“More than 200,000 perished in the 82-day struggle—twice the number of Japanese lost at
“Americans still march in Memorial Day parades, but attendance is light. One war has led to another and another and yet another, and the cruel fact is that few men, however they die, are remembered beyond the lifetimes of their closest relatives and friends.”
General MacArthur: “Only the dead have seen the end of war.”
“There is an old soldier’s saying: ‘A man won’t sell you his life, but he’ll give it to you for a piece of colored ribbon.’ ”
“And Napoleon had formed mass armies, pressing every available man into service. It was a long step toward total war, and its impact was immense.”
Winston Churchill: “War, which was cruel and magnificent, has become cruel and squalid.”
“The mud beneath our feet was deeply veined with blood. It was slippery. Blood is very slippery.”
“During those ten days I ate half a candy bar. I couldn’t keep anything down. Everyone had dysentery, and this brings up an aspect of war even Robert Graves, Siegfried Sassoon, Edmund Blunden and Ernest Hemingway avoided. If you put more than a quarter million men in a line for three weeks with no facilities for the disposal of human waste, you are going to confront a disgusting problem. We were fighting and sleeping in one vast cesspool. Mingled with that stench was another—the current and corrupting odor of rotting human flesh.”
“It was peacetime again when John Wayne appeared on the silver screen as Sergeant Stryker in Sands of
“After my evacuation from Okinawa, I had the enormous pleasure of seeing
“Each evening, Navy corpsmen would carry litter down to the hospital theater so that me could watch a movie. One night they had a surprise for us. Before the film, the curtains parted and out stepped John Wayne, wearing a cowboy outfit—ten-gallon hat, bandanna, checkered shirt, two pistols, boots and spurs. He grinned his Aw-shucks grin, passed a hand over his face and said, ‘Hi ya guys!’ He was greeted by a stony silence. Then somebody booed. Suddenly every one was booing."
“This man was a symbol of the fake machismo we had come to hate, and weren’t going to listen to him. He tried and tried to make himself heard, but we drowned him out, and eventually he quit and left. If you liked Sands of Iwo Jima, I suggest you be careful. Don’t tell it to the Marines.”
“I set this down in neither pride nor shame. The fact is that some wounds never heal.”
Comment: I think the “Letter from
Best American Essays of the Century. Editors: Oates and Atwan.