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The saddest thing

My father rarely talked about the war, though when he did it would be no more than a few words.

I’m sure that after spending three years in the steamy jungles of New Guinea he would have much to complain about, but I only ever heard a couple of complaints: It was wet, and it was “bloody” hot (“bloody” being the strongest profanity that would pass his lips). On another occasion he told of going without food for three days, and as an added inconvenience people were trying to shoot him. It was a comment, not a complaint.

After the war ended the first thing he did was to forgive the enemy. Like him, they were guys sent to war by their government. He even respected the enemy, for in his mind as soon as you lost that respect… you were off your guard and you were vulnerable.

No, he didn’t hate the enemy. But he did hate their government for sending them – and ultimately us – to that bloody war in New Guinea.

(But he would have done it again, without complaint. When he was 63 he told me that even at his age he would sign up to fight for his country if he could. My father always had this sense of duty).

It was not until he was 90 that I heard his first complaint. It was one that sickened and angered me.

Happy to have his brand new walking frame, he was out and about in the mall of his regional Victorian city. (I accompanied him once. He would walk as close to the corridor walls as he could, so not to impede other pedestrians). But on this day he was alone, hobbling down the mall with three teenage schoolgirls heading towards him. They stopped, but they didn’t move. They refused to move. My father – by now the subject of an earful of abuse – had to move for them. This poor old bugger who had left behind a wife and young son to fight for his country and his freedom, this old bugger who had watched his mates die, this poor old bugger – barely mobile – had to get out of their way as well as tolerate their abuse. It was too much of an inconvenience for them to take a skip to the right.

(They didn’t know my father, or anything about him. Would it have mattered if they did? Probably not. One thing they certainly would not have known – and perhaps not even bothered about – was that all his life he regarded all Australian equal).

My blood boiled. I so wish I had have been there.

But I am there. I’m there now. We all are.

We see it every day.

Just replace my father with a Baby Boomer, or a rape victim, or a refugee, a homeless person or an Indigenous Australian.

And replace that group of school children with our government, or with sexists or racists, or with our mainstream media.

My point is, in today’s world we are encouraged to turn against those who are different. And we are encouraged to blame someone else for our woes and we are unmoved when they need our help. And we judge them, without even knowing them.

We have a federal government who are masters at creating this divisive society, doing so, of course, to deflect the anger of their failures back onto Australians who are different because … (fill in the blanks).

Do you have any blanks you can fill in for me?

Happy 104th birthday, Dad (4/08/1917 – 19/12, 2008).

And thank you for your service to your country.

 

 

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42 comments

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  1. Peter Ball

    my Dad served in the 29th/46th Aust Inf Bn 18 months on the Island of New Britain , his view if the Japanese was a little different and it was during the last 6 weeks of his life that I found what a jungle soldier went through . There is so much I can write about this subject and I have a written a book etc , the rest of what you say I agree with.

  2. New England Cocky

    Uhm ….. there is a box of green rings somewhere in the shed, but you probably need a rusty marking knife to do a proper job.

  3. Jack Cade

    My father was a quiet man, taciturn, not given to emotion. He served in the Royal Navy, on a destroyer initially and on what was called a battle cruiser, which was a ‘Light’ battleship. He served in the North Atlantic as a convoy escort, in the Mediterranean shelling the shore at Anzio, and in the Indian Ocean. He would never tell us about the war. I only gleaned information by asking him if the sort of things mentioned by the likes of Alistair Maclean were correct. Like ploughing through the British seamen whose ships had been sunk by U-boats, not daring to stop to pick them up. Bear in mind that most Liverpool families had members in the merchant navy: his ship could have been ploughing through his cousins or family friends.
    When we came to Australia, I asked him if he wanted to march on Anzac Day. His I’m passioned response? –
    ‘I saw enough of the bloody war when I was in it. I don’t want to be reminded of any of it. I won’t march, and can’t understand why they have it.’

  4. Josephus

    Seems to me that cruelty to others is increasing alongside increased kindness. A paradox resulting from polarised education?

