Stodghill Says So

An opinionated posting on a variety of subjects by a former newspaper reporter and columnist whose daily column was named best in Indiana by UPI. The Blog title is that used in his high school sports predictions for the Muncie Evening Press.

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Location: Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio, United States

At the age of 18 I was a 4th Infantry Division rifleman in the invasion of Normandy, then later was called back for the Korean War. Put in a couple of years as a Pinkerton detective. Much of my life was spent as a newspaper reporter, sports writer and daily columnist. Published three books on high school sports in Ohio and Indiana. I write mystery fiction for Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine and others. Three books, Normandy 1944 - A Young Rifleman's War, The Hoosier Hot Shots, and From Devout Catholic to Communist Agitator are now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and other booksellers. So are four collections of short mysteries: Jack Eddy Stories Volumes 1 and 2, Midland Murders, and The Rough Old Stuff From Mike Shayne Mystery Magazine.

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Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Brave vs. Heroic

A young man wrote a letter to me saying all those I served with in combat were heroes. Some people say it aloud and that happens more and more frequently as the years go by. All you can do under such circumstances is mumble a thank you or send a note expressing thanks for the kind words even though you know they are not true.
The word hero is bandied about too freely today. People seem to confuse bravery with heroism. A certain amount of bravery is required when men are ordered to get up and charge across a field in the face of rifle and machine gun fire. It's their job, it's what they are paid to do so it is not heroic. Deciding to place your own life in grave danger to help others without being ordered to do so, that's heroic.
A fireman hosing down a burning building that might collapse is brave. If he runs into the heart of the flames to save another person with slight chance of survival, that's heroic.
I served with hundreds of men in combat. Most were brave, two or three were heroes. Ernie Pyle's book about those times was titled Brave Men, not Heroic Men.
You hear people say all those serving in Iraq are heroes. That's nonsense, of course, although a miniscule percentage of them do something heroic, something beyond what they are paid to do or ordered to do. It has always been that way and always will be that way.
Some Americans feel all prisoner of war are heroes. That is absurd, yet the United States awards medals to men who have been captured. Many had no choice other than to surrender, others did it merely to save their own skins because conditions were adverse. The majority, although not all, were brave, but their actions were not heroic.
John McCain's plane was shot down over enemy territory in Viet Nam. He was injured, captured and treated badly. All this required bravery but in no way qualifies as heroic.
I have written about a small man wearing glasses and losing his hearing who was a hero during the fighting in the South Pacific. When his unit was ordered to withdraw while under attack by the Japanese, Rodger Young chose to remain where he was. Single handedly he broke up the enemy attack, but in doing so he was shot half a dozen times and died. His companions, most or all of them brave men, lived.
It seems time that we learn the difference between bravery and heroism. The difference is huge.


Blogger STAG said...

First time I ever heard of Rodger Young was when I read Heinlein's "Starship Trooper".

Neat guy. Quite an example to all of us! The town of Clyde Ohio should be proud to have his remains. Went all the way there to find his grave, but somehow missed it. Nobody I asked seemed to know anything about it, not even the legionaires.

Need to find a copy of that song though.

My uncle Bill (whom I was named after) stayed at his post and covered the retreat of D company when they faced the usual counterattack t'other side of the Albert Canal back in '44 just outside Antwerp. They say his example turned a rout of the Canadians into a tactical retreat,(though the word "rout" was not used in the war diary, it WAS used by Sgt Crocket when I chatted with him about the action.) then, as his covering fire took effect, they stiffened and hung onto their foothold at the locks. He was shot dead in that action.
How many people have even ever HEARD of the Albert Canal. My other uncle, his brother, buried him on Belgian soil. His opinions on "heroes" is pretty much unprintable.

I don't know much about McCain's war record, but I DID read a bit about his time in tiger cages where he worked like crazy to develop a number-letter code which would enable his fellow prisoners to communicate even when they were under orders to be silent. They memorized lists of names of fellow prisoners, names of the ones who died, the names of the ones who "disappeared", names of guards and any news anybody had. It was not just something to do besides suffer...these lists became part of the "missing" lists compiled when he finally got back. That he continued fighting in this unorthox fashion makes me glad he was on our side. The fact that he refused to repatriate himself until his men were repatriated speaks well for his integrity. I dunno...this seems kind of heroic to ME!
Of course, do you NEED a hero as your national leader? We in Canada have had only two (Lord Byng and Vincent Massey)...and we seem to be doing okay. Mr. McCain has a very long and reasonably good track record as a public servant though....but as you pointed out once, one would have to think long and hard before giving the hothead the nuclear button.
I just figure that if Republicans get in, the rest of the world better watch out, and if the Democrats get in, its the vested interests in the country that gotta watch out. Not that it matters....from the outside (as a Canadian,) I have not had the opportunity to see how well or how poorly Mr. Obama served as a Senator. Glad I don't have to make that decision come election time!
Might have been interesting (but not in a good way) to have another Clinton with their shoes under the White House bed, but honestly, I have never seen so much fake sincerity oozing out of a politician in my life! I just hope Mr.Obama doesn't decide to have Ms. Clinton as his running mate.

Well, the war of the Roses was fought in much the same way for much the same reasons. That didn't turn out well either!


12:05 AM  
Blogger Dick Stodghill said...

If you ever get back to Clyde, Stag, follow the main road in the cemetery as it goes to your right. At the place where it turns to go back you will find Rodger Young's grave. It's marked by just a conventional headstone, nothing that attracts much attention. Too bad it seems to be forgotten by most people in Clyde.
The West Point glee club recorded a good version of the song, as did the DePaur Infantry Choir. Finding either today might be next to impossible.

9:11 AM  

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