David Bruce: War Stories

Mathew B. Brady is famous because of many Civil War photographs; however, from 1858, he began to suffer from poor eyesight and relied on other photographers to focus his camera, although he set up the shot. During the Civil War, he got permission from President Abraham Lincoln to photograph the war, and he trained many photographers to help him do that. After the Battle of Gettysburg, Mr. Brady and several photographers whom he had trained took photographs of the corpses on the battlefield. If it were needed to make a photograph more dramatic, they would change the position of a corpse. Did Mr. Brady take all the photographs that have been attributed to him? Probably not. He took credit for all the photographs that the men he had trained took—something that did not make him popular with these photographers.

In 1946, when Nora Kaye and Muriel Bentley were dancing in England shortly after World War II, they were only partially prepared for wartime austerity. For example, realizing that the food options might be limited at the Savoy where they were staying, they asked the waiter what they could have for breakfast. The waiter replied that they could have anything they wanted, so they ordered eggs. However, as the waiter was leaving, he asked, “May I have the eggs now, please?” Another problem they ran into was wearing a wardrobe that was sumptuous in England at that time. They wore high heels, nylons, silk dresses, and fur jackets, and they were frequently propositioned because other people assumed that anyone with such fine clothing in a society with clothing rationing had to belong to a profession that welcomes propositions.

Charles M. Schulz, creator of the comic strip Peanuts, was a soldier in World War II, but fortunately saw little action. He once saw a German crossing the field, so he aimed his rifle at him and pulled the trigger. The rifle did not fire—Mr. Schulz had not loaded it due to forgetfulness. Fortunately, the German soldier surrendered. Mr. Schulz also once thought some German soldiers were in an artillery emplacement, so he got ready to throw a grenade into the emplacement. However, he saw a dog go into the emplacement, so he didn’t throw the grenade because he didn’t want to kill an innocent dog. Fortunately, it turned out that no German soldiers were there. Later, Mr. Schulz said, “I guess I fought a pretty civilized war.”

During the Civil War, Albert Tinsley Glazner, who had been fighting for the Union side, became very ill in Virginia. He collapsed, then crawled under a bridge before falling unconscious. When he awoke, an old slave was taking care of him. The old black man told him, “You’ve been very sick and I’ve been here feedin’ and lookin’ after you. I’m going to get you back to your side, because you’re fighting for my freedom.” Each night, the old black man sneaked away from his home to help him, and when Mr. Glazner was well enough, the old black man put him on his shoulders, carried him across the river, and told him, “Your men are right up there.”

When Stan Berenstain, co-creator of the Berenstain Bears books with his wife, Jan, was a child, he knew that his left eye was much weaker than his right eye; however, he also knew that he was right-handed, so it made sense to him that he must also be right-eyed, and so he never told his parents about his weak left eye. By the time his weak eye was discovered in an eye examination, it was too late to correct the weakness in that eye. As an adult soldier in World War II, for a while he served with other soldiers who were blind or nearly blind in one eye. These soldiers were known informally as the “one-eyed battalion.”

War correspondent Christiane Amanpour got into broadcasting through an accident. One of her sisters paid tuition to attend a broadcasting school in London, then changed her mind. She asked for her tuition back, but it was not refundable. Therefore, Christiane asked if she could attend the school in her sister’s place. This was acceptable, and she eventually became so famous that Pentagon officials once gave her an Amanpour Tracking Chart that detailed her journeys around the world to do reporting. Ms. Amanpour says, “They say I give great war. Is that sexual or what?”

The creators and writers of M*A*S*H interviewed many, many Army physicians in order to get material for their show, and of course they learned much that they would not have thought up on their own. For example, sometimes in Korea it would be so cold that when a physician made an incision for an operation and steam would rise up from the opening of the patient’s body the physician would warm his hands in the steam. This fact was used in an episode in which a journalist interviewed the physicians and other people of M*A*S*H.

Modern Americans don’t realize how horrible war is because it has been so long since a war was fought on American soil. During World War II, gunfire killed a horse on a street in Buda, Hungary. Quickly, starving civilians stripped the flesh from the horse so they would have something to eat. Swedish diplomat Per Anger and other Swedes were grateful that the horse goulash they cooked lasted for a few days.

World War I came very close to James M. Barrie, author of Peter Pan. He lost friends and loved ones in the war, and German planes dropped bombs so close to his home by the Thames River that on his balcony he occasionally found shrapnel.

John F. Kennedy became a war hero during World War II after he helped rescue several of his men after his ship, PT 109, was sunk. Asked how he had become a war hero, he said, “It was absolutely involuntary. They sank my boat.”

Author Quentin Crisp used to make a living as a nude model for art classes. During World War II, a bomb fell near where he was modeling. The art students dove for the floor and relative safety, but Mr. Crisp kept on posing.


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved


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