  5. STUART E ANDERSON

    Thanks Michael. I worked as a pension officer for Veterans Affairs. Heard many similar stories.

    Thanks for unlocking me from this site. I guess my objections to your posts didn’t go down too well. I hope we can debate issues in future without rancour

  6. Michael Taylor

    No worries, Stuart. We enjoy and encourage respectful debate.

  7. Michael Taylor

    One thing that I regularly see on Facebook and Twitter that really pisses me off is the attitude towards Baby Boomers. “You’re a Baby Boomer so you obviously:

    only care about your franking credit (I have none).

    vote for LNP (I don’t).

    don’t care about climate change (I do).”

    And refugees are either accused of coming here to steal our jobs or live off welfare. (Bit of a contradiction there).

  8. Michael Taylor

    Peter, he respected the enemy, but he certainly didn’t like them.

    I was telling him about a movie (Letters from Iwo Jima) that showed a nice, human side of a Japanese soldier.

    He interrupted; “None of them were nice.”

    Never in his life would he buy a car made in Japan.

    But back to the respect bit, he was horrified when some Australian soldiers were filmed making fun of a Taliban prisoner. Dad said; “The enemy already wants to kill you. Unless it’s in battle, don’t give them a reason to be more determined to do so.”

    And as with you, Peter, I never knew what my father went through up there in New Guinea until I read a book about the Kokoda Trail. It made me cry. I knew then why he was the way he was. 😢

  9. john lord

    Michael. That’s a brilliant story and I also notice the disrespect shown to the aged, but I’m encouraged by our Olympians who are showing such respect for their relative sports and their opponents. Just as exciting as their relative sports.

    A pleasure to watch their demeanour in winning or in losing. Your old man must have been some sort of a bloke.

  10. Michael Taylor

    Hi John. He was a hard old bastard. And to me a cruel father and provided me with a childhood that was filled with sadness. (But like I said, it wasn’t until his final years that I knew what he’d been through). It wasn’t until he was in his 70s that he showed me any decency.

    But in one sentence he told me the most inspiring words I would ever hear.

    I was moaning that I’d reached that terrible age of 30. That’s it, I said. Life’s over. It’s all downhill from now on. And on I moaned. It was then that he said those inspiring words:

    “You’re complaining about turning 30! I’m about to turn 74 yet I think that the best years of my life are still ahead of me.”

    Wow. Ouch.

  11. Keitha Granville

    Easier to fill in those they do care about. Themselves, their party, their billionaire mates and donors, their church.

    That’s it.

  12. Kathryn

    My father was a soldier in the 36th Batallion which was the first in and last out in New Guinea during WW2. He fought against the brutaly cruel, marauding Japanese on the Stanley Trail in New Guinea. My father returned riddled with recurring malaria, berri berri and untreated mental health issues that presented in bouts of anger and rage at odd times in our lives.

    Like many of his wartime “mates”, my father DESPISED ANZAC Day with a passion and absolutely REFUSED to march in it! In fact, ANZAC Day was singularly unpopular UNTIL the sneering, self-serving war criminal, John Howard USED and promoted ANZAC Day as an excuse to get our nation deeply involved in a diversionary war, ie the genocidal conflict with Iran and Iraq! My father and so many long-suffering WW2 veterans, despised ANZAC Day because they believed it promoted war and elevated our government-sponsored participation in DISTRACTIONARY conflicts into a God-like status! History has shown that EVERY time the lying, conniving LNP start to STINK in the polls, they use hate, fear, division, xenophobic racism and WAR as a distraction to attempt to divert our attention away from their unspeakable level of depravity, self-serving corruption, rorting and ineptitude! John Howard was a master of such connivance!

    WAR is the last unconscionable refuge used and abused by morally bankrupt, corrupt right-wing politicians who don’t mind stooping to genocidal murder, the upheaval and displacement of MILLIONS of people (such as that experienced by countless millions of innocent men, women and children throughout Vietnam, Iran and Iraq) and the ensuing, unfolding tragedy of homelessness and despair in order to maintain and RETAIN their bloodstained grip on power!

