QuarterHorse Stories

The Man Who Won the War

Book Review by Col Tom Fife, Quarterhorse 6, Dec 67 - Dec 68

Sometimes a good book can express your inner thoughts better than you can. The book I finished today did that. It is entitled Duty: A Father, His Son, and the Man Who Won the War. The Father is the author's father who was a combat infantryman in Italy during World War II. The son is Bob Greene. The "Man Who Won the War" is Paul Tibbets, the commander of the group and the pilot of the plane that dropped the first atomic bomb. The book is the unlikely story that links the three men. Bob Green's father is dying. Bob is visiting Paul Tibbets. Here is what he wrote from that visit. There was a moment - when Tibbets was trying to explain something to me - when I failed to understand what he meant at first. He ended up raising his voice. The matter at hand was that important. I had told him that I was struggling with the question of why my father - and, apparently, so many men his age - thought that on some level the war was the best experience of their lives. Not that it was fun; not that it was enjoyable. But as terrible as the war was, there was nothing else in my dad's entire life that meant so much to him. Nothing that came before, nothing that came after, ever seemed to contain the same power. And, although I understood some of the reasons for this, I didn't understand them all. I asked Tibbets if he did. "It was because your father was a man among men," he said... "What I mean is that the war was the one time in a man's life that he got to be a man surrounded by men, all of them working for the same thing, no one better than the person next to him, regardless of rank. "A time like that comes along only once in a lifetime - if that. You are literally risking your life every day, and you're doing it with the men who are next to you. You form friendships during days and nights like those that nothing and no one in your entire life will ever match. "Please pay attention: The reason those years mean so much to so many of us is that it is the one time in your life that you are absolutely proud of what you are doing, and your are absolutely proud of your friends and what they are doing. It's a relationship of man to man. "It is... the guy next to you and the guy next to him. And the people back home can't see you, and they don't know what you're doing, and they don't know who you're doing it with. These men are your friends, and you are depending on them to live. "Men among men!... And when you come back home after the war, it is never the same. You faced odds, and you made it back, and you faced down your worst fears. And all of a sudden you're back in a country where things are quieter, things are safer, and the people around you on the streets are not all working for the same goal. And you go on, and the war is over, and you become the person you will be for the rest of your life. But inside of you, the time when you were men among men will never go away. That's all I was trying to tell you." You can't say it any better than that. Only someone who has been there and lived to look back on the experience could have said it as well. He speaks for all of us. I know he speaks for me.

COL Bill Haponski - My Tour of Duty

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