Back during World War II (yes, I am old enough to at least have been alive then) I remember the little square banners with a star on them that a very sad but proud mother or father, or both, would have displayed in one of the windows of their home, signifying that a son (or later, maybe even a daughter) had been lost in the war, killed in some place named something like Okinawa or The Black Forest.
Some details of the war even I can remember. I remember that there was never one single American who ever had to ask, or did ask, the question, “Why are we fighting this war?” We all knew why we were fighting the war. And we all knew whom we were fighting against. And we knew why. Even I knew. I was 5 years old.
We know a lot about the war. The names of the battles and when and where they were fought. Where the front lines were in Europe. And where the islands were in the Pacific. And whether we were winning or losing that week.
And afterward? I quote from “America’s War” by Andrew J. Bacevich:
“From his headquarters in Reims, France, Dwight D. Eisenhower sent this admirably succinct cable to the War Department: “The mission of this Allied Force was fulfilled at 02:41, local time, May 7th, 1945.
“In the seven decades since, no U.S. regional commander has replaced Eisenhower’s achievement. No one has ever fulfilled his mission.”
It may be that we will never again hear such a message.
(Robert E. Regut is a graduate of West Point and a teacher with 20-plus years of experience in the teaching of foreign languages, specializing in the teaching of spoken German. He can be reached at P.O. Box 101, Nobleboro, ME, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.)