    I commend the bravery and courage of our Australian soldiers who risk their lives on our behalf HOWEVER detest the way our brave soldiers are mistreated, like mere CANNON FODDER, by the war mongering parasites in the LNP for no other reason than political expediency! I DESPISE the nauseating flag-waving hysteria that is drummed up and encouraged by the self-interest of the Propaganda Merchants in the LNP/Murdoch/IPA Alliance who then turn around and treat our returning soldiers with condescending contempt and callous disregard the minute they land back in Australia – especially indigenous soldiers:

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2017-04-25/anzac-day-indigenous-soldiers-shunned-by-society/8468364?nw=0

    If it wasn’t for the fact that we had a LABOR PM in power during WW2, the LNP would have kowtowed to Churchill’s directive that Australian soldiers were to STAY PUT in Europe to help fight the British cause INSTEAD of returning to fight the marauding Japanese as they progressed down through the Malay Peninsular on their way to Australia! Instead, thank God, we had Curtin – a Labor PM – there to protect Australian interests instead of the lily-livered, obsequious Tory/Royalists in the LNP. If the LNP had been in power at that time, no doubt we would all be speaking Japanese right now. There are very good reasons why so many Australian soldiers – including my father – who absolutely DESPISED the pompous Winston Churchill who treated Australian soldiers with unbridled contempt!

  13. RomeoCharlie29

    Thanks for that Michael and Jack. My father was in the RAN, he was mostly in Corvettes and did some convoy escorts To Murmansk. He served on the Perth but was transferred before it was sunk. Two other ships he serv3d on were also sunk after he transferred. He was involved in the Tobruk re- supplies thus became a ‘rat’ of which he was proud, and was one of a handful of Aussie sailors who received a Russian medal for their part in the Murmansk run so notably reported by what Sis name in Corvette. My old man was taciturn, quick to anger and prone to givin me the odd belting We didn’t see eye to eye until very late in his life. Any discussions about the war were passed off with anecdotes about the fun times, or cheeky stunts, he and his mates pulled off but I now know there was at least one submarine kill off Africa.

    He was aboard the Hobart in Tokyo when Hirohito surrendered and later did guard duty for the Australian embassy or garrison in Japan. He harboured no bitterness towards the Japanese and later, when he travelled for Bosch copped a lot of shit from ex servicemen for ‘working for the enemy’ an attitude he didn’t like.

    I blame myself for the difficulties we had.

  14. Canguro

    Michael, I’m guessing from the response to this post that we’re all sharing a somewhat similar background and are of a similar age bracket; in my case, a father who was a civilian working in the rubber industry in northern Malaya and who had enlisted in a local proxy military on behalf of the British army, along with his cousin, both of them expats from Adelaide, were both rounded up immediately after the Japanese invasion of the Malay peninsular and walked to Singapore along with the rest of the captives.

    His cousin spent the rest of the war in Changi, working in the kitchen, and my father was shipped up to Thailand to work on the Burma railroad. His camp was called Konya, the section responsible for the notorious Hellfire Pass cutting.

    To say he was damaged by his experience is an understatement; he was a shattered man, and like yourself I spent a childhood filled with fear and sadness amidst the madness and dysfunction of the decade following the end of the war and his repatriation. He never spoke about his experiences, and his traumas remained undealt with for the rest of his life. He never forgave the Japanese or tried to understand the context of those times… Hirohito, the global forces at play, the reasons behind the expansionism of Japanese empire, the psychology of Japanese militancy or the reasons the Korean gunzoku were as brutal as they were… it was all a nightmare that he preferred to keep under wraps.

    We live in (in a certain way) more enlightened times these days, despite the evidence of social disarray wherever we choose to focus our attention, but at the level of personal therapeutic intervention it’s never been a better time to be troubled…. the field of therapy is fertile and there are many avenues available for troubled souls to seek healing and recovery. My father didn’t have those opportunities, and it’s a pity… he had very poor relationships with his three children, and given the almost inevitability of multi-generational dysfunction, I too crashed and burned in the familial stakes; isolated and alone by middle age until the pain of it all took me into therapy and the long road to recovery from the consequences of early childhood abuse.

