Monday, May 28, 2012

World War II and August, 1945

PFC William Howard McCracken
MIA, April 17, 1945
Monterumici Hill, Italy

My dad lost an older brother in World War II, Howard.  While I never met him, I nonetheless feel a void whenever I think about wars, Memorial and Veterans Days. My cousin, Linda Thomson, has done a lot of genealogical research of our family, including investigating all of the known records about how my uncle went missing near the end of the war in Italy.

I never talked to my father much about Howard, but I heard him give a United Methodist Men's devotional once about death and the need for closure - and how his family never had any closure about Howard. That was the extent of what I really knew about how he dealt with losing a brother and yet having no body to bury. Another uncle, Dewey, served in WW II as well, but remained stateside as an aircraft mechanic. My uncle Ed was the last to see Howard, taking him to a movie and then dropping him off at a train station for a late train ride to service.

As progressive as my father was about some things, he was never a pacifist. When I asked him about it once, he said, "You can't let innocent people get beaten up." And I think he's right. Which explains why he did not try to get out of being drafted when Korea came, and he served as a radio operator in the infantry. He was in Korea when the war (police action) ended... and came home. While I have never heard anyone say anything about it, I imagine his parents were thankful beyond measure.

Dad left us a lot of his writings over the years, and below is a poem he wrote about his memories about the bombs being dropped in Japan. Like most war veterans, Dad rarely talked about his experience of it. And while he was too young to have served in World War II, having lost a brother in it affected him and his family in ways I can't begin to imagine. However, this poem probably tells me more about what he thought about war than anything.

PFC Kenneth Don McCracken
Outside Communications Tent, Korea
AUGUST, 1945
By Dr. Don McCracken, as published in Songs from the North Fork

I forgot to do something yesterday.
I forgot to be thankful that I did not know that now we could destroy the world.
We have now demonstrated that [we] can destroy sizable chunks of it.
Cities lay in ruin yesterday; now the earth might lie in ruins.
The war is now over in Europe; soon it will be over in Asia.
But at what cost!
At the cost of power to destroy the earth.

I don’t want to die; I am only fifteen;
But I have seen people die; more than that, I have heard of millions dying.
Man’s inhumanity to man has been pushed to the limit;
Yet, many of us survive.

But, now the potential for destruction has magnified
When man wants to be inhumane, he can do it in mass fashion.
It might take a while for the bombs like that dropped on Hiroshima to destroy Everything;
But this is the first model, and models “improve,” don’t they?
And I fear “Improvement.”

Oh, once, a teacher talked about atomic power and the energy that held atoms together;
And what it would do if it could be unleashed,
But I thought that it was some abstract theory,
And folks say that what’s good in theory won’t work in practice.
But the folks are wrong; the theory works. I wish it didn’t.

I want to live, but it is more than that.
I want to be survived.
When other people died, others survived them; I want the same;
I will die happier if I know others still live.
For years, I have dreamed about the end of the war;
And now that it is over, my dream has changed to a nightmare.

I pray that, one day, we as a world may embrace the peace of Christ. War robs us of way too much.


No comments: