Monday, November 11, 2013

11 November, 2013

The last of my uncles died this year, closing out my relationships with the blood relatives of that generation. In this life, anyway. Roy Bonati, who served under Gen. Patton in the European Theatre in a railway unit, actually took some incoming. Like most vets of WW II, he never talked about it. He and I got pretty shitfaced at my mom's, his sister's, wake in 1992 and Roy pulled out his picture book and explained some of the action he saw, where bullets were coming his way. Pages and pages in that album were carnage and destruction he photographed on his way across France and Germany. Uncle Roy later worked for Bell Aerospace here in New Mexico, as an electrician in Buffalo, once owned a circus shooting gallery, and finally retired in his late eighties as the host at the Anchor Bar in Downtown Buffalo.  When I get to Buffalo, I'll see if my cousins still have that picture album.

Ralph Bonati during a happy moment in Southeast Asia
Uncle Ralph was more fortunate in avoiding incoming. With some engineering training, he landed a gig as an aide to Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler in Southeast Asia. I guess that's how my uncle then landed a gig as an Army Corps of Engineers guy at the building of the Mt. Morris Dam south of Rochester, N.Y.  Uncle Ralph and his family settled down in Rochester in the 1960's, where he was an IRS agent.  He checked out in 1990.

My first wife's father, John Zeh Jr, probably had the hardest job. He landed on D+3 on the Normandy Beaches and was involved with what one could euphemistically call the cleanup. I didn't know that fact until one day when my brother in law Jack and I made venison for the family. John found a piece of hair in his meat and suddenly left the table in silence. He told us later why he left, which was pretty much a flashback.

When John Zeh died in the late 1990's after a career as an architectural engineer, I gave my copy of The Greatest Generation to his wife Marie. It was the least I could do.

My good friend from my undergrad days, Police Officer Fred "Woody" Woodard in Rochester, NY, lived the most harrowing existence in WW II. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he fought in both Bastogne and Normandy, if I recall correctly. Woody would never tell serious war stories--he lived enough of them and came back with so much shrapnel in him he used his badge to board airplanes after setting off the metal detectors.  He joked about the weird things soldiers did when they were not fighting for their lives. One day, for some reason, the Malmady massacre came up in a conversation, probably over one of those innumerable breakfasts we all ate when we got off graveyard shift duty as Univ. of Rochester Security Officers (Woody moonlighted there, which is how I got to know him). He got really quiet and then said something to the effect that any German soldier with SS emblems was wise to not be caught by the GIs wearing any of them.

May we all live up to the standards and dedication that generation laid down for us. Whether in peace or war, and much preferably in peace, let's work as hard as they did when duty called. But without taking away anything from those brave people who have served, let's not glorify war. One has to remember that war is a continuation of politics by other means. A continuation that involves immense destruction, loss of life, human and physical carnage, a waste of resources, and in the final analysis, it is brought on by a failure of politics involving more peaceful means or by a failure of conviction to solve a problem forcefully before it becomes more immense, i.e., the Munich Agreement.

War, in the final analysis, is only acceptable if the alternative is worse. That's gotta be pretty damn bad.

Today we took a hike. This photo is looking southeast from the Mitchell Trail above Los Alamos. In the background, the Sangre de Cristo Mts and Rio Grande Rift. The twin water towers in the center bracket TA-21, the first purpose-built nuclear research and development facility built at Los Alamos at the end of WW II.


GreenBici said...

This was a very nice post. I do agree - "War, in the final analysis, is only acceptable if the alternative is worse. That's gotta be pretty damn bad."

Peace :)

Khal said...

Thank you, and peace to you as well.