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, September 30, 2009

A quick look at the news

More than 100,000 store employees in Ohio alone now are on Medicaid. No less than 15,000 of them work for Wal-Mart. Most of these Ohioans are employed by a company that does not provide health insurance but some opt out when their company does offer it. The Medicaid coverage is more comprehension than that from the insurance company.
So all these far-right folks in the party of No are howling about the cost of covering just about everyone and yet they are already paying to do just that. This must really gall Limbaugh, Beck, O'Reilly and all the other believers in the "kick 'em when they're down" approach to life.
* * *
Anyone who believes talking on a cell phone or texting while driving a car is just fine might rethink that idea. Last year 5,780 were killed when someone doing one or both of those things was distracted enough to cause a crash. It is a little surprising that only 16% of those responsible were under the age of 20. A higher figure would have seemed more likely.
For the sake of the innocent people on the streets and highways there should be a 20-year prison sentence without the possibility of parole for anyone caught either using a cell phone or texting while driving. That should end it.
* * *
Some words and terms are weak, others are strong. Tsunami sounds like a variety of Polish sausage. Tidal wave evokes a frightening image. In the namby-pamby world of today I guess it isn't politically correct to say anything that might scare someone or be seen as derogatory.
Tsunami brings to mind the French word for work, travail - pronounced something like tra-vee-aye. Germans say arbeiten. Tra-vee-aye sounds like a day at the beach. Arbeit or arbeiten sounds like something to be avoided.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Guilty of being black

There is a new book by D.T. Pollard that should make the bestseller list, but won't if a great many Americans have their way. The title is Obama Guilty of Being President While Black. Unfortunately it seems to be true.
Only this morning I read an online story about insurance companies dictating the way doctors provide health care. Why do we have to return to the doctor if we need more than one thing done? Because the insurance companies won't pay for more than one procedure per visit. When I go in for a monthly shot of energy juice I have to go back to have a simple skin cancer removed, a procedure that takes only a few minutes. It isn't the fault of the doctors. Like everyone, they like to be paid for their work.
How many times do we hear abut someone being denied an operation or some other treatment because an insurance company won't pay for it? In some cases that is a death sentence, yet right-wingers shout that this is what government run health care would do.
It's a sham and a shame. Having a black president proposing health care for all Americans has sent every fanatic into the streets protesting. Those in other countries, where universal health care is taken for granted, don't understand it. What does it say about us when some Americans are now moving to Mexico in order to be covered?
The insurance companies are against Obama's plan, of course. So are the big pharmaceutical companies and the Party of No. Right-wing talk show fanatics shout protests and at least one preacher says Obama should be killed. Republicans in Congress say it is too expensive, yet are all in favor of pouring more money down the Afghanistan rat hole.
Makes me wonder whatever happened to this country. Makes me wonder what kind of people live among us.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

The behavior of men and other animals

A week or so ago I finished reading a book by a WWII German tank commander, Colonel Hans von Luck (left). Fittingly enough the 1989 book is titled Panzer Commander. Luck's luck was amazing. He survived battles from the invasion of Poland in 1939 to the final defense of Berlin in 1945. In between those dates he fought in France, Russia, North Africa and France a second time.
His is a fascinating story, yet for me the most memorable words were written by another German officer, Gerhard Bandomir. Regarding the huge Allied air raid on the German front line in Normandy he wrote: "Even a wild rabbit fled into our bunker, jumped into my arms, and drank quite petrified out of my coffee cup! He also chewed a hole in my sleeve."
Those words hit home for me. It's no secret that I feel great empathy for all the little creatures. They lead a hard life under the best of conditions. Predators, including humans, are always on the hunt for them. I have written many times about how upsetting it was for me to see how terrified all animals, large and small, were when a battle was taking place in their normally tranquil territory.
One sunny morning after a particularly vicious firefight in a barnyard I stood for a moment watching the tame rabbits in a pen. I did the same thing on other occasions. The rabbits showed no emotion, but were trembling uncontrollably. The exchange of gunfire hadn't bothered me; seeing the frightened rabbits did.
For a while I lay on my back in the warm sunlight thinking how horrible humans can be. Why were we doing this? The firefight had been exhilarating. Seeing innocent and helpless animals caught up in the slaughter for me was demoralizing.
While lying there I vowed I would never shoot at anything incapable of shooting back. Man against man is an even fight. Man against animal is not. That's one vow I have managed to keep all these years.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Big surprise: women can't keep a secret

