Monday, June 17, 2013

World War 2

1.0.0 Introduction The World War Two is amongst the most phenomenal occurrences in the history of mankind. The World war Two lasted from the year 1939 to 1945. The volatility that had been established by the World War One (1914-1918) was the breeding ground for the second world war which turned out to be more catastrophic than the first. Even after the disastrous outcome of the World War One Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party, also commonly referred to as the National Socialist Party, were not ready to give up on their dream of subjugating the entire world. Consequently, Hitler rearmed his soldiers in a politically and economically shaky Germany and signed pacts with the nations of Italy and Japan; with the support of the Axis Hitler was convinced that he would achieve his dream of world dominion. On the September of the year 1939 Hitler invaded the nation of Poland triggering the nations of France and Great Britain to declare war on Germany: The Second World War had begun and would not end until the year 1945 when both Germany and Japan surrendered to the Allies. The effects of the world war two were many; these ranged from the financial, political and social to psychological impacts. The World War two led to a destruction of property and loss of lives that had never been witnessed in any other war. An estimated 45-60 million persons lost their lives as a consequence of the war; 6 million out of these were people of Jewish origins that were killed by Hitler and his forces in Nazi concentration camps in the Holocaust. At the beginning of his writings Sledge states that “ In writing I am fulfilling an obligation that I have felt to my comrades in the 1st marine division, all of whom suffered so much for our country. None came out unscathed. Many gave their lives, many their health, and some their sanity. All who survived will long remember the horror they would rather forget”. In spite of the fact that the effects of the world war two were many and all very impactful, this paper will incline towards a description of the experiences of the soldiers who engaged in the World War Two combat so as to shed light on the nature of the World War Two combat. 2.0.0 Literature Review “With the Old Breed, at Peleliu and Okinawa” by E. B. Sledge describes the personal memoir of E. B. Sledge written by him. Sledge was born on the November of the year 1923 and died on March 2001. Sledge writes his memoir of the marine infantry combat operations which took place in the World War Two at the Pacific theatre. The book commences with a description of Sledge’s induction into the marine as well as his training at the boot camp and school of infantry as well as the pre-combat deployment that he went through at Pavuvu. When Sledge fist joined his marine unit, it was undergoing training on the Pavuvu Island on the northern side of Guadalcanal. Sledge was assigned to Company K at the 60mm. mortar section under the leadership of Captain Andrew A. Haldane. As he describes the combat that he took part in during the capture of Okinawa it becomes very clear that Sledge’s memoir places a very important focus on the mental and moral dimensions of war as illustrated by his own experiences in the Second World War. Sledge posits that in spite of the Marines seemingly being very appealing and attractive to any high- spirited and patriotic young man- as Sledge was when he first joined the Marines- it was not long before the marine soldiers encountered the other side of the coin regarding their stay and operations in the Marine infantry. Sledge describes the most unfavorable aspects of being in the marine as the continuous cycle of “ ritual humiliations, abuse incidents, indoctrination and infantry training”. In order to survive and emerge victorious from in the war, the marines were taught that they had to kill the enemy before the enemy killed them. Sledge claims that he “came to understand that if he didn’t kill the Jap, the Jap would most certainly kill him” . As a matter of fact he quotes one of his instructors who ordered that the marines to “kick him in the balls before he kicks you in yours”. With each passing day Sledge and his fellow marines hardened- both mentally and physically. More over, they developed a new sense of self assurance as they become more competent in their use of infantry weapons for instance that Ka-Bar knife. In spite of this toughening up, Sledge in his memoir claims that together with his fellow marines, Sledge remained innocent and harbored a sense of naïve optimism that nothing bad would happen to them. Another important impact that the Second World War had on the soldiers was fear. As he describes his life occurrences on the war front sledge states that “To be shelled by Mass artillery and mortar is absolutely terrifying, but to be shelled in the open is terror compounded beyond the belief of anyone who hasn’t experienced it. The attack across Peleliu’s airfield was the worst combat experience I had during the entire war ”. Sledge is commonly accredited for having the most vivid memories of the effects that