David Bruce: War Anecdotes

• In 1941, people were worried about the war and about foreign spies. In addition, people were concerned about relieving human misery. Four American Quakers journeyed to England to see about undertaking some relief efforts. However, one of the Quakers was detained under suspicion of being a foreign spy when a book written in a foreign language and a map of the Mediterranean on which had been drawn lines was found in his possession. Fortunately, the matter was quickly cleared up. The book was a Greek New Testament, and the map showed the wanderings of St. Paul. The items were returned to Bible scholar Henry Cadbury, and he continued his relief efforts.

• During World War II, Maria Callas’ mother sheltered a couple of British officers for six weeks from the Germans and Italians then occupying Athens, Greece. Shortly after the officers left, some Italian soldiers arrived to search the Callas apartment — from which incriminating evidence had not yet been removed. Maria, then only 17 years old, saved the life of herself and her family by going to the piano and singing. The Italian soldiers were music lovers, so they listened to young Maria and forgot about searching the apartment. In addition, the next day they brought food as gifts for the Callas family and Maria once more sang for them.

• At the beginning of World War I, opera singer Leo Slezak decided to be prepared. Knowing that food can be scarce during times of war, he sent the servants away one day, then secretly had delivered to his estate in the Bavarian Alps a “few provisions” — including 200 pounds of coffee, 300 pounds of sugar, 500 pounds of flour, and 1,000 rolls of toilet paper. The Slezaks safely hid the provisions, and they — and their friends — were comfortable for the duration of the war.

• General George McClellan was not overeager to fight during the Civil War. Instead, he kept pestering President Abraham Lincoln for more men. An exasperated President Lincoln bore it for a while and then said, “If I gave McClellan all the men he asks for, they couldn’t find room to lie down. They would all have to sleep standing up.” Eventually, President Lincoln fired General McClellan for non-aggressiveness.

• During World War I, Charles MacArthur served as a private in the United States Army, where he got bored with saluting officers and calling them “sir.” So Mr. MacArthur and his friends each day elected a private to serve as caliph for the day. Before addressing the caliph, each person had to bow to him twice and then use only high-falutin’ language such as “O Commander of the Faithful, is it true that ….”

• Humorist Ellen Orleans once brought home a new cat, and it began to fight with the old cat. Well, the two cats didn’t actually fight — they just made a lot of threatening noises at each other. This gave Ms. Orleans an idea for our military policy: “Put only blanks in our nuclear warheads and Trident missiles. Make as loud a racket as you want, but no death or destruction allowed.”

• During World War I, Pope John XXIII (1881-1963) was Father Roncalli and served under Father Pignatello, chaplain general of the Italian army. Many years later, after he had become Pope, he recognized Father Pignatello during an audience and saluted him, saying, “Sergeant Roncalli, at your orders, General.”

• The Netherlands were once besieged by the Spanish Duke of Alva during the winter in his attempt to wipe out the Protestants. Because the Dutch fleet was frozen in the harbor, things looked bad for the Netherlands; however, the Dutch soldiers simply grabbed their muskets, put on skates, and skated out to the Spaniards and defeated them.

• In Czarist Russia, a company of Russians prepared to go into combat. The commandant told his soldiers, “Get your bayonets ready and prepare to meet your man in hand-to-hand combat.” The lone Jew in his company raised his hand and asked, “Could you show me my man? Maybe we can come to an agreement.”

• An entire platoon of enemy soldiers was captured by a lone Israeli soldier. The Israeli told them, “Don’t worry. I’m not going to shoot you. I’m just going to take you to a POW camp.” “Thank you,” the enemy soldiers said. “You’re very kind.” “Don’t thank me,” the Israeli soldier said. “Just be thankful that my husband didn’t capture you.”

• Nathan Rothschild was outspoken. Once a Major Martins was telling him about the horrors of war, and Mr. Rothschild interrupted with the comment that if many people had not died during wartime, presumably the major would still be a lieutenant.

• Barbara Bush once visited Japanese emperor Hirohito and complimented him on his new palace, then asked what had happened to his old one. Hirohito replied, “I am afraid you bombed it.”

• Bill Arp, a humorist from Georgia, once described his career as a soldier in the Civil War like this: “I reckon I killed as many of them as they did of me.”

• “Washing one’s hands of the conflict between the powerful and the powerless means to side with the powerful and not be neutral.” — Paulo Freire.

• “An eye for an eye is a terrible way to blind the world.” — Mahatma Gandhi.

• “You don’t have to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just have to shoot straight.” — Barry Goldwater.

• A little boy once asked John F. Kennedy how he became a war hero. Mr. Kennedy replied, “It was absolutely involuntary — they sank my boat.”


Copyright by Bruce D. Bruce; All Rights Reserved



John Ford’s The Broken Heart: A Retelling, by David Bruce


William Shakespeare’s Measure for Measure:  A Retelling in Prose, by David Bruce


Ben Jonson’s The Alchemist: A Retelling, by David Bruce



David Bruce’s Smashwords Bookstore: Retellings of Classic Literature, Anecdote Collections, Discussion Guides for Teachers of Literature, Collections of Good Deed Accounts, etc. Some eBooks are free.

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