Yes, it now is official. I have to admit that reading this news about women in the Irish Independent did not shake me out of my shoes. What man in his right mind ever believed a woman was capable of keeping a secret?
As far back as I can remember, and that means way back to 1928, they have been saying the fastest ways to spread news is telephone, telegraph or tell a woman.
Now a study of women 18 to 65 in Britain, or maybe it was Chile or one of those places, has revealed the maximum length of time one of them can keep a secret is 47 hours and 15 minutes. There is something in their genes or whatever that gives them this uncontrollable urge to spill the beans. The study was financed by a wine merchant and sure enough, a couple of glasses of spirits really helps loosen their tongues. This, too, did not come as a surprise. I believe it was Ogden Nash who said "Candy is dandy but liquor is quicker." I'm not sure, though, that Ogden was talking about revealing secrets.
* * *
The worst combination of words in the English language is "you deserve." It's heard over and over on TV commercials and nearly always refers to someone who has gotten into a financial mess through foolishness. This person has run up $5,000 or more in credit card debt and can't make the payments, but is told "you deserve" to have it wiped off the books. As often as not this is the same person who screams about having to pay taxes but thinks nothing of paying exorbitant interest. What do they deserve? Nothing.
In today's world of "come on" offers, schools should provide graphic examples of what buying on credit means. Kids should be taught what paying interest does to a pay check. They should learn how much money the borrower spends without getting anything in return other than instant gratification.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

You got a bad break? Maybe it's a good one

You never can be sure about the breaks in life and sometimes you have to wait for your big chance and then grab it. I was reminded of that yesterday while trying to find the news on TV and instead saw half a minute of Notre Dame football. Things were not going well for the Irish and that fired a memory of a time 32 years ago when it was the same way. I was covering a game at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Indiana and the way Purdue was manhandling the visitors it seemed like they should have stayed home in South Bend. Notre Dame was sluggish so the starting quarterback was replaced by the second-stringer, a young man named Gary Forystek. The Irish showed a bit more life, but not much. Then some law of physics must have entered the picture when Forystek was hit and brought down. You could hear the cracking of bones all the way up in the enclosed press box. Half an hour went by while the doctors of both schools worked on the unconscious Forystek. They finally got him onto a backboard, an ambulance drove onto the field and he was taken away, his career ended and almost his life.
No one would be singing The Victory March that day. What though the odds be great or small - well they don't get much greater than ten points behind, a lifeless offense, just over ten minutes left on the clock and then a third-string quarterback trotting onto the field. A couple of wags in the press box cracked wise about his unusual name and how far the Irish search for help had gone.
Then a funny thing happened. That third-stringer began firing laser-like passes. His presence seemed to have lit a fire under the entire team. He passed for a touchdown, an inspired defense stopped Purdue in its tracks, Notre Dame had the ball again and marched down the field for another TD. The Victory March was heard after all.
With that former third-stringer leading the way the Irish won the rest of their games and then trounced top-rated Texas in a bowl game. A couple of years later he was in the NFL and kept right on winning. He led his team to four Super Bowl championships and today his bust is in the pro football Hall of Fame in Canton.
Oh yes, the name they were laughing about in the press box that day in 1977 was Joe Montana.
So it was a bad break - a broken back among those broken bones - for Gary Forystek but a good one for Notre Dame and that third-stringer who stood on the sidelines waiting for his chance. When it came he was ready.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Kilroy was here

What better way to start the 500th Stodghill Says So blog than to find that Kilroy was here? Young people may not have heard about Kilroy, the greatest of all world travelers, but should they happen to journey to the moon they will find his face and simple message scratched in the dirt.
So who was Kilroy? The latest edition of The Ivy Leaves, the magazine of the 4th Infantry Division Association, tells us he was a checker at a Quincy, Massachusetts shipyard during World War II. It was his job to mark the rivets that had been completed, but the riveters were on piecework so they'd erase the marks and get paid twice. James Kilroy put an end to that by writing, "Kilroy was here" at every place he checked. Then he began adding the little man with big eyes, a long nose and a single hair peering over a fence so the riveters would know they were being watched.
It wasn't long before those ships were transporting sailors, soldiers and marines to the farthest corners of the globe. They were fascinated by the whimsical little figure and his message and decided to take him along on their adventures. Soon it was all but impossible for a serviceman to go anywhere without finding that Kilroy had been there ahead of him.
It sometimes reached the point of being ridiculous. An underwater demolition team sneaked ashore on a Japanese occupied island to find enemy soldiers painting over a "Kilroy was here" sign. I have been among the very first Americans to reach certain places only to discover that Kilroy had been there ahead of us. Mischievous German soldiers had to have been responsible.
So it seems only fitting that on this half-century blog, Kilroy was here. He's been everywhere else so why not?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Tell Me Why

