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Conservatives &Culture wars Richard Falknor on 24 May 2009 12:52 pm

To Keep Faith, We Must Teach Our History

Last year on Memorial Day weekend, we wrote about a June 2001 New Criterion article entitled “Melancholy facts” (subscription only) by James Bowman.  He deplored what he saw as the practice of the New York Times (presumably setting the standard for other publications) of devoting lesser space to the obituaries of World War II veterans compared to the British press.  – –

Are there so many fewer American military men than British? Are American soldiers less brave or less interesting? Do they have fewer good stories to be told about them? I doubt it. But their feats of valor are not even a footnote to the rough draft of history that The New York Times is writing. You might almost think that the ruling classes of ‘the world’s only remaining superpower’ and undisputed world hegemon had lost their appetite for tales of military glory. But then perhaps the future readers of the historical draft of our century will have come to think of warfare and all that pertains to it as mere relics of man’s primitive past—as do (one suspects) the editors of The New York Times.” (Underscoring Forum’s.)

Celebrating Heroes in the Major Media

Even during the United Kingdom’s current cultural meltdown, a major metropolitan publication, the Telegraph, manages to write interestingly and accurately about so many U. K. patriots whose lives were very much also part of the national or Commonwealth texture . In the U.K., patriots’ military achievements are apparently not excluded from elite-media recognition at the end of their lives.

Here are a few current examples (links added by Forum) from the Telegraph – –

Captain Terry Herrick, who has died aged 97, was one of five brothers who fought in the Second World War, and won two of their many medals for gallantry.”
. . . . .

“Terrence Desmond Herrick, a third generation New Zealander, was born at Napier, North Island, on November 12 1911. He was educated at Havelock North and Wanganui schools before winning the Governor-General’s nomination to Dartmouth in 1925.”
. . . . .
“Terry Herrick was one of five brothers who rallied to the colours and won a hatful of medals. Three were killed in action with the RAF: Brian was lost flying with Coastal Command over the English Channel; Dennis won the George Medal but was shot down over Brittany; Mike, who was awarded the DFC and Bar, was shot down in the Pacific. Terry and Larry, who won the DSC while commanding the submarine Uproar, were the survivors.”
. . . . .
“For the past 25 years he had been living in Wairarapa, helping his sons on their farms. In 1997 he published an autobiography, Into the Blue.”


“Graham Pilcher, who has died aged 92, was a leading light in Dundee’s textile industry, latterly with Sidlaw Industries Ltd, and was awarded the Military Cross in the Netherlands in 1944 while serving with the Black Watch.
. . . . .
On October 25 1944, the battalion crossed the River Dommel near the village of Esch, south of Hertogenbosch, to expand the bridgehead. Pilcher’s company came under heavy mortar and Spandau fire at close range and was pinned down in flat, open country.

Any movement out of the cover of the ditches drew fire, and men were being picked off by snipers. Pilcher realised that the situation was critical and ran across the open ground to his forward units.

Despite coming under intense fire, he organised and led a determined assault on the enemy who were dug in on the main road 200 yards away. Two enemy machine-gun posts were wiped out and several enemy killed and captured.

The sniping continued and Pilcher crossed and recrossed the bullet-swept ground consolidating his defensive positions. He was awarded an immediate MC and was decorated by Field Marshal Montgomery.”

* * * 

“Captain Bill Bellamy, who died on March 18 aged 85, was the author of a classic account of a naïve young tank commander’s introduction to campaigning in North West Europe.”
. . . . .
“On October 22 Bellamy earned an immediate MC at the village of Doornhoek in southern Holland while advancing as part of a screen for infantry. His book, Troop Leader (2005), recounts how he led his men through trees to find the enemy firing from three cottages so that machine-gun bullets pinged on his tank and sprayed his face with particles of molten lead. A jerry can of petrol spilt. His bedding caught fire. He narrowly avoided running his tank over a Teller mine.

Bellamy’s citation explains that for three hours until the infantry arrived, he stood up in his turret, attracting heavy small arms, mortar and artillery fire as he manoeuvred to avoid enemy bazookas while directing his tanks: ‘On three separate occasions he went forward beyond his position and overran infantry posts.’ The citation does not mention the two bullet holes he found in his beret afterwards.”
. . . . .
“The son of a salesman and a dressmaker who separated, Lionel Gale Bellamy was born on December 1 1923 and educated at Blackfriars school, Laxton, near Kettering, where he attended Mass at 6am every day before taking a four-mile run. He became head prefect and captain of rugby.”
. . . . .
“After the war Bellamy made a pilgrimage to Lisieux, the home of St Teresa, which he had watched being shelled, to give thanks for his deliverance.”
. . . . .
“Coming out in 1955 he joined a shoe components firm, rising to managing director until retiring in 1983. He then became a parish councillor at Great Brington, Northamptonshire, and took a close interest, as a Knight of the Holy Sepulchre, in the Christian Arabs of Palestine.”

Of course, some of our own conservative blogosphere tries to honor America’s vital military history. 

One can read on National Review on Line (NRO) Mackubin Thomas Owens’s 2008 Memorial Day post “Mystic Chords of Memory” here. Just a few days ago, NRO’s Steve Schippert pointed us to the new Warrior Legacy Foundation.

The financial difficulties of the old and unteachable print media may lead to better opportunities. Perhaps the newer, non-politically correct media could begin celebrating the WWII (and Korean War and Vietnam Conflict) military achievements of so many Americans in their obituaries. There are still many living citizens whose quiet valor in our earlier conflicts has not been highlighted.

Keeping Faith

As we have written, political correctness has severely infected what used to be called the main-stream media.  This affliction, unchallenged by indifferent alumni, has also devastated the teaching of our history in high schools and colleges. 

One only has to look at the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) August 2008 assessment of “U.S. News & World Report’s Top-Ranked National Universities on Their Abilities to Teach America’s History and Institutions” here — then to consider the scores of Johns Hopkins University and the University of Virginia — to grasp the breadth of the problem

Perhaps most shocking was ISI’s finding that

“Officeholders typically have less civic knowledge than the general public. On average, they score 44%, five percentage points lower than non-officeholders. . . .Thirty percent of elected officials do not know that ‘life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness’ are the inalienable rights referred to in the Declaration of Independence.”

Memorial Day should spur conservatives to examine just how well taxpayer-supported schools are teaching our history–military and civic–and what citizens can do to improve that teaching.

That is perhaps the least we can do to keep faith with those on whose service and sacrifices our safety and prosperity rest.

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