“There is no real ending. It’s just the place where you stop the story.”

― Frank Herbert

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

 This is a depressing book.  The man who wrote it is dead now. He died in the mid 2000's, and I don't remember exactly which year.  It's an interesting book, because he flew Spitfires and Hurricanes during the Battle of Britain, and then on through til the end of the war.

What's not so good is that the experience twisted him. He was eventually shot down, the aircraft burned, and he was disfigured. Essentially that experience and the aftermath in which he went through some forty operations transformed him into a homicidal maniac utterly devoid of any compunction about the things he did.

Some memoirs are informative and inspiring, and some are so dark you are better off not reading them. I first read this book in 1971and I don't remember it being this way at all. That was a long time ago though.



On the other hand, there are people who go through extraordinarily traumatic experiences and still manage to maintain some modicum of humanity. This fellow worked with the ARVN and thought well of them.  I knew many Vietnam veterans in the USMC and I can't recall a single one who had a good word for the ARVN.  I suppose it was a matter of perspective.  I 've never seen much on that aspect of the war so it was interesting.  I 've owned my copy of this book since 1991 so I know I've read it before, but strangely I didn't recall any of it.  1991 must be one of those years where we had a lot going on here, and I don't remember much that went on then.

Especially when my wife was going through the brain tumor and recovery from that, things tend to get hazy. She was in a hospital in Atlanta for a long time. The kids were little so that complicated things. After we got her home she was ill for a long time. I really don't remember many details from all of it, and the one's I do remember are inconsequential, like the color of the furniture in her room at the hospital.  Sometimes,you just get overloaded, and events and details get lost. I suppose everyone experiences something similar at some point in their lives.



20 comments:

  1. Memory is a funny thing. I've a few hazy years there myself due to the crap the family was dealing with. I should reread the books I read then and see if I can more out of them.

    Dad had a mini stroke and lost parts of his memory. On balance, he seems to have lost a lot more of the bad than the good. He might be a happier man for it. Dad's fine now and just remarried at 79, so you never know.

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    1. Stokes get a lot of people here in the South. The doctors say it's because we eat so much friend food, and I suppose that could be so. Your dad was lucky in the minimal impact it had on him. Most people who have a stroke are a lot more seriously effected. 79 is pretty old to be getting married again. I guess you should live every day though, and not worry about your age.

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    2. My grandfather lived a rough life. Drank, smoked, and worked in wood camps and papermills. Lived on booze, bacon, eggs and ice cream. Made it to 87. Dad takes better care of himself so maybe 79 isn't too old to remarry.

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    3. If he's happy with his new wife, and she with him, then I think age doesn't matter. At that stage of life, it's probably companionship above all else. Nobody wants to live alone, or at least, most don't.

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    4. I meant fried food in my earlier response. I think this damned thing changes my words sometimes.

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  2. Died in the mid 2000's? Around 2044? I have got to stop taking these 30 year naps!
    Just teasing, another thought provoking post. Harry.
    Strelsi

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    1. I wasn't very precise, was I? I want to say 2008, I read his obituary on line, in one of the London papers, because I wanted to see how he ended up. He actually married the daughter of the guy who used to play Dr. Watson in the old Basil Rathbone Sherlock Holmes shows, and seems to have lived his life on out normally, but he did some really , seriously across the line stuff in the war and didn't seem to feel the least remorse.

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    2. NO body could do Sherlock Holmes like Basil Rathbone. The most recent Sherlock offering is fun ( the Cumberbatch fellow), but it really isn't Sherlock. A Conan Doyle, one of my favorite writers. The complicated, yet seamless way he tied several plot lines together was exemplary.
      Strelsi

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  3. Hey Harry,

    (captaincrunch)


    I think when a person undergoes extreme stress and trauma, the real core of the person shows.
    A long time ago, I watched men in my company in boot camp crumble under pressure. I saw men who I thought were tougher than I was cry, quit and run home momma.
    I also observe as people in 'stress out and collapse' in rough situations when I was overseas. I seen suicides, drinking problems, drug problems etc.

    When in real stressful situation I fell back on what I learned long ago in boot camp. I stay focused. I go into autopilot and fall back onto my training as if it was instinctual. I know that sounds odd maybe but it works for me.