The head man at the renowned Cleveland Clinic has had to apologize for saying if he had his way he wouldn't hire any more fat people. The fat people are up in arms, crying "Discrimination!"
The governor of Ohio has had to backtrack on lowering the age limit for playing slot machines from 21 to 18. Shouts of "Too young, too immature, too lacking in judgment" have drowned him out.
But hold on a minute. Haven't they been saying that being obese is becoming a leading cause of premature death? Shouldn't people working in the field of health care be setting an example? Apparently not from the looks of employees at any hospital. Is this another case of "Do as I say, not as I do?"
About those slot machines: Why is it legal to play them at horse tracks and proposed gambling casinos in Ohio but not at an American Legion or VFW post? Whose back is being scratched, who is being handed that under-the-table money here? You can bet your sweet ass it's all about somebody's money.
And we're back to that question of why it is just fine to send 18-, 19- and 20- year-olds to Iraq or Afghanistan to get their butts shot off but god forbid the idea of letting them play slot machines.
What exactly does that mean? Why it means that the fate and safety of the nation depends upon people too young, too immature and too lacking in judgment to slip half a buck in a slot machine or drink a beer while doing so. Maybe it also means that veterans never grow up, remain too immature and lacking in judgment to allow slots in their clubs. Surely it couldn't mean that no one would be getting a rakeoff, could it?
Take a step back and look around at the state of the country. See what greed and selfishness has done. Think about those right wingers who say healthcare for all would be too expensive but it's OK to spend more than its cost on wars in remote lands. Oh wait, I forgot. Despite what they tell us about Iraq, it's all about oil. In other words money. Isn't that what life is all about today?

Monday, September 14, 2009

Odd People and Events

I've always enjoyed the companionship of oddball characters because there are times when spending an hour or so with normal people can be boring.
Take my old friend Gerry for example. You might say that Gerry was uninhibited. One night after visiting a tavern or two he was driving home when hit by a sudden urge. He stopped at the house of perfect strangers, knocked on the door and asked if he might use their bathroom. They weren't too keen on the idea but decided to let him in. After fifteen minutes or so they began to feel a little uneasy so the man went upstairs to see what was going on.
Gerry was taking a bath.
I have never been odd myself, of course, but I have been present when people did some odd things. This happened quite often when I worked for Pinkerton's. Late one afternoon my friend John, who had shared some unusual happenings with me, was handed a routine assignment so I decided to ride along with him. When a woman answered his knocking on the door of a house, John flashed one of the various business cards that private eyes collect to use at proper times. He was slow in doing so and the woman grabbed the card from his hand.
We were sitting on a living room couch while John asked a few pertinent but deceptive questions. Then the husband arrived home. The woman said, "Honey, this is mister. . .uh, I forget your name."
So did John. He mumbled something and then we beat a hasty retreat. When we were back in the car I burst out laughing. John didn't think it was funny. He said, "That was one of my best cards and that dame kept it."
I was ready to head home after a long day when the manager called me into his office and said, "Go out to the airport. You're supposed to be arriving on a ten o'clock flight from Detroit. When it arrives, call the ____ hotel and have their van pick you up. When you get to your room ask the bellhop if he can bring you a bottle of whiskey. Then ask if he can send up a woman."
I said, "Look, I know what to do if he brings me the whiskey but what do I do if he sends up a woman?"
The manager leaned back in his chair, laughing. "Well, if you don't know by now it's probably too late to learn."

