What war was then, and what it is now for young Americans
Our motley little neighborhood gang of kids knew how to wage war during the Second World War. The older kids had pocked some of the open fields in the 88 acres behind our houses with foxholes that were useless to us because they had filled with water. An occasional garter snake didn’t help matters much, either.
All of us had weapons of some kind or another and a variety of military-type headgear. I had an almost authentic olive drab helmet liner, Stanley had an overseas cap, and Skippy had come up with an air raid warden’s helmet. Heaven forbid that a kid would show up with a kettle on his head. Billy just showed up.
Weapons included an all wooden Springfield bolt action rifle, a few old cap pistols without any caps, a very bad imitation of a Tommy gun, and a wood and cardboard machine gun that, on its tripod, kind of bent in the middle so that it drooped so badly that any pretend bullets would have struck the ground about three feet in front of it.
Skippy’s weapon was a powder blue toy pistol that had a bell inside. Every time he would pull the trigger it would go “Ding!” Clods of dirt from an incomplete foxhole were in reserve as hand grenades to be thrown at the enemy. We were ready to defend Warren.
We would crawl on our bellies along the grassy sod that resembled shredded wheat biscuits. Our objective was an imaginary enemy stronghold. We had to be super careful when crawling across a bridle path, because they were still renting riding horses down at the riding stadium at the southwest corner of the acreage.
The designated leader would raise his hand and yell “Charge!” and all heck would break loose. (We were kids, remember?) “Bang! Bang! Rat-tat-tat! Bam! Ding!” Billy would add to all this with a musical accompaniment, trying to emulate the background music from a John Wayne combat movie by going “Deet ta dee, da dee dee dah deet ta dee!” Wow! What a cool racket!
Of course, we had once again overwhelmed the enemy.
A fallen tree made a great B-17 bomber. The pilots straddled the trunk, and gunners and other crew took up positions on the outer limbs.
“Bandits at three o’clock!” It didn’t matter whether we were attacked by Zeroes or Messerschmitts – we shot them all down.
There was always the inevitable “Bang! Bang! Rat-tat-tat! Bam!” Wait for it! Here it comes “Ding!” The enemy didn’t stand a chance.
What was abundantly clear to all of us kids was that we knew exactly who the enemy was. War had been officially declared – either by them or us. We knew exactly what our cousins, moms, dads, aunts, uncles and friends of our families were fighting for-and who they were fighting. Our enemy wore uniforms of their country, and the Americans who went off to war wore theirs.
Fast forward more than 70 years. What neighborhood kid of this new generation can identify the enemy now? What does he look like? What color is his uniform? Does he even have a uniform? What is he fighting against or for? What’s his beef? Why does he hate us? What do names like ISIS, Al-Qaeda, Hamas, Taliban and Hezbollah mean?
If I were a kid nowadays, I wouldn’t have the foggiest notion as to where to throw the electronic modern day equivalent of that clod of dir t- or at whom.
No, I don’t yearn for the good old bad old days, but I do long for some clear definition of whom we’re fighting. I’m quite sure I know why.
Mumford, of Warren, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.