©2001, Cindy Myers
10th Armored Replacement Battalion
Recently, World War II Oral History web site director Aaron Elson received the following e-mail:
Hi, my name is Cindy Myers and I am trying to research a poem that my grandfather sent to my dad from Germany during World War II. My grandpa died in 1987 and we recently moved my grandma to a nursing home. This is when we found the poem. My grandma thinks that he wrote it, but we're not sure. The poem was typed, but does not have my grandfather's signature at the bottom, nor does it have who the author is. My grandpa was an artist and when he got home, he handwrote this poem using india ink and drew a war scene below with an upright rifle with a helmet on it on the right hand side. Cindy Myers
War is more terrible than all words of men can say; more terrible than a mans mind can comprehend.
It is the corpse of a friend; one moment ago a living human being with thought, hopes and a future -- just exactly like yourself -- now nothing.
It is the eyes of men after battle, like muddy water, lightless.
It is cities -- labor of generations lost -- now dusty piles of broken stones and splintered wood -- dead.
It is the total pain of a hundred million parted loved ones -- some for always.
It is the impossibility of planning a future; uncertainty that mocks every hoping dream.
Remember! It is the reality of these things -- not the words.
It is the sound of an exploding shell; a moment's silence, then the searing screams of "Medic" passed urgently from throat to throat.
It is the groans and the pain of the wounded, and the expressions on their faces.
It is the sound of new soldiers crying before battle; the louder sound of the silence afterwards.
It is the filth and itching and hunger; the endless body discomfort; the feeling like an animal; the fatigue so deep that to die would be good.
It is the battle, which is confusion, fear, hate, death, misery and much more.
The reality -- not the words. Remember!
It is the evil snickering knowledge that sooner or later the law of averages will catch up with each soldier, and the horrible hope that it will take the form of a wound, not maiming or death.
It is boys of 19 who might be in the schoolroom or flirting in the park, husbands who might be telling their wives of a raise -- tender and happy-eyed; fathers who might be teaching their sons to throw a ball -- bright with pride.
It is these men, mouths and insides ugly with hate and fear, driving a bayonet into other men's bodies.
It is "battle fatigue." a nice name for having taken more than the brain and heart can stand, and taking refuge in a shadowy unreal world.
It is mained coming home; dreading pity, dreading failure, dreading life.
It is many million precious years of human lives lost; and the watching of the loss day by day, month by month, year by year until hope is an ugly sneering thing.
Remember! Remember and multiply these things by the largest number you know. Then repeat them over and over again until they are alive and burning in your mind.
Remember! Remember what we are talking about. Not words; not soldiers; but human beings just exactly like yourself.
And when it is in your mind so strongly that you can never forget; then seek how you can best keep peace.
Work at this hard with every tool of thought and love you have. Do not rest until you can say to every man who ever died for a mans happiness:
"You did not die in vain"