Saturday, September 12, 2009

A Man Should Never Have to Pay

I'm in the midst of updating a book on football at the local high school so I went to a game last night. I got in free, of course, because I have a deep and abiding hatred of paying to watch anything. I did spend a dime to see my first football game at the same field back in 1936. After that I made a point of finding a fence to climb over or crawl under, anything at all to avoid parting with cash.
As I grew older this seemed a less than dignified way of gaining entry so at the age of 21 I became a sportswriter. This not only got me in free but allowed me to sit in a warm, dry press box on rainy or snowy nights. This caused a bit of friction after Jackie and I were married. She always wanted to go along but had to sit out in the grandstand. Not too bad an arrangement at home games but after leaving the press box at Kokomo or Logansport on a rainy night and finding her dripping wet with an hour or more drive ahead of us showed her in neither her best light nor gracious mood.
Not that being a sportswriter didn't have its down side. When the game ended and others headed for a sandwich at a drive-in or a bit of refreshment at their favorite watering hole, the sportswriter had to go to work. As often as not this was after a long drive home. Being conscientious, or perhaps it was egotistical, I wanted my game story to be better than any other on the sports page. This sometimes meant toiling until one or two in the morning and having to be at my desk again five or six hours later. Still it was better than paying to get in.
Now I get in free at every stadium in the area. That's because I'm old. They just wave octogenarians by at the gate. I'm not sure if this is out of kindness and respect or because they are afraid one of us might drop dead on the spot and hold up others in line. Whatever, I got in free last night but Jackie refused to accompany me unless I took my rollator. A man has his dignity so I will not show up at a football game with a rollator. Having to slip a nitroglycerin tablet under my tongue on the way home was OK because nobody saw me do that. In many ways life was easier as a sportswriter.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

This and That

Love those unintentional, humorous things you sometimes find in newspapers. In reporting a high school football game involving the Bulldogs a headline writer shortened it to Dogs for the sake of brevity. The team seemed to have a few problems in its opener so the coach of the Dogs said, "We had some snapping issues."
OK, I thought it was funny.
* * *
Far be it from me to beat my own drum, but like they say, "If you don't beat it yourself, nobody will beat it for you." With that sage bit of advice in mind I will quote a comment by James Lincoln Warren, highly-regarded writer of mystery short stories and founder of Criminal Brief ( I had written something about a story by Alexander Pushkin and this is a portion of JLW's response:
"Allow me to plug the November issue of Alfred Hitchcock, the lead story of which, 'Deathtown', you wrote.
"It is a fabulous story, evocative and tough. Hammettesque. I especially loved your discount femme fatale. To give our readers a brief taste, let me quote the opening sentence:
"'I had forty-seven cents in my pocket when the gas gauge hit empty and I coasted to a stop in front of a roadside diner on the outskirts of a gritty place called Dealtown.'
"How can you go wrong with an opening like that?"
* * *
Wow! Coming from JLW, that's a supreme compliment.
Some people may be unaware that James Lincoln Warren also founded the Professional Hack Authors RecogniTion Society, whose acronym is PHARTS.
There are several classifications of membership and I am proud to bear the title OLD PHART. I consider this among my prized honors. The others include. . .well, give me a moment and something may come to mind.

Monday, September 07, 2009

How to win friends and influence people

What were they thinking? Did the American soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division feel it was OK to invade a hospital, tie up staff, kick in doors, force patients to get out of bed, walk into a ward where female patients were being treated? The latter act was a blatant disregard for local customs. Who ordered this? Is the military taking disciplinary action?
The hospital in Afghanistan is run by a Swedish charitable organization. As they left, the soldiers told the staff to report to them if any members of the Taliban showed up for treatment. The American military would decide if they should be cared for or not. The staff refused. They care for all.
What? We now decide whether or not to treat enemy wounded? We say no, let them suffer? No army from a civilized nation has behaved that way during my lifetime and long before that. How many times have I seen a white flag waved so both sides could pick up their wounded? How many times have I seen an American aid man treat an enemy soldier before litter bearers carried him back to the battalion aid station? We don't do that any more? Instead we invade hospitals?
There is no excuse for such uncivilized behavior. Conditions don't matter, the practices of the enemy don't matter. You represent a civilized nation so you behave in a civilized manner even if you have no personal feelings of humanity toward your fellow man.
Why are we even in Afghanistan? Wasn't it to capture or kill Osama Bin Laden? That was eight years ago.
Or am I wrong about all this? Has the nation changed so much that we don't want to provide health care for our less fortunate but are willing to spend billions on wars in remote countries? What happened? How did America become this way?
In Germany's Hurtgen Forest there is a small monument erected by men in another regiment of my division. It is in honor of an enemy lieutenant. He walked into what he knew was a minefield to try to aid a wounded American. He died in the attempt. Was that an old-fashioned way to look upon an enemy? I hope not.

