Two more anecdotes from my dad’s war letters involve the nature of military life and the future of war. In June 1945 my dad wrote about female nurses assigned to his post at Fort Jackson, South Carolina. He noted that:
“The nurses on the Post have been going out with enlisted men. They [the authorities] are trying to stop it by breaking an enlisted man that has a rating & the nurses get fined $75.00. Nurses are commissioned officers & they [the authorities] don’t like officers going with enlisted men. [The] United States is supposed to be a free country so you can see how the Army is. I don’t think the nurses would break the regulation if there were more male officers on the post.”
$75.00 was a lot of money in 1945 (two weeks’ pay, roughly, for the nurses). And busting an enlisted man was a serious punishment as well. Even with the war won in Europe and demobilization already starting, the Army was not about to look the other way when its nurses engaged in almost trivial fraternization.
The second anecdote involves my dad’s speculation about the future of war. In March 1945 he watched a short movie on the German V-1 “buzz bomb,” an unguided cruise missile. My dad wrote that:
“In a movie short they showed the German V-1 robot, jet-propelled bomb. It’s really uncanny how the darn thing goes through the sky. Also showed the damage they caused, which is really terrific. If they have another war, after this one is finished, the United States won’t have to worry about sending troops overseas. With the progress that they could make in 20 years all we’ll have to do, also the attacking country is to send the flying bombs over the oceans and on to the targets. As long as the Allied nations stick together there shouldn’t be any more wars.”
Of course, the Allied countries didn’t stick together, and we’ve had plenty of wars since 1945. But my dad was partly right about war’s future. Think about how the U.S. has launched Tomahawk cruise missiles against various enemies in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, and elsewhere. The Tomahawk is essentially a much more sophisticated and guided version of the unguided V-1 cruise missiles pioneered by the Nazis in World War II.
A final comment: I like the way my dad assumed the US would be the defending country in future wars. Note how he writes “also the attacking country” would use flying bombs. Sadly, the US nowadays is usually the aggressor, even as the government couches its acts in terms of defense.
Today, America’s wars are endless, the troops are still overseas, but at least we live in a free country, right? And now America has the best flying robot bombs as well. The Nazis called these “vengeance” weapons; isn’t it wonderful today that the US leads the world in making such weapons?
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.