    There are thousands, millions perhaps, with similar stories. It’s one of the great conundrums of life; we, as sensitive and intelligent creatures, capable of such goodness, who willingly participate in these bouts of madness and brutish animality, these slaughterfests that leave no winners and only losers.

    Thanks for raising the topic. Grant

  15. Michael Taylor

    Hi Kathryn. I forgot about the malaria. Dad had it flare up again thrifty years later. Apparently it stays in the body for 49 years.

    Speaking of malaria… and this is a true story:

    On Kangaroo Island I stayed at a class mate’s farm for a weekend. My mate’s name is James Crabb. His father was telling me that he was one of only three blokes in his unit who didn’t get malaria. The surnames of the other two were Salmon and Whiting.

    Crabb, Salmon and Whiting. 😂

  16. Old Codger

    An uncle of mine fought in Bougainville in WWII, an unnecessary battle against the Japanese. When he arrived he spoke to an American officer (we were apparently replacing them) and asked ‘where are the Japs?’. The reply ‘they’re over the river gardening. We leave them alone and they leave us alone.’ But Australian generals wanted some glory and so battle was joined. My uncle was then sent to Rabaul the guard the Japanese prisoners. Although some of his mates had been killed in Bougainville, he seems not to have hated the Japanese soldiers as much as he hated General Blamey. He recounted a story of a Japanese prisoner looking over his shoulder as he read an Australian newspaper, the racing pages. The Japanese asked him in perfect English ‘what would you have backed in the 3rd at Randwick?’ The man had been a student at Sydney University. And you wonder why we have to fight and kill each other? Excellent article today in Independent Australian by Helen Caldicott, perhaps answering my question.

    Towards the end of his life he started to listen to the likes of Alan Jones and other shock jocks who deliberately made those who were maybe a little vulnerable, feel like they were victims. All for audience ratings. Bastards.

  17. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    Thanks Michael, for your story about your Dad.

  18. Andrew J. Smith

    Interesting personal story but how often do we hear positive and insightful stories about the ‘other’ versus negative, misleading and divisive aka refugees, immigrants etc.?

    Was recently speaking to an English friend about the impact of Thatcher’s Britain (with Reagan) with the promotion of freedom, tribalism or nativism and authority, then how it can be seen in the behaviour many baby boomers, Gen X etc. nowadays (who were totally side swiped by Brexit while ‘amusing themselves to death’ aka Neil Postman).

    It’s still promoted as a strategy and ideology by the Tories, in the US by the GOP and locally by LNP etc. but using similar media techniques of dog whistling and abusing anything you don’t like, versus presenting structured information on e.g. global warming; in the background unpalatable radical right libertarian policies are enacted making intra-societal relations even worse.

    Decade ago Berkeley’s Prof. Ian Haney-Lopez in ‘Dog Whistle Politics: Coded Racial Appeals Have Reinvented Racism and Wrecked the Middle Class’ says it all, then in the UK recently former Tory Party Co-Chair Baroness Warsi having to call out Priti Patel for hypocrisy and dog whistling round footballers (years earlier several Tory MPs for Islamophobia, including PM Johnson) as it can ‘destroy a nation’.

    Capitol HIll may also be a warning to (GOP) white Christian nationalist politicians manipulating voters through media messaging and dog whistling that not only can if get out of hand but they can turn on them too…..