Saturday, September 05, 2009

Maisie Comes to Live with Us

Thursday afternoon was a stressful time for little Maisie. She was picked up rather unceremoniously and lifted from her familiar surroundings in the pet shop, placed in a small hamster travel cage and driven to her new home with us. She wasn't at all pleased about this because if there is one thing hamsters hate it's change. If something was in a certain place yesterday it should be in the same place today. If it isn't, that's cause for concern and calls for some serious investigation before the change is accepted.
Maisie, an everyday golden hamster, checked everything out on the two lower floors of her cage but stopped right there when she found a wheel. She hadn't had one at the pet shop, yet knew at first glance that this was a place for running. It took only a minute for us to see that when it comes to running, Maisie is made of championship material. She felt certain she was running back to the pet shop and would stop every 15 or 20 seconds to check how far she had gone. Not far at all so she went right back to it.
Daylight hours are for sleeping in the hamster world, but Maisie was awake and overly excited far into the night. She was awake bright and early Friday morning and feeling far more comfortable in her new home. She had already learned that the kitchen is the place Jackie goes to when it's time for a hamster treat. She just stands alert and unmoving, her eyes fixed in that direction, because like all the hamsters that have come before her she can't think of a single reason why Jackie would be in the kitchen if it wasn't to get a tiny piece of lettuce, a sliver of carrot or some other tasty morsel for her.
After getting what she hoped for, Maisie settled down and slept all day. There was a problem, though. The place she chose for a bed was actually her potty. To her it seemed like a fine place, dark and safe from monsters and other scary creatures. Today, much to our relief, she decided the little house in a corner of her cage was an even nicer place to sleep.
Last night she rolled around the living room in her clear plastic ball. This morning she ventured down the hall to the bedroom and office. Now she has explored everything, including the top two floors of her cage. She already knows that Jackie is her best friend, the one who cares for her and provides those special treats. She seems to have accepted that I go with the territory so she'll tolerate my presence, but the radio confuses her. She hears music and people talking but can't figure out where they are. Last evening the television interested her so she sat up straight and watched until two men began fighting. She jerked her head back, not liking that a bit, and then found something more peaceful to occupy her interest.
So it appears that Maisie is going to like it here. She'd better because she cost nine bucks and shortly after we brought her home Jackie went out and spent $68 on toys and other stuff for her. That's on top of a couple of hundred dollars worth of cages, playpens and other hamster items that were here before her arrival. But as Jackie would say, "She's worth it." So were all the tiny ones that came before her: Sadie and Joey and Zoe and Mr. Zip-Zip and Sophie and eleven more when we were in Muncie. Maisie doesn't know she's Number Sixteen and probably wouldn't care if she did. In her mind she's Number One.

Friday, September 04, 2009

A Sad Commentary on the 21st Century

I called the VA this morning to make my semi-annual appointment with one of the nation's finest primary care doctors. Wait a moment, I was told, because there was a new menu and I had to hear it all before pressing a button. One of the new features is "Press 8 if you feel suicidal or homicidal."
Sad, isn't it? It puzzles me because in earlier conflicts during my lifetime the risk of being killed or maimed was far greater and living conditions were far worse. It doesn't matter if I get it or not, that's just the way it is today.
There is hope, although it's not exactly visible on the horizon. Men are doomed. At least that's what a new survey reveals and it's all because of chromosomes or something like that. Males are losing them at a rapid pace, they say. Not too rapid, apparently, as the end won't come for a few million years. Or maybe it's a few billions years, but either way it doesn't much matter to those of us living today.
Now here's a bit of really good news. Teetotallers are social misfits. Along with being short on social skills they have higher levels of depression and anxiety than the rest of us and have more mental problems than even the heaviest drinkers.
That doesn't surprise me even a little but there's another study I am in complete disagreement with. It says that "beer goggles," meaning, I think, staring at frails through the bottom of a beer bottle, makes them less attractive. Admittedly I have polished off a few beers in my time but never, not even once, have I looked over the babes at the bar through the bottom of the empty bottle. I guess what they mean is that after downing a few drinks a man finds women unappealing. Having studied the actions of men in bars at close range, not in a laboratory, I can say without fear of contradiction that anyone who believes such a thing is full of something less tasty than beer.
This conclusion, I want to make perfectly clear, comes from watching the actions of other men, not myself.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Dining in Bergen op Zoom

