Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Veterans Day addenda

On this Veterans Day, I turned to the small cardboard carton stuffed with my Dad’s neatly arranged letters home during World War II. My mother had saved them all. They got passed on to me after she died.

I don’t know exactly what I was looking for in those yellowing letters from 1944 and 1945. If it was Veterans Day inspiration or patriotic pride, I didn’t find them.

Dad’s been dead more than 20 years now. He lived into his late seventies, but dementia and palsy haunted him for the last 10 years of his life. He rarely and reluctantly spoke of the war. In his mid-30s, he was a flight surgeon on B-29s. (Dad, Capt. — and later Maj. — William F. Seifert, MD, is the tallest of the three men in the front row of the photo taken somewhere in the Pacific theater of war.) He was first assigned to India, flying “The Hump,” or the Himalayans, on bomb runs into China. Then he was in China itself and finally on the small coral island of Tinian, where the B-29’s assembled for the decisive air raids on Japan.

The “Super Fortresses” there included the two that ended the war by obliterating Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs.

Dad’s letters to Mom were censored so he was left to write about boozing, gambling, dysentery, his buddies, his eagerness to come home, his longing for Mom and me (I was a toddler), the oppressive heat, the foibles of his medical colleagues and the pettiness and bureaucratic demands of the military.

It’s a side of war we don’t hear much about. The parts that Dad had to censor largely make it into the history books and are celebrated on Veterans Day.

Dad’s letters are Veterans Day addenda, remembrances that war, in addition to being hell, bravery and sacrifice, is also, diarrhea, drug abuse, drudgery and bureaucratic in-fighting.

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Blogger Lisa M. Lynch said...

I could see right away that that was your dad. His face really looks like yours!

1:45 PM  

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