  19. wam

    my dad was a lovely man the eldest child and working in the bakery at 8 to support a pisspot father, abused mother and siblings. He had left school a started working before the end of the first war. When he returned shattered from nth africa he didn’t look at my birth certificate and hated neither japanese or germans but churchill, menzies were roundly cursed for all his life.
    He was seduced by uncle joe and was happy for much of the time despite the bouts of fierce looking silence when we just kept quiet with him. Then uncle jo was exposed and dad was re-shattered and spent time every six months in the ‘cuckoo’s nest in daws road eventually, at 58, was made a TPI and got a government job on the roads.
    He never said anything about the war beyond warning me he would cut off my trigger finger if he needed to stop me joining up.
    A look at any army site will show why I would not be welcome. But worse the contents pose a great risk to Australian society. The changes the lying rodents made destroyed the services by outsourcing the humanity of community and releasing the arrogance of being ‘trained to kill.’ and the trauma of less than adequate debriefing or, like my dad, none at all.
    thanks, michael, you gave me another chance to relive the memories of a lovely man, unschooled through necessity, suffered through the depression, traumatised by the war and depressed by politics.
    Memories that put my whinges into perspective.
    Safe in the knowledge that he would agree that howard, the rabbott and scummo all make menzies palatable.
    ps
    made myself unpopular for suggesting the xstians in germany were far worse than the japanese who were rejected after fighting with the west in WW1

  20. B Sullivan

    Michael, I too am annoyed about the prevalent attitude to “baby boomers”. The Post World War 2 Baby Boom wasn’t, as people now seem to think, a time of great prosperity. It was a population explosion in a time of recovery from the devastation of total war. It stimulated parts of the economy with an abnormal demographic effect as people needed to divert spending towards raising a huge increase in children. By the 1960’s this generation was working and earning and had a disposable income they could spend promoting “youth culture” and challenging the old ways.

    Still, millions of the post war generation, mostly children under the age of five, were dying all over the poorer parts of the world because population demands had exceeded the earth’s capacity to sustain such vast numbers. But then came the “Green Revolution” which allowed greater production of food at the expense of the environment. Despite the warning of the Energy Crisis in the 1970s increasing the population to encourage consumerism was seen as the way to economic prosperity. Scientists were confidently (ignorantly) expected to come up with a technological fix to solve any future problems like energy and pollution and environmentalism was generally dismissed as a fad (In Australia John Howard contemptuously declared it was no longer a fad in 1996 so he could use it as an excuse to privatise Telstra).

    And so a brand new demographic arose from the ranks of the baby boomers that was large enough to determine the nature of governments and the fate of the world.

    They were called Yuppies. Young upwardly-mobile (professional) people. The people that embraced the 1980s economic rationalism of Reagan and Thatcher (and Hawke) who rewarded them at the expense of the poor. Who ignored the destruction of the environment because their jobs and businesses were more important. They had to drive their kids to expensive private schools in big petrol guzzling four wheel driven vehicles and clothe them in the latest designer label clothes and house them in investment properties that entitled them to claim government incentives so they could afford their regular overseas holidays.

    The yuppies are all old now but their children and grandchildren share their selfish and unreasonable asperations. They’re not complaining about not having a roof over their head, but about not being able to get into the housing market because their parents are living longer and they have to wait longer to inherit all their property.

    Most of the Post War Baby Boomers that ever lived were poor and are already dead. The legacy of the yuppies may be the death of all of us.

  21. Keith

    A very powerful article, Michael.

    Something I have found very disappointing has been the treatment Vietnam veterans had after returning from war. The LNP sent them off to war, but failed to support them on their return. Young people on reaching 20 had to undergo a lottery as to whether they would be called up, a completely unfair situation. There was nothing voluntary about signing up to join the military force at the time. It had been a very unsettling period for young people having togo through the ballot.

    The North Vietnamese won the war and the reasons for going to war have been found to be wrong … countries have not fallen to the communist ideology that the war was meant to stop.

    There is a huge difference between defending your country and being pro-active in attacking another country.

    Something that presently makes me angry is the Environment Minister promoting the view that the Federal government has no responsibility for ensuring the safety of young people or people yet to be born as displayed in case of young people vs Environment Minister. The Environment Minister plans on trying to have the Federal Court decision repealed. When boiled down it means government politicians are not concerned about the future welfare of their own children or grand children.

