LEAVING A RESTAURANT THE other day, I heard a man saying, “The first bombing run I was on, over Kobe, we had just come out of a cloud bank, and… “
I didn’t catch the rest, but driving home I kept hearing his words. What must it be like to have such memories? To have been 19 or 20 years old, helping to win a good war against unambiguously evil tyrants who had started the whole thing?
In terms of memories, not to mention good stories, that man’s beat the heck out of, “When I was writing my master’s thesis on Freud, I discovered the most interesting neurosis!” Or: “Yeah, the time we beat Tech in the Poulan Weed Eater Independence Bowl, I gained 120 yards and had two touchdowns. “
Thinking about that man on that bombing run so long ago, I was struck again by the fact that my generation has grown up in the long shadow of World War II, hearing such stories from our fathers and grandfathers. The great names-Eisenhower, Patton, MacArthur-have their biographers, but the many lesser names have their stories, too. We need to listen while we can. Before too much longer we won’t be able to hear men like that talking about Okinawa and Omaha Beach and the Battle of the Bulge. Already the reunions are growing smaller. One day the stories will live only in books, on grainy film and fading photos, and in the memories of those who heard them.
That’s why I’m glad that, this past Christmas, my father-in-law reluctantly agreed to put some of his wartime memories on tape. Well, he didn’t actually agree. His 6-month-old granddaughter fell asleep in his lap, trapping him at the kitchen table, and 1 asked him some questions while my wife wielded the camcorder.
Like so many other veterans of World War II, Pat Colwell is not prone to talk much about the war, though what little he has said is enough to leave me in awe. Barely old enough to get a driver’s license, he joined the Navy and was island-hopping through the Pacific as American forces moved toward Japan. He remembers the 20-foot swells, the fear, the vomit sloshing in the landing crafts, the guys who went ashore and never came back. After an hour of listening to him it was easier to understand why so many veterans are reluctant to talk. It may not be that the memories are too distant. Perhaps they are too vivid.
As he talked I was filled with the same emotions that gripped so many of us during last June’s 50th anniversary commemoration of D-Day. Those feelings of admiration and gratitude will surface again this summer as we recall the cataclysmic events, culminating in the noiseless flash over Hiroshima, that brought the war to a close in the summer of 1945,
And the homage paid to these heroes will remind us once again what a hard act they are for the post-war generation to follow, and how little their children and grandchildren have done that can stand beside their deeds in the great scheme of things. Starting on page 80, Sol Villasana and four other Dallasites talk about growing up as the children of soldiers, trying to understand the legacy of the World War II generation. As they remind us, we owe those soldiers, those fathers, a debt we can never repay.
We examine another kind of war in this issue-those private wars that are fought in the divorce courts, producing long lists of casualties every year. Though it’s not a happy subject, D Magazine’s past explorations of divorce have been among our most popular issues. Starting on page 65, we highlight the attorneys whose peers consider them the best at this difficult specialty. We also focus on some people who have survived the divorce wars, collecting their own Purple Hearts in the process.
All this, Priscilla Davis, and a purple dinosaur who has really taken his lumps lately. I hope you enjoy the issue.
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