Bahlool the wise fool was drafted to serve as a soldier although he wished very much for peace. However, when one king decides to go to war against another king, sometimes even a peace-loving person is forced to serve as a soldier in an army. Why? True fact: In a war, someone has to fight and die, and kings don’t want to fight and die, so they need soldiers to fight and die. An enemy champion challenged any of Bahlool’s king’s soldiers to step forward for a one-on-one fight to the death. Bahlool’s king ordered him to fight the enemy champion, and so Bahlool went out to meet the enemy champion. The enemy champion drew his sword and rushed at Bahlool, who stood still, holding a basket. Because Bahlool did not draw a weapon or run away, but simply stood still, the enemy soldier was puzzled. Bahlool then explained that he had a few questions to ask the enemy champion: Do you wish to kill me because of a blood feud? Do you wish to kill me because I owe you money that I have not repaid? Have we ever met before? Have you ever heard of me? The enemy soldier was forced to answer each question with, “No.” Bahlool then said, “I have food in my basket. Why don’t we have a picnic and see if we can come up with a good reason for you to kill me?” The enemy champion agreed to the picnic, the warring kings saw that Bahlool and the enemy champion were eating together, and for that day at least the two kings called for a truce and no fighting occurred. In addition, Bahlool’s king decided that Bahlool was a bad influence on his soldiers and that thereafter Bahlool would be allowed to go home and not be forced to fight in the war.
Could a British POW in Auschwitz save the lives of Jews? Yes. Major-Sergeant Charles Coward was a brave man. He was a liaison with the International Red Cross, a position that helped give him access to things he could use to bribe Nazi soldiers. He once traded valuables for the corpses of three Jews so he could use them to save the lives of three Jews. Here’s how it worked. Each day Jews who could no longer work were marched from Auschwitz to Birkenau to be murdered. Some of these Jews died along the way, and their corpses were collected later. Major-Sergeant Coward had three Jews pretend to die and lie by the road, and then he arrived and gave them civilian clothing so that they could escape into the forest. He and fellow POW “Tich” Keenan then left the three Jewish corpses that he had bribed a Nazi for along the road; that way, the Nazis would not know that any Jews were missing. Major-Sergeant Coward did this over and over.
During World War I, German soldier Heinrich Weindorf was fighting on very muddy terrain in December of 1916, during the Battle of the Somme. At one point, he sank in the mud and water up to his armpits, and his fellow soldiers could not help him because of the fighting all around them. Fortunately, an English sergeant-major pitied the German soldier and rescued him, although he knew that he was rescuing an enemy soldier. He stood on a plank of wood so that he would not sink in the mud and water, then he grabbed Mr. Weindorf and pulled him out of the mud. He then kicked Mr. Weindorf in the butt—after all, Mr. Weindorf was an enemy soldier—and both ran back to safety to their respective sides. Mr. Weindorf says, “I owe him my life.”
United States Marines used Reckless the horse to carry artillery shells during the Korean War. After training, Reckless arrived in Korea during the winter of 1952, and the Marines she worked with battled for a hill they named Outpost Vegas. During the battle, Reckless made 51 trips carrying artillery shells across an open field with falling bombs and flying shrapnel. She was wounded twice—in the head and in the side. After the battle, Marine Corps general Randolph Pate recognized her bravery, reading a special citation to honor her and pinning a set of bars to her blanket to show that she had just been promoted to Sergeant Reckless.
Mark Kurlansky, the author of Nonviolence: The History of a Dangerous Idea, once spoke to a couple of World War II veterans about the book Men Against Fire: The Problem of Battle Command in Future War, in which author and historian Samuel Marshall stated that most soldiers never fired their weapons at the enemy during World War II. In fact, Mr. Marshall thought that only one in four soldiers had fired at the enemy—at best. One of the veterans Mr. Kurlansky spoke to said, “I had a machine gun. I never fired the thing.” The other veteran asked, “Why not?” The first veteran replied, “If you fired it, they’d shoot back at you.”
During World War II, United States Army nurses stationed in New Guinea were given two helmets of water a day. The helmet was put in a stand and used as a sink. One helmet of water was used for washing their body, and the other helmet of water was used for washing their undies. Many of these nurses ended up in Tacloban, Philippines, where they were still given two helmets of water a day. Alice Weinstein remembers that if an air raid occurred while someone was washing, “Zip! There went your water! You had to put your helmet on your head!”
Youthful attitudes toward war can be very naïve. For example, during World War II, German young people were excited when bombs fell on Cologne for the first time, even though people were hurt. Geerte Murmann writes about kids looking for pieces of shrapnel and regarding them as prized possessions. She was in Bavaria, away from Cologne, when the first Allied bombs fell, and she was disappointed that she wasn’t in Cologne. She wrote a friend, “Finally something terrific is happening in Cologne, and I’m not there.”
Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved
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