fear had on the soldiers. It was not only the fear of being killed or wounded that haunted the soldiers but the fear that they would portray cowardice and be unable to put up with the physical, mental and emotional difficulties that confronted them in during the war. As the marines landed on Peleliu Island on the Pacific Sledge claims that “I…felt that my bladder would surely empty itself and reveal me to be the coward that I was”. The physical horror that the marines encountered as they carried out their duties to their country was horrific and brutal in equal measure. During their stay at Pavuvu there were constant rumors and narrations of the sadism, brutality and cruelty meted out on the Allied soldiers by the Japanese. Such rumors and accounts only served to amplify the hatred and murderous attitude towards the enemy by the marines. Sledge describes that the marines were fully aware that the hatred they felt for the enemy was not only mutual, but fully reciprocated. Sledge describes the outcome of this hatred as a very vicious war. He states that “This was not the dispassionate killing seen on other fronts or in other wars. This was brutish, primitive hatred, as characteristic of the horror of war in the Pacific as the palm trees and the Islands ”. In addition to this, during the Second World War both sides refused to take any prisoners of war. The enemy was killed on the spot and their corpses defiled. As a matter of fact, the habit of collecting and cleansing Japanese skulls so as to keep them as Army trophies was so prevalent among the marines that the army officials finally had to forbid it. The book “Company Commander” by MacDonald has in the last couple of decades risen in significance to become one of the most classic and definitive memoirs of the war veterans in the Allied infantry. Twenty one year old McDonald is a replacement officer who is assigned to command the veteran company of infantry men on the front line. After being assigned to this position MacDonald thinks about the placement and asserts that at first he was very anxious. In his address of the veterans McDonald claims that “ You fought your way ashore in Normandy on D plus one. You battled to the top of the Hill 192 to pave the way for the St. Lo break out. You stormed the ring of pill-boxes at Brest and had your number reduced to fifty in the explosion as the Germans blew them up in your faces. And now they give you a commander fresh from the states. They ask you to put your faith in me….I feel weak and ineffectual”. Company commanders were very significant persons in the Allied infantry of the World War Two. Such individuals were not only entrusted with the lives of the soldiers and men and women under their command during the war but also expected to portray great courage and exceptional leadership traits which would enable their forces to fight and win the war. By the time McDonald published his Company Commander memoir in 1947 he was still in his twenties and the memories of his war experiences as the infantry captain in the 23rd Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry in North West Europe were still very fresh in his mid. The Company Commander is a narration of war that is depicted in simple language. McDonald makes sure to describe all the atrocities and horrible happenings that typified the World War Two. In addition to this the challenges confronted by the Allies as well as the strategies they employed to ensure victory against the Axis forces are described in detail. Company Commander is a memoir of the World War Two that inclines towards the description of McDonald’s experiences as he commanded a Company on the Siegfried Line. In the preface of this memoir MacDonald clearly states that “To make a story of a war authentic you must see a war- not a hasty taste of war, but the dread, gnawing, daily diet of war, the horrors and fears that….become so much part of you” . As MacDonald and his team took a defensive position in a captured German pill box he experienced first hand the ordeal of fire and even got injured. As a consequence of his young age and inexperience, MacDonald did his best to fight the fear that comes with engaging in military combat and remained determined and grim; this he did so that his unit would not doubt his courage and lose faith in him. With time however, MacDonald’s façade of bravery melts down and he crumbles to the nervous tension and distress that comes with elongated waiting. It is then that he faces the human side of a military confrontation the magnitude of the world war two. MacDonald describes the psychological trauma, stress and tiredness that he soldiers face as well as the fear of death they express in the letters that they write to their far off wives whom they are not sure of ever seeing again. As they Company I unit fights to hinder a break through by the enemy forces in the Ardennes Forest MacDonald gets wounded and has to be rushed to the hospital. Later on he joins Company G and engages in an armed confrontation that leads to the fall of Leipzig. Captain Dale Dye describes the GI unit in the World War Two. This group