I share James Bowman’s love of The Best Years of Our Lives, as I wrote here in 2004. Bowman’s deconstruction of Home of the Brave, for whatever reason, also called to mind a passage from William Manchester’s Goodbye, Darkness, one of the great accounts of the Pacific War from the grunt level. If you haven’t read it, do pick it up. From the harrowing first page, it will own you until the last.
At any rate, of the mostly doomed men of Bataan, Manchester, a confirmed old-school liberal who died in 2004, writes:
Yet they fought on, with a devotion which would puzzle the generation of the 1980s. More surprisingly, in many instances it would have baffled the men they themselves were before Pearl Harbor. Among MacArthur’s ardent infantrymen were cooks, mechanics, pilots whose planes had been shot down, seamen whose ships had been sunk, and some civilian volunteers. One civilian was a saddle-shoed American youth, a typical Joe College of that era who had been in the Philippines researching an anthropology paper. A few months earlier he had been an isolationist whose only musical interest was Swing. He had used his accordion to render tunes like “Deep Purple” and “Moonlight Cocktail.” Captured and sentenced to be shot, he made a last request. He wanted to die holding his accordion. This was granted, and he went to the wall playing “God Bless America.” It was that kind of time.
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