Tuesday, 26 March 2013

UNWOUNDED COMBAT VETERANS DO NOT EXIST


       I can certainly vouch for this conclusion summarized in the March 2013 issue of The Lancet (UK) from studies in the UK, US, and Australia.  Whether you have been a giver or a receiver of violence, or both, you are traumatized and subject to abnormal behaviour including a 53% enhancement of any tendency you may harbour for violence.

It is now 68 years since my last exposure to  combat and I do feel I have been successful in controlling my emotions that do run deep.  Yet, over the years, from time to time, painful visions have flooded back, leaving mental pain as they slowly subside.  It may sound strange that visions of the 50-odd times that I have been in a universe of exploding flak, bombs, flying bullets, and crippled aircraft leave no pain, just frightful memories.  What do leave pain are lost friends and visions of the 17 times I have caused death and destruction to others.  Most of my bombing and mining operations were confined to six months of cold winter nights, followed by a dozen episodes  of “friendly fire” bombings and strafings while a POW
      
Increasingly, during these current cold winter nights when I pull back the covers to slip into a warm bed, visions assail me of people drowning in the cold North Sea from ships my mines sank plus visions of  poorly-clad families forced, wounded and bleeding, out of their homes, from streets wrecked by my bombs, into the snow with no heat, no water, no food, no sewage, no warm shelter, no tampax - all pitiful victims of man’s inhumanity to man.

On the return leg from bombing Berlin, 27/28 March 1943, I was shot down into Hamburg.  The 24 civilians, all women and teenagers, who captured me were survivors of our previous bombs, some of which were mine, yet all were friendly, considerate, and helpful.  They did seem quite envious when they handed me over to the Police and Luftwaffe, saying “Für sie der Krieg ist aus” (For you the war is over).

   Now, accompanying my current visions, there are those feelings of returning butterflies that used to swarm in my stomach during those scores of days I would try to build up the frame of mind needed to accept departing at dusk friendly skies, many cancelled at the last minute due to foul weather, but still demanding a long period of de-winding.

People tell me I was a hero, protecting our freedoms so we can create future wars.  I appreciate their concerns, especially with the 125 valued friends who did not, as I did, survive being shot down.  Their concerns can never help when it comes to those I have killed or hurt.  That is something I have to deal with alone.  My physical wounds healed long ago.  My mental wounds remain, even growing with age.  The older I get, the harder it is to forget.  The visions become more vivid, heavy reinforced by the burdens carried by legions of more recent combat veterans.

My frantic search for meaning continues.











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