was a very significant unit in the victory of the Allied forces and the defeat of the Axis. The GI unit was comprised of youthful volunteers and aged draftees who lacked in military finesse. In order for the GI to survive they had to toughen up and assert themselves fully to the winning the war. It is probably due to this reason that they won more battles than they lost in World War Two. At the American GI the soldiers went through the most difficult times of their lives; in addition to spending long hours of difficult physical labor, the soldiers had to endure great fear, terror, boredom and painful struggling. The World War Two, in similar to many other wars of similar or near similar magnitude reflects a multiplicity of varied experiences by the thousands of people that engage in the war. Although a great number of war veterans are usually filled with great hopes that with time they can forget the traumatic experiences and life occurrences that they went through as a consequence of the World War, this is hardly the case. The descriptions by both McDonald and Sledge depict the nature of war from their personal perspectives. Sledge describes the enemy as always being close by and that one has to kill first before they get killed. The hatred, anger and resentment towards the enemy, as well as a great desire to avenge the death of colleagues and defend one’s country enables the soldiers to master enough courage to continue fighting. A great part of the memoir by Sledge is dedicated to depicting the strain and trauma that soldiers go through as they are continuously exposed to combat and near death experiences for weeks or months on end. It is only during the war that the soldiers learn the importance of normal activities that are usually taken for granted for instance sleep, bodily functions and food. The war described by Sledge is a very ugly war in which the marines even had to kill one of their own who cracked under the pressure and threatened to alert the enemy of his Unit’s position. Despite the fact that the Company Commander by McDonald is much simpler and less vivid in comparison to With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa by Sledge, it succeeds in clearly depicting the trauma, distress and fear that soldiers went through in the World War Two experiences. MacDonald makes use of simple compassionate phrases to depict to the readers of the memoir the anguish, weariness and never-ending bleakness that characterized the infantry . 3.0.0 Conclusion This essay has deliberated upon the war experiences as depicted by Eugene Sledge and Charles MacDonald in their memoirs With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa and the Company Commander respectively. The World War Two is amongst the most phenomenal occurrences in the history of mankind. The World war Two lasted from the year 1939 to 1945. It is important to note that despite the descriptions discussed in both memoirs being of the same war, the experiences that each narrator went through are distinct as a consequence of the infantries where they served and the experiences that they went through in war. No war can accurately be said to have a single facet or story to it. The World War Two, in similar to many other wars of similar or near similar magnitude reflects a multiplicity of varied experiences by the thousands of people that engage in the war. Although a great number of war veterans are usually filled with great hopes that with time they can forget the traumatic experiences and life occurrences that they went through as a consequence of the World War, this is hardly the case. For many war veterans such as Sledge and McDonald that participated actively in the World War Two the ordeal, trauma and suffering that they went through lingers with them as painful memories or disturbing dreams. While some war veterans have been known to lose their sanity as a consequence of such trauma, those who remain sane are distressed by thoughts and memories of war experiences in their waking hours and insomnia at night. Those that manage to sleep are haunted by dreams of their near death experiences. After all is said and done, both Eugene Sledge and Charles MacDonald rose up to the occasion and fulfilled their duties as patriotic soldiers should; as if this was not enough, they went ahead to tell the tales of the war that many who were in the comforts of their homes during the war would never have though possible. 4.0.0 Work Cited Arthur C. Fields: On and On and On: Review of ‘Company Commander’ by Charles B. MacDonald, The Saturday Review, (1947), pp. 25 Bramsen, I. & Van Der Ploeg, H.M: Use of Medical and Mental Health Care By World War II Survivors In The Netherlands, Journal of Traumatic Stress, 12, (1999), pp. 243-261 Captain Dale Dye: GI Joe: US Soldiers of the World War Two, BBC (2011) MacDonald, Charles Brown: Company Commander, History Book Club, (2006) Meyer, G. John: Company Commander: The Bottom Line, Washington, DC: National Defense University Press, (1990) Sledge, Bondurat, Eugene: With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa, Oxford University Press, (1981)