Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner


There is a war poem that was once known by most interested and informed Americans.  It's called "The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner."  It was written by Randall Jarrell and published in 1945.  We don't know it today because, I think, it is too real, too graphic, too ugly.  It makes us too uncomfortable.  It makes us pray that our lost loved ones didn't depart like that.  But many did.  It's what war does.

I'd like to know what you think it means or if you think it has any meaning at all.  I think its point was to tell Americans that our military was not dying dignified, quick, clean, comic-book shot-through-the-brisket deaths.  That's a lie told so that we can sleep.

No, they were (and are and always have been) dying deaths of unspeakable horror and terror and pain.  So if we support a war it asks us to at least consider what it is that we support.  Men and women are dying because we asked them to and we knew they would die.  It doesn't seem too much of a burden to ask us to read about or watch what we asked for.  It's little enough.

The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner
By Randall Jarrell

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,
And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.
Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,
I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.
When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.


"Do not go gentle into that good night...
Rage, rage against the dying of the light."
     -- Dylan Thomas

The day is coming to a close here.  Did I dare enjoy it?  Yes I did, but I also remembered the ball turret gunner, the tanker, the red leg and the grunt and those whose pieces we couldn't find.

Happy Memorial Day


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