During the 11th hour of November 11, 1918, World War I came to an end with the signing of an armistice. Since then Americans have taken time out every November 11th to thank veterans for their sacrifices and take a look back at those who are no longer with us. Here are some stories and poems about both military servicemen and women, and all those effected by war.
The Box from Braunau is both a memoir of a father-daughter relationship damaged by the ghosts of war, and a chronicle of a World War II veteran whose return to civilian life was permanently scarred by nightmares of combat and concentration camps. We explore the lives of Bill Elvin and his daughter through excerpts from the diary he kept during the war and private letters, as well as newspaper articles he wrote as a journalist on his return. We follow him from his first days on the battlefield as a lieutenant in Patton’s Army to his time at the Ebensee concentration camp where he witnessed firsthand the prisoners’ sufferings brought about by Nazi atrocities. Through his life, we gain a new understanding of the War and its effects on the men and women who fought in it.
The story of any military operation revolves not just around strategies and equipment, but around people. Now for the first time, readers will get an intimate look at the people behind CAS—Close Air Support. Their work is both delicate and deadly, their actions rooted in months of planning and executed with split-second timing.
In 1943, eighteen year old Pierre Berg picked the wrong time to visit a friend’s house—at the same time as the Gestapo. He was thrown into the infamous Auschwitz concentration camp. But through a mixture of savvy and chance, he managed to survive…and ultimately got out alive. “As far as I’m concerned,” says Berg, “it was all shithouse luck, which is to say—inelegantly—that I kept landing on the right side of the randomness of life.”
In 1992, Savo Heleta was a young Serbian boy enjoying an idyllic, peaceful childhood in Gorazde, a primarily Muslim city in Bosnia. At the age of just thirteen, Savo’s life was turned upside down as war broke out. When Bosnian Serbs attacked the city, Savo and his family became objects of suspicion overnight. Through the next two years, they endured treatment that no human being should ever be subjected to. Their lives were threatened, they were shot at, terrorized, put in a detention camp, starved, and eventually stripped of everything they owned. But after two long years, Savo and his family managed to escape. And then the real transformation took place.
Here are two poems from World War I servicemen, John McCrae and Wilfred Owen, and a poem from an Iraq war veteran, Brian Turner.
IN FLANDERS FIELDS
By Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918), Canadian Army
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
DULCE ET DECORUM EST
By Wilfred Owen
Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of tired, outstripped Five-Nines that dropped behind.
Gas! Gas! Quick, boys! – An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling,
And flound’ring like a man in fire or lime . . .
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light,
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.
In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.
If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie; Dulce et Decorum est
Pro patria mori.
By Brian Turner
If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.