    I do believe that everyone has a breaking point. There are things that would cause me to go nuts. Lock me in room full of ferrets and I will be okay. Look in a room full of people and I will go nuts:)

    I have read countless books in years past on survivors everywhere from the Nazi death camps to the recent actions in Afghanistan and as best as I can surmise 'real strength of character comes from within. No one knows how well a person will react until real stress sets in. That I have learned. No amount of training will prepare you for when or what kind of stress sets in whether it be bullets flying in your general direction or dealing with a family member with a major medical emergency.
    I guess you could say its finding 'grace under pressure' I think that's what I am getting at.

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    1. If they couldn't hack boot camp I sure as hell wouldn't have wanted them around me when things got really interesting.

      I see your point though. I expect every single human being goes through some experience that overloads them at least once in their lives.

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  4. I actually read a lot of war books, Korea and Vietnam mainly. I don't mind dark and gloomy as long as it's offset with an occasional uplifting story or act. Unfortunately it's mainly stories of people doing whatever needs to be done to survive, so there aren't many uplifting moments to be found unless just surviving is uplifting enough.

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    1. Because I am so disgusted with life the way you have to live it today, and the way the society has degenerated, I enjoy reading about people in better times. But as a corollary, I expect those people to be better than we are today, and sometimes that doesn't happen.

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  5. Hi Harry, I am so glad your wife recovered, that must have been an awful time. I understand about the brain fog. Thanks for becoming follower 400, that's such a nice round number. I was looking for a Google Friend Connect way to follow your blog -- I already thought I did, actually. But I only found the Google+ Circles, which I don't do. But it was interesting to scroll down and look at you sidebar where you have so many different and interesting things.

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    1. Inger, I signed up on that follower thing because sometimes I get a little bell on my email, and it says someone has signed up as a follower, so I want to reciprocate. I don't understand how it all works, or all the circle stuff .I signed up on your follower list because I like your blog and I thought it would be appropriate because I read it so much. I am not sure about Google Circle it may be something I set up when I was trying to add the follower widget to my blog. I really think just reading another persons blog and enjoying it is the main thing.

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  6. Harry, back in my teen days, I read a lot of books on Nam. Chickenhawk was one of my favorites. The last really good one I read was Unbroken. I'm hoping the movie version coming out real soon does it justice. --Troy

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    1. Troy, I have "Chicken Hawk" and also the sequel where the guy tries to smuggle dope on a sailboat and goes to prison. Both good books. He had a lot of trouble trying to reintegrate into CivDiv.

      I read Unbroken. I was surprised to find out that the protagonist was in that same prison camp as Pappy Boyington.

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  7. You speak about the reputation of ARVN soldiers. We didn't think very highly of them when I was there. I did, however, hold our Kit Carson Scout (former VC) in high regard. He didn't speak a lick of English, but got things done. Like going to the village and bringing out ingredients and cooking them up with C Rats. Great food. He knew how to fire the M60, and in broken Vienglish would call in sitreps with the other Tracks at night. Great guy....I wonder what became of him. His name was Nguyen Van Deo.

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    1. I didn't go into the Marine Corps until 1971, and then they sent me to college for four years, so I was not in Viet Nam. Everything I know about ARVN, I know from the older guys who were still in the Marines while I was (71 -86), and they detested them. However, I have heard that the Kit Carson Scouts were reputable, and it's apparent from Parrish's book that some of the ARVN units were decent, though he worked with ethnic minority mercenaries for the most part and I think they were a different kettle of fish. I hope your guy got out when things came apart. I would imagine his would have been an extremely difficult situation if he didn't.

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  8. Here is an ARVN example. We're creeping our ACAV over a rickety little bridge, when, without warning right beside us Bam Bam Bam Bam. Rifle fire. We were fixin' to open up and the little ARVN tending the bridge holds up his m1 carbine and smiling says "I shoot fish!" No shit. Fire discipline? Not. Just a little hillbilly with a rifle......................

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    1. I've heard a lot of stories like that. The ARVN might have had some good units but no one I served with ever had a good word for them. We seem to wind up with a lot of third world allies like that. The Iraqis come to mind.

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