We don’t need a National World War II Memorial. War memorials are only markers of failure. You disagree? Then, read on.
My credentials: I speak for the voiceless millions of brave warriors killed in battle, many of whom are buried in far-away graves. I have seen many of these brave men killed and wounded on the beachheads and battlefields from Sicily to Salerno, to Anzio, to Isle of Elba, to France.
I watched the litter bearers carry blood-stained bodies down to the beach where they were buried in shallow graves. Their rifles, with hanging dog tags capped by a helmet, served as a burial marker. There was no time for a graveside service. I thought of their families and their future shock and grief. These grim scenes will forever haunt me.
I saw an ammunition ship hit by German dive bombers explode, leaving only a scene that looked like a nuclear mushroom cloud. I watched as my own ship was bombed. I accompanied the ship’s doctor as he dispensed morphine to the wounded lying on stretchers that covered both the main deck and the tank deck.
Two of my high school classmates were killed: one over Germany and the other in the Mediterranean when his LCI (landing craft, infantry) hit a mine. On my return home I met with the latter’s family to grieve his death and celebrate his life.
If we allow the Defense Department to chart our future safety, we are foolhardy. Let’s face it. The military extablishment is, at times, without a moral compass.
Here’s a case in point. In WWII the United States and Britain felt the need to rehabilitate France after its crushing defeat by the Germans. In the Mediterranean the Germans used Elba to attack allied ships, so the Allied Command elected to “take out” Elba. The plan was for the United States to supply the ships, the British their commandos, the French their colonial troops (from Africa) with French officers.
Before the launching of the invasion, the American land forces broke through the German lines and proceeded well beyond Elba, which made it no longer strategic. Instead of canceling the invasion, the Allied Command went ahead with the invasion causing the slaughter of hundreds of French colonial troops and French officers. This was totally immoral. A simple blockade would have sufficed.
We should stop building memorials celebrating failure. It is obvious that we lack the tools for peace. The souls of our fallen warriors must be saying: “They’ve got it all wrong. Let them erect peace memorials in the form of a Peace Department and a Peace Academy to counterbalance the Defense (War) Department and the military academies.”
These brave souls would also advise our leaders to stop shouting remarks such as “Bring it on,” “We’ll chase you down and kill you” and “We don’t need a permission slip from the United Nations.”
A Peace Department and a Peace Academy can study the art and science of peacemaking and the causes of war, something a cold, hard granite memorial fails to do. What do we have to lose? If the “greatest generation” is to leave a meaningful legacy, then we must follow up by establishing a Peace Department and erecting a Peace Academy so that our fallen brothers will not have died in vain.
Otherwise, we will continue building war memorials and will run out of space on the Mall in Washington. I firmly believe that if Congress had created a Peace Department after WWII, we would not be in Iraq today. We wouldn’t be looking fearfully for mushroom clouds and wouldn’t have had to create a Department of Homeland Security. We have been reacting rather than acting.
U.S. Rep. Dennis Kucinich has filed a bill to create a Peace Department. So, I say to our senators and represenatives, we, the “greatest generation,” have done our job. Please do yours by supporting this bill and making a Peace Department a reality.
Coleman P. Gorham of Cape Elizabeth, Maine is a retired U.S. Navy officer.