Re: RARA-AVIS: Something About A Soldier

Date: 28 Jan 2001

Kip is exactly right about Charles's attitude. He didn't talk about combat, even with friends who had also been in combat. When interviewed and asked why he didn't write a wartime autobio or novel, he'd say the other people --Irwin Shaw, James Jones, Norman Mailer, Thomas Heggen--had already done it. This answer was an exercise in blowing smoke. Charles had a shrapnel wound less than an inch from his spine. He knew that inch meant the difference between life as a paraplegic and living with his faculties intact. People w/ warfare experience know the meaning of contingent. The writers among them may not have written about wartime as such, but the random quality had to have worked its way into their fiction. Betsy

In a message dated 1/27/01 1:00:31 PM, writes:

<< About Willeford's not writing about is World War II experiences: As I'm sure most people on this list know, Willeford was a decorated, legitimate hero of World War II. He showed remarkable courage as a tanker, especially during the Battle of Bulge (if I remember correctly). I'm not sure it would have been possible for him to write about all this without in some measure bragging about himself. It may be hard for us living in early 21st century, ego-centered America to comprehend this, but for the generation of World War II, bragging about yourself was considered extremely bad form, and it seldom was done. James Jones has written (somewhere) about how returning service men and women immediately after the war never wore their medals -- they kept them in a box to show to their kids, and that was about it. The only acceptable thing to wear in public was a ribbon designating combat service. If a returning soldier tried to wearing all his medals, it was an invitation to get his ass kicked by other returning soldiers. As I say, it was just considered bad form. I suspect -- and Betsy, please correct me if I'm wrong in this -- Willeford was like a lot of other WW II vets in this regard. And that's why his military memoir stopped during peace time. >>

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