PS May I also add that there is also honour in service and honour in serving one's country.
    John-Peter Smit
    1976 MG Midget
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    I had a good friend who flew off a carrier in WW11. Said it was the scariest thing he ever did. And after the War, he was a test pilot.

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Quote Originally Posted by JPSmit View Post
    Two very fast responses.

    1. The very fact that you ask the question means you served honourably.

    2. The relationship between honour and courage is interesting. We think about courage as a bold act in the face of adversity like bombings and so on. In reality honour and courage are tested a hundred times a day. In how we treat superiors and subordinates (not just military) how we speak of others, how we speak to others, how we behave when others aren't looking. What our moral compass is (and if we have one!) and how we are willing to follow it. The list goes on.

    So, to repeat, the asking of the question itself indicates honour, the willingness to hear the answer indicates courage.

    I've read this "essay" by jpsmit a dozen times--this is a brillant piece of writing concerning honour and courage--with much respect--I thank you!

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    X US Navy myself, born in 1938. Parachute rigger, survival gear and aircraft oxygen system specialist, ran the shop in Gitmo for a couple years. Joined in 1955 at the end of the Korean war. Ha, sent to a Blimp squadron ZP753 towing fish (Sonar) along the Atlantic coast looking for subs, that was interesting, only thing I ever knew of where one could get sea sick other than aboard ship. I really like your post, no doubt you served honorably, I wouldn't give it a second thought!
    I asked my dad once, who was a Merchant Marine in WWII, that made three trips across the Atlantic, two taking supplies to England and seeing sister ships torpedoed on the way, the third trip taking supplies to Naples Italy with a harbor full of mines. He made it safely back! I asked him about it and he said it was just a job and left it at that. He never spoke of the war again. To me, just being in the service of your country is honorable, some of us were never put in a life or death situation to know what we would do at the time, I've wondered a few times, but considered myself lucky I didn't have to. PJ

    Remember, Never Forget
    We Live In The Land of The Free
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    How good it feels, the hand of an old friend! Longfellow

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Paul - does this look familiar?

    https://www.360cities.net/image/good....50,29.60,30.0

    Tom M.
    Mac & Phyllis Take a Trip: http://nutmegflyer.com/trip-details-daily-updates/
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Oh my goodness the memories, they weren't very glamorous inside. Couldn't count how many steaks and eggs we had off one of those stoves. We couldn't fly without a cook! Our cook was our winch man! The skipper insisted on it! The only one in our crew who could cook eggs on a rolling blimp without breaking the yokes!

    Remember, Never Forget
    We Live In The Land of The Free
    Because of The Brave

    How good it feels, the hand of an old friend! Longfellow

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    I've put the question to myself many times over the years, dad was rather forthcoming with his role in WW-II, washed out of flight training due to a colorblindness issue. Decided if he couldn't shoot Germans out of the sky in a 'plane, he'd do it from the ground. Quad-fifty AA battery. Made it to the Ruhr crossing before a German 88 round came almost close enough to kill him and crew. I grew up with him and his friends as teachers and mentors. They gave me much of their war's history and their personal experiences in my youth.

    My passion throughout my youth was the pursuit of the craft of photography. Had good tutors, professionals. By the time I'd had two years of college, mostly remedial eighth-grade math, history and English, I was bored. Had worked from age 17 with local newspapers, a ma-n-pa camera store, made money with my knowledge of the craft. Joined the USAF in August of 1970, age 20. In Basic took a "By-pass Specialist Test" for photography and got what was called a "Direct Duty Assignment" to a photo squadron at Langley, Virginia. Three years spent there PCS, but TDY across the planet. Had to go through all the Aircrew qualifications to earn my Aircrew wings; water survival at Homestead, jungle in the Philippines, Arctic & E&E at Fairchild, ejection seat & altitude chamber at Langley's next-door NASA facility. Logged time in about everything in the inventory. Flew "Photo Chase" over the States and Viet Nam, saw a SAM once from the back seat of an F-4. Amazing how much a Nikon FtN weighs while in your lap at four G's! "Served honorably"? Heck, if I'd not had that duty it's likely I'd still be in Leavenworth breaking rocks! I was doing what I loved: imaging small bits out of time, for the record. The job description was: "Document the Air Force Mission". Did it well, even being chosen as one of the three USAF guys competitively judged world-wide, qualified to attend Syracuse U. Photojournalism course. Unfortunate for me there were only two slots, I was an E-4 on first enlistment, the other two were career guys.. Left service after my last year in S.E.A. (PCS Ubon, Thailand), TDY to numerous bases in Viet Nam then as well. Shot at plenty, never hit. The funny thing with all that is, I was behind a camera, viewing things almost vicariously. Never thought about honor, just did the job. Whether hanging out of an HH-53 Jolly Green on a harness, or the right seat of an OV-10, shooting film at folks shooting bullets back. Squadron motto was:" We Kill 'um with Fil-um!" Too young and stupid to consider my mortality or serving with honor or bravery. Came home to The World and got my last paycheck at Travis AFB, May 1974, walked into San Francisco airport in uniform, to be pelted with eggs and tomatoes and called a baby killer. And the war had been over for at least six months. Didn't make me feel "honorable" at all. Pi**ed me off.

    In more recent years I've told many who now say: "Thank you for your service" that a more meaningful and appreciated thing to say to Viet Nam era vets is: "Welcome home!"
    '64 MGB, '67 Lotus Elan S-3 DHC,'69 Lotus Elan +2
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Doc - a long-overdue "Welcome Home!"

    We're glad you're here.

    Tom M.
    Mac & Phyllis Take a Trip: http://nutmegflyer.com/trip-details-daily-updates/
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Thanks, Tom. I'm rather pleased to be here, myself.
    '64 MGB, '67 Lotus Elan S-3 DHC,'69 Lotus Elan +2
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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Quite a background. And now you're trying to keep a bunch of old cars running - just as nerve-wracking, but at least they don't shoot back. Let's hope we can get together again next year. I missed this year.

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    Wow, what a conversation. I remember Saving Private Ryan, and thinking so often what I might do. Near the beginning there's a guy wimpering behind one of the steel beams. i wonder what i would do. Later Tom Hanks calls some of his squad to stop some Germans and their maching gun. He calls two guys, they're shot, Hanks calls up the next two, off they go. Courgage, duty bravery, youthful ignorance? BUT they did it.

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    Re: World War 2--would I have served honorably?

    War is war. A lot of us didn't have the privledge of serving in the greatest generation, but as expressed here in other posts... Vietnam, Korea, Iraq, Afghanistan. Enemy bombs and bullets are just as deadly as they were back then. Brave soldiers, sailors, and airmen will still run toward the sound of gunfire and face the explosions for the man or women next to them. I have the utmost respect for people from WW2, and other wars as well.

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