  22. Greg Pocock

    My dad did his jungle training running telephone lines from Medowie to Nelson Bay before going to Kakoda , he made mention of blokes on the boat never fired a rifle before . Invalided off Kakoda in December ,20 months in west Australia then on New Britain . Putting up an aerial up a coconut tree , his Warrant Officer poked his head out and said they have just dropped a big bomb on Japan . My dad liked meeting up with his wartime mates and they were very welcoming to me , even after his death, his mates would regularly ask me to come down and join them , I marched in uniform (RAAF) once with them . One of them “Goosy Macnamarra and my dad applied for commandos , my dad not successful . Goosy was waiting at a bus stop when a group of louts picked him , Goosy pulled a palling off a fence and put paid to them. Also standing with another of his mates Cooey Yung , Chinese, in Gladesville RSL club watching a two up game and a rather large drunken unsuccessful young yob gambler started getting agitated and swaying on his feet at Cooey , we diffused the situation by getting Cooey to pull out his medals . My dad hated New Guinea and in the 80’s when I was contemplating joining a group from an aero club going to Port Morseby ,my dad advised against it . I can remember in the 50’s my dad having malaria flashbacks and also having flashbacks on odd occasions to some incidents that triggered bad memories. One of his mates also was at Milne Bay and told of human carcasses having hunks of human skin removed .

  23. Old Codger

    B Sullivan, and remember the DINKS…double income, no kids.

  24. Terence Mills

    Michael

    I had a bout of Malaria whilst working in New Guinea (before it became PNG) in the seventies. I still get recurrent bouts in the cooler weather but living in Far North Queensland that is the rare occasion – I also had a bout of Dengue picked up while volunteering on an elephant refuge in Northern Thailand.

    All part of life’s rich tapestry !

  25. Jack Cade

    Two years ago I went to the Nanjing memorial to the atrocities perpetrated by the Japanese in that city in what has been called ‘the Rape of Nanking’.
    I have read many WW2 books about the Japanese treatment of native Asian peoples and their prisoners of war, but nothing shocked me as much as the things they did in Nanjing. And they filmed what they did: were proud of it.
    It would give you nightmares.
    An amusing item I gleaned about the prisoner-of-war concentration camps, heard on BBC world service: one of the camps had a Japanese commander who had actually been to Oxford and was proud of his command of English. One afternoon he called the leader of the camp’s Australian contingent, and said ‘I have studied the English language; I am familiar with its peculiarities, and it’s idioms. But I am puzzled by a phrase you Australians use regularly, and would like you to explain it to me. All the time, they say ‘Pigs fucken arse!’ What does this mean?

  26. Kathryn

    Thanks Michael – for your very entertaining and, dare I say it, “fishy”, story about your father’s experience on Kangaroo Island. These types of amazing coincidences are more frequent than one realises.

    My father was a very talented musician who was a brilliant pianist and was self-taught on the clarinet and trumpet. My father could play anything: classical, modern and jazz and only had to listen to something on the radio, then sit down and play it – he was amazing! His favourite musical genre of the time were the Big Band sounds of the 1940’s, namely Glenn Miller, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw, and Chick Webb. My father died young (at only 59 years of age) and refused to even mention the war even when I asked him questions about it! One of his close friends informed me of an amazing story that involved my father during his service in New Guinea during WW2. During the war, my father played his part in a small band that, on occasion, got together to entertain some of the Australian and American troops that were serving in New Guinea at the time. One evening, they were entertaining a small group of troops – as well as a few local tribesman who, out of curiosity, came down to listen to the music. When they had finished playing a few of the very popular, well-known Glen Miller hits of the time, there was loud clapping and cheering. My father looked out over the heads of the Americans and Australians to see three lone Japanese soldiers apparently enjoying the music and attempting to hide behind some bushes down the end of the field. When they noticed that my father was watching them and had located their “hiding place”, one of them nervously smiled and waved to my father who, seeing that they were unarmed, gave them the “thumbs up” and allowed them to skedaddle back to wherever they came from! My father never mentioned the incident to anyone (except this close friend) until years after the war. It was a bit like the legendary Christmas Truce between the German and British soldiers during WW1 (see the story below). Amazing things happen, eh?

    https://www.iwm.org.uk/history/the-real-story-of-the-christmas-truce

  27. Michael Taylor

    Jack, it means “What a load of crap” or anything similar.

    And speaking of sobering experiences, I visited the old concentration camp in Dachau just a few years ago. After the tour you walk out speechless.

