From the desk of Sir Jason...
This week I visited Depoe Bay, the "Whale Watching
capital of the world." There was a nice ocean view
from the hotel room. And a number of interesting
things to see-the sort of collections of small
concessionaires found in any coastal tourist town.
Two things I found notable:
The Historical Museum:
Oregon has been blessed with an uninteresting history.
There were few disasters, far away wars were always
far away and the Whites and Indians while not always
getting along warmly, could at least adapt to each
other in a sort-of civilized manner. However history
is not all crimes, vices, and follies. The Historical
Museum at Depoe Bay gives examples of everyday life on
the Oregon Coast for generations and is well worth a
Lest We Forget:
"Up Front" by Bill Mauldin
Every New Year the great World War I flying ace Snoopy
meets with Bill Mauldin to quaff root beer and tell
war stories. Charles Schultz, had been cheered by his
comics when he was a machine-gunner in France in 1944.
So was my grandfather. So was every American's
Bill Mauldlin started his unusual career publishing cartoons for a divisional newsletter. He had of course seen plenty of action-it would have been cheeky to make the jokes he did if he hadn't. But his greatest contribution came writing cartoons that became so popular that they were published to the entire audience. It says much for both the humility and thecommon-sense of the brass that he was able to get away with it. It could never have been done in many armies but GI always made it clear that his freedom was
loaned but never sold, and his commanders if not exactly understanding were at least tolerant on the whole.
Up Front is a collection of satires on military life as well as commentary on them. It is certainly grim and wouldn't have been so beloved by GI if it wasn't. The perennial protagonists were the anti-heroic Willie and Joe who were ugly mud-spattered and perpetually weary. Up Front is not an "antiwar" piece. The writer is definitely biased toward the allies as all writers were then. What it is is a way to show GI-without the extremes of flag-waving, on the one hand and exaggerated, over-sweet pity-that someone Back There does indeed understand him.
Up Front also has the advantages of being a piece written during the war and gives the perspective of the times.
All in all a fine piece. So when you wish check out Up Front and quaff root beer as you watch Willie and Joe trudging the "path of glory" soaked in mud and bent over into the shape of a question mark. They may not really have been "The Greatest Generation". But they were good enough.