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Common Defense &Culture wars Richard Falknor on 26 May 2008 11:05 am

Telling the WWII stories of so many valorous Americans | Scroll down to update!

It was James Bowman who in June 2001 likely first illuminated (in an article entitled “Melancholy facts”) what he then 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.

Bowman explained:

“The melancholy fact of actuarial reality means that now and probably for the next ten years not a day will go by when hundreds of veterans of the Second World War won’t die, ten or a dozen of whom must have a claim to be genuine heroes. Most of the lives of the others would yield up at least one or two thrilling stories, could anyone be bothered to find them out, and in Britain, at least, some of them are going onto the record.


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.” (BRF’s underscoring.) from New Criterion here (subscription only)

Since 2002, we at BRF have been collecting Daily Telegraph obituaries (very recent examples here and here) of valorous men and women including those from the then-Empire and Commonwealth (and some Americans as well) who fought in the Second World War.

Many of these were not professional soldiers; some were women who risked as members of the Special Operations Executive (SOE) even more than uniformed soldiers since they operated in German occupied territory; all were very brave.

Here are the opening paragraphs from just a small selection of Daily Telegraph obituaries, ranging in length from around 800 to 1200 words, and published from 2002 to the present:

John Mann, who has died aged 83, was awarded an MC while serving with the Scots Guards in Holland in 1944; also an outstanding sportsman, he captained the first team in five sports at Eton, and in 1946 played cricket for Middlesex in the County Championship.| Marine Bill Sparks, who has died aged 80, was the last of the two surviving “Cockleshell Heroes” responsible for paddling a canoe 85 miles through enemy defences to cripple German merchant ships at Bordeaux.|Joe Foss, who died on New Year’s Day aged 87, was one of the great American fighter aces of the Second World War, officially credited with shooting down 26 Japanese aircraft while serving in the Pacific; he later embarked on a successful career in public life, becoming Governor of South Dakota.| Lise Villameur, who has died aged 98, was one of the first two female agents to be parachuted into France by SOE in the Second World War.|Honorary Captain Umrao Singh, who died yesterday aged 85, won the Victoria Cross in Burma during the Second World War; and 50 years later he complained to John Major about the poor pensions enjoyed by holders of the VC.| Soldier whose attack on a machine-gun post earned him an MC and who later bred prize-winning cattle. Major David Liddell, who has died aged 91, was awarded an immediate MC in Italy while serving with 12th Battalion the Cameronians (Scottish Rifles).| Flight Lieutenant Bob Knights, who has died aged 83, flew his Lancaster bomber of No 617 Squadron on the three major attacks against the Tirpitz that culminated, on November 12 1944, in the sinking of the powerful German battleship which had dominated British and American naval strategy in the European theatre.

Political correctness has severely infected what used to be called the main-stream media, and temporarily (one hopes) devastated the teaching of our history in high schools and colleges.

But perhaps newer, uninfected print media could begin celebrating the WWII (and Korean War and Vietnam Conflict) military achievements of so many Americans in their obituaries. Yesterday’s Washington Times commendably features a review here entitled “Heroes in Iraq and Afghanistan, their stories.” But there are still many living citizens whose valor in our earlier conflicts has not been highlighted.

Memorial Day might also be a spur to patriots to see just how well taxpayer-supported schools are teaching our history and what citizens can do to improve that teaching. That is perhaps the least we can do to keep faith with those who have made such great sacrifices.

UPDATE May 27!THE GREAT WARRIOR: Last U.S. WWI veteran has seen, survived much. Click here. (Thanks to Steven Daskal.)

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