David Bruce: War Anecdotes

• When American soldiers shot civilians at My Lai in South Vietnam, Hugh C. Thompson and two crewmembers, Glenn Andreotta and Larry Colburn, witnessed what was happening from a helicopter overhead. They landed the helicopter between some advancing American soldiers and a group of Vietnamese civilians consisting of children, women, and old men, and they stopped the American soldiers from killing the Vietnamese civilians. Later, Hugh C. Thompson and his crewmembers took off in the helicopter, and crewmember Mr. Andreotta saw movement in a body-filled ditch. They landed the helicopter and rescued a two-year-old child from among the corpses. Why did they intervene to stop as much of the slaughter and save as many lives as they could? Hugh C. Thompson explained that “what was going on wasn’t right.”

• During World War II, a sailor found a dog, drunk, lying in a gutter. The sailor smuggled the dog on board the Coast Guard cutter Campbell, and the dog, now named Sinbad, charmed everyone so much that the ship’s captain allowed him to stay on board. Sinbad was given his own bunk, his data was entered into personnel files, and his name was called during roll call—he yipped when he heard his name. Sinbad did like alcohol, and after being discovered drunk, he was given a trial, and his rank was lowered from Chief Dog to First Class Dog. During battles against German U-boats, he stayed on deck. He retired in 1948, and at a reunion in 1986, his human crewmates remembered that as long as Sinbad served on the ship, none of the sailors on the Campbellwas killed in battle.

• War is horrible. After the first Battle of Bull Run, doctors saved as many wounded soldiers as they could, performing amputations as needed. Working with the doctors were Sisters of Charity nuns, who served as nurses. The nurses worked hard, and late at night they went to bed, although Sister Blanche remarked that sleeping would be difficult because of “the odor of death about this place.” In the morning, the odor was worse, and it was coming from the room next to where the nuns had slept. Sister Blanche courageously entered the room and found three amputated legs lying on the floor. They were buried, but in a coffin with a dead soldier. One of the Sisters of Charity wrote in her journal, “Yesterday a man was buried with three legs.”

• War sells newspapers. Wilbur Storey bought the Chicago Times for $13,000 just three months before the Civil War began. He regarded the Civil War simply as a way to sell newspapers. He even told his war correspondents, “Telegraph fully all news and when there is no news send rumors.” William Randolph Hearst also used war to sell newspapers. Before the Spanish-American war, artist Frederic Remington was a Hearst newspaper employee stationed in Havana, where all was quiet. He telegraphed Mr. Hearst asking to return home. Mr. Hearst replied, “Please remain. You furnish the pictures and I’ll furnish the war.”

• Pastor André Trocmé, the spiritual leader of Le Chambon, a village in southern France that resisted the Nazis and saved the lives of thousands of people, learned about the idea of conscientious objection from a German soldier in World War I. This German soldier worked as a telegrapher during the war, but he refused to carry weapons. Later, during World War II, Pastor André Trocmé did not carry weapons, but nevertheless he was effective in resisting the Nazis and in acting as a role model for others who wished to resist the Nazis.

• During the Vietnam War, a German shepherd named Bruiser became a hero. A soldier named John Flannelly was shot in the chest during a patrol, and although he commanded Bruiser to leave, Bruiser would not leave. Instead, he bit down on Mr. Fannelly’s shirt and started pulling. Mr. Flannelly grabbed Bruiser’s harness and Bruiser pulled him out of the danger zone, and Mr. Flannelly was able to get the medical care he needed.

• C.S. Lewis, the author of the Narnia Chronicles, fought in World War I and was wounded by shrapnel. Earlier, he had a chance to be moved to a safer artillery regiment, but he turned it down, saying, “I must confess that I have become very attached to this regiment. I have several friends whom I should be sorry to leave and I am just beginning to know my men and understand my work.” Not long afterward, his wound put him out of the war.

• Even during a war, it is possible to respect the environment. The Israeli tank commander Major General Abraham Yaffee did not want to harm the rare wild flowers in a field; therefore, he ordered an encampment to move away from the field so that the flowers would not be trampled. In addition, he once stopped his tank and halted its fire so that a cream-colored courser, a rare bird, would have time to move out of the way.

• Colin Powell, a four-star general, is of course a highly successful African-American. At a White House dinner, an African-American waiter said to him, “I just want to thank you and say it’s been good to see you here. I was in World War II, and I fought all the way from North Africa to Italy.” General Powell replied, “I should thank you.”

• During World War II, oceanographer Jacques Cousteau worked as a spy for the French Resistance. Once, he impersonated an Italian officer and spent four hours photographing top-secret papers. Because of Mr. Cousteau, the French Resistance was able to learn such things as the Italian naval signals code.

• World War I came close to aviator Amelia Earhart. While visiting her sister in Toronto, Canada, during Christmas of 1917, she saw four Canadian men on crutches who had been wounded overseas. Affected by their injures, Ms. Earhart became a nurses’ aid in Toronto at the Spadina Military Hospital.

• During the Korean War, listeners to the popular Aldrich Family radio program had to get used to Henry Aldrich’s voice frequently changing from week to week — the actors who played Henry Aldrich kept getting drafted!

• “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities.” — Voltaire

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Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved

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