We had strawberries for lunch and that started me thinking about the little Dutch town of Bergen op Zoom. We spent a pleasant evening and night there in 1985, but it wasn't easy.
Jackie was upset because we crossed the border from Belgium on a back road without guards so she felt we broke the law and would be jailed as illegal aliens. Then a short time later when we arrived at Bergen op Zoom we couldn't get into town. We weren't barred or anything like that, it's just that there's a wall around it as it has been the scene of numerous battles and sieges.
There are houses ouside the wall and people were out working in their yards or just relaxing at the end of the day. As we made our third complete circuit of the city without finding a way in some of them were laughing and waving when we went by. Three times around was enough for me so I parked the car and set out on foor to find a way in. I succeeded so we finally arrived at our hotel.
After getting settled in we went down for dinner, which was being served outside in a area enclosed by a low wrought-iron fence and overlooking the square. I decided the stress had sent Jackie around the bend because she ordered sea eel. She said it was good and maybe it was because she ate all of it. I stuck to something more mundane but had strawberries and peppercorns for dessert. Americans would never dream of blending the two. The Dutch are a bit smarter because one taste compliments the other and it was delicious.
Before we started out in the morning I was a bit stressed myself. Jackie had insisted that the one thing she had to see in Europe was a genuine Dutch windmill, the huge kind people live in. I asked the hotel employees and not one of them had a clue as to where we might find one. So we set off on the road to Breda and hadn't gone more than a few miles before we came to one after another of those windmills. I guess it was a case of not noticing the everyday things around you.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

We're more alike than some realize

It never crossed my mind that I'd end up a military policeman in Germany but there I was standing beside a battered Jeep with the Weser River at my back and the North Sea a few miles away. It was a pretty good life that winter of 1945-46, certainly a lot better than it had been a year earlier. Now when you got cold you could stop at the service club for a cup of coffee and at the end of your shift a warm barrack was awaiting your return. An old slave labor barrack still enclosed by a barbed wire fence, but that no longer mattered. The Jeep was not my favorite because it didn't have a high rod mounted in front of the radiator to cut decapitation wires. Luckily, at least for me, the windshield always did the job. The pinging sound was not pleasant to hear, but better than the alternative.
The best thing about that job was learning about people. Not just ordinary people but former German soldiers who had conquered all of mainland Europe from the English Channel to the gates of Moscow, from the northern reaches of Norway to the sands of North Africa. The Balkans too, and Greece. Now they were civilian guards hired to help us watch over an ordnance depot that had been an aircraft factory.
You don't spend entire nights for seven months sitting in a guardroom with other men without getting to know them pretty well. You hear their stories, see pictures of their wives and kids, listen to them quietly sing old marching songs, talk about every subject under the sun except Adolph Hitler and his cronies. Some would have seen him as a god, some would have hated his guts, all would have fought fiercely because they were soldiers and that's what soldiers do. They lost eventually, but not because they ever encountered better soldiers or better men.
Gradually I came to a realization: hell, the only difference between any of us is the accident of birth. Take that away and take away the politicians, the priests, the preachers and you'd take away the animosity. Only months earlier we had been trying to kill each other, but in order for that to have happened someone had to teach us to hate. The same old stuff handed down through the ages. They don't speak our language, they don't go to our church, their skin doesn't look like ours.
I had seen it earlier during three weeks spent guarding Polish and Russian prisoners who had been coerced into switching sides. It's easy to make men do that when you occupy their homeland - join us or we'll kill every man, woman and child in your family, it's as simple as that. The two groups got along fine, worked hard together unloading trucks, sang the same songs around a campfire every evening, but when the slightest disagreement arose they'd hurl the worst insult they could think of at each other - Polskie, Russkie. Roman Catholic, Orthodox. Hate them, they're different, but not before someone has done the teaching.
So what's the answer? That's easy, there is none.