  28. Michael Taylor

    Greg, there’s a chance that our fathers might have known each other, as my dad was in Signals.

    Because of the mountains in New Guinea radio was useless so lines had to be laid, invariably in enemy territory. Mum once told me that this was done at night, preferably in the middle of a storm. Dad and the other guys would wait for a bolt of lightening so they could see where to take their next step. Rinse and repeat.

    Unfortunately a bolt of lightning was also helpful for enemy snipers. One night my dad heard a thump. The guy standing next to him got shot.

  29. DrakeN

    Thank you Michael.
    Yours is a tale which many of us wartime and post-war babies could tell with reference to the hidden sickness, pain and anger which so many combatants brought with them on return to civilian life, and which were only privy to obliquely, if at all, and only when our fathers came to the end of their lives.

  30. Michael Taylor

    Kathryn, they certainly kept their stories locked up inside. A writer once told me that the hardest thing when attempting to write about the war was that the participants were unwilling to talk about it.

    As it was, my father only told me two stories from his time in New Guinea; the first when I was a teenager, the second one 40 years later.

    The first one – he and the guys in his tent were starving, but fortunately Dad was given the order to drive a truck filled with supplies to such and such a place, and it just so happened that the route took him past his tent. The guys had a plan: Dad was to briefly stop outside the tent so a couple of the guys could race out and quickly grab a carton of supplies. Dad parks the truck wherever it was he had to take, and ran back to the tent for the grand opening of the carton.

    But it wasn’t food. They’d grabbed a carton of soap.

    The second one – I phoned him after I’d read a book about the Kokoda Trail, admitting that I had never grasped the full extent of the horrors he’d been through. I then asked him about the enemy. He only gave me one story: After they’d taken a prison camp the word just came through that the war was over. The freed Aussie prisoners were pointing to a Japanese officer and telling the horrors he’d put them through. It was too much for my Dad’s captain… he walked up to the Japanese officer, pointed his pistol at his forehead and pulled the trigger.

    A couple of years ago I was reciting that story to a couple of friends while touring the Cassino War Cemetery in Italy. An eavesdropper comes running up to me yelling; “That is a war crime!” I held my tongue.

  31. Michael Taylor

    So true, Drake. Many of us had tormented childhoods.

  32. margcal

    My father was in the Army, served as a sapper in Borneo in the late stages of the war. He never spoke anything about it. The only time the war was mentioned was when I, aged about 9 or 10, asked “Who won the war?” (oh the days of blissful ignorance). His reply: “Nobody wins a war.”
    So, in spite of the war never being mentioned at home, and my father having died in 1975, my son (born 1981) joined the Army and was deployed three times to Afghanistan. He refuses to speak about it.
    And so history rolls on.

  33. Jack Cade

    Michael Taylor

    It was the Japanese commandant who was asking the question. I forgot to insert the inverted commas…
    If you ever get to visit the Nanjing memorial and it’s estimated 250,000 mass grave, and view the newsreels the leering Japanese took, you’ll be upset the Americans only dropped two big bombs…

  34. Michael Taylor

    Jack,

    The atrocities committed on the Chinese after the 1937 invasion are among the most horrific of WW2. It’s a pity that the events are brushed aside in so many war documentaries.

    If it didn’t have the Americans, then it’s not worth mentioning. ☹️

    By the way, have you ever tried to tell Americans that WW2 started in 1939, and not in 1941 after the bombing of Pearl Harbour? Good luck with that.

    Actually, did it even start in 1939, or was it just a follow on from WW1?

  35. Michael Taylor

    Johnny Horton got it all wrong when he sung “In May of 1941 the war had just begun”.

  36. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    Exactly Michael @8.02pm

  37. Michael Taylor

    It’s my father’s 104th birthday today. I’ve added a message at the bottom of the post.

  38. Jennifer A Meyer-Smith

    Bitter sweet occasion for you, Michael

  39. Michael Taylor

    And it was all a coincidence, Jenni. I’d forgotten Dad’s birthday when I posted this piece. It fits in well, though.

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