War Stories

War Stories

War Is ?

By Callie Oettinger | Published: January 16, 2012

Wars—and the ways they are remembered and shared—are unique. There is no one experience—from the child watching it on the news to the service member fighting within it.

“The war is what A.D. is elsewhere: they date from it.”

Mark Twain’s Civil War by Mark Twain

The war is the great chief topic of conversation. The interest in it is vivid and constant; the interest in other topics is fleeting. Mention of the war will wake up a dull company and set their tongues going, when nearly any other topic would fail. In the South, the war is what A.D. is elsewhere: they date from it. All day long you hear things “placed” as having happened since the waw; or du’in’ the waw; or befo’ the waw; or right aftah the waw; or ‘bout two yeahs or five yeahs or ten yeahs befo’ the waw or aftah the waw. It shows how intimately every individual was visited, in his own person, by that tremendous episode. It gives the inexperienced stranger a better idea of what a vast and comprehensive calamity invasion is than he can ever get by reading books at the fireside.

At a club one evening, a gentleman turned to me and said, in an aside:

“you notice, of course, that we are nearly always talking about the war. It isn’t because we haven’t anything else to talk about, but because nothing else has so strong an interest for us. And there is another reason: In the war, each of us, in his own person, seems to have sampled all the different varieties of human experiences; as a consequence, you can’t mention an outside matter of any sort but it will certainly remind some listener of something that happened during the war,—and out he comes with it. . . . ”

The poet was sitting some little distance away; and presently he began to speak—about the moon.

The gentleman who had been talking to me remarked in an “aside:”  “There, the moon is far enough from the seat of war, but you will see that it will suggest something to somebody about the war; in ten minutes from now the moon, as a topic, will be shelved.”

The poet was saying he had noticed something . . .

Interruption from the other end of the room . . .

I was not sorry, for war talk by men who have been in a war is always interesting; whereas moon talk by a poet who has not been in the moon is likely to be dull.

“War is evil”

Winston Churchill, Dec. 24, 1941, at the White House Christmas Tree lighting ceremony

For the best part of twenty years the youth of Britain and America have been taught that war is evil, which is true, and that it would never come again, which has been proved false. For the best part of twenty years the youth of Germany, Japan and Italy have been taught that aggressive war is the noblest duty of the citizen, and that it should be begun as soon as the necessary weapons and organization had been made. We have performed the duties and tasks of peace. They have plotted and planned for war. This, naturally, has placed us in Britain and now places you in the United States at a disadvantage, which only time, courage and strenuous untiring exertions can correct. . . .

“War is kind”

War Is Kind by Stephen Crane

Do not weep, maiden, for war is kind.
Because your lover threw wild hands toward the sky
And the affrighted steed ran on alone,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Hoarse, booming drums of the regiment,
Little souls who thirst for fight,
These men were born to drill and die.
The unexplained glory flies above them,
Great is the battle-god, great, and his kingdom—
A field where a thousand corpses lie.

Do not weep, babe for war is kind.
Because your father tumbled in the yellow trenches,
Raged at his breast, gulped and died,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

Swift, blazing flag of the regiment,
Eagle with crest of red and gold,
These men were born to drill and die.
Point for them the virtue of slaughter,
Make plain to them the excellence of killing
And a field where a thousand corpses lie.

Mother whose heart hung humble as a button
On the bright splendid shroud of your son,
Do not weep.
War is kind.

“War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale.”

On War by Carl Von Clausewitz

War is nothing but a duel on an extensive scale. If we could conceive as a unit the countless number of duels which make up a War, we shall do so best by supposing to ourselves two wrestlers. Each strives by physical force to compel the other to submit to his will: each endeavours to throw his adversary, and thus render him incapable of further resistance.

War therefore is an act of violence intended to compel our opponents to fulfil our will.

“War is inevitable.”

Out of My Mind by Andy Rooney

When I was quite young, I thought I might be a pacifist. Pacifists believe that any peace is better than any war. I liked that idea, but I learned that most pacifists were impractical dreamers. It’s nice of them to talk about not going to war, but then what do they do when another country attacks theirs to take land or property? Do they sit back and watch because they’re pacifists, or do they abandon their ideals and pick up a rifle? The answer is, they fight, and that’s why war is  inevitable until human nature changes. I should live so long.

“War is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble.”

War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning by Chris Hedges

The enduring attraction of war is this: Even with its destruction and carnage it can give us what we long for in life. It can give us purpose, meaning, a reason for living. Only when we are in the midst of conflict foes the shallowness and vapidness of much of our lives become apparent. Trivia dominates our conversations and increasingly our airwaves. And war is an enticing elixir. It gives us resolve, a cause. It allows us to be noble. And those who have the least meaning in their lives, the impoverished refugees in Gaza, the disenfranchised North African immigrants in France, even the legions of young who live in the splendid indolence and safety of the industrialized world, are all susceptible to war’s appeal.

“War is ugly”

The Life of Greece by Will Durant

Of the events and aftermath of the war we can relate only what the poets and dramatists of Greece have told us; we accept this as rather literature than history, but all the more for that reason a part of the story of civilization; we know that war is ugly, and that the Iliad is beautiful. Art (to vary Aristotle) may make even terror beautiful – and so purify it – by giving it significance and form.

“The war is ended”

“Tell the Boys the War is Ended” by Emily J. Moore

“Tell the boys the war is ended,”
These were all the words he said;
“Tell the boys the war is ended,”
In an instant more was dead.

Strangely bright, serene, and cheerful
Was the smile upon his face,
While the pain, of late so fearful,
Had not left the slightest trace.

“Tell the boys the war is ended,”
And with heavenly visions bright
Thoughts of comrades loved were blended,
As his spirit took its flight.

“Tell the boys the war is ended,”
“Grant, O God, it may be so,”
Was the prayer which the ascended,
In a whisper deep, though low.

“Tell the boys the war is ended,”
And his warfare then was o’er.
As, by angel bands attended,
He departed from earth’s shore.
Bursting shells and cannons roaring
Could not rouse him by their din;
He to better worlds was soaring,
Far from war, and pain, and sin.

“War is not pretty.”

A Soldier of Life by Hugh de Selincourt

It was a chance remark. Nothing more. Corinna was standing by the fireplace, eating a sandwich. She said: “Oh, what’s that” Why it’s jam,” and took out her handkerchief to wipe the back of her hand. Now the connection was of the vaguest, and I had taken a firm hold of myself not to think of certain aspects of war. As a sensible man I had reasoned it out with myself. The war had to be; war is not pretty, but to brood on horrors means lunacy. There is much heroism, much suffering;  I have done my bit, and there’s an end or it. I smoothed it all over, too, with patriotic sentiments and made the best of it. What else could a sensible man do? It was no good going about with a glum face as well as with a maimed arm and leg.

Now, Corinna’s innocent remark brought to life another remark that I had heard. “God! What’s that?” a man near me had cried out in the trenches, but he answered his question by violently retching, for the stuff that trickled down his face was warm and human, and my neighbor was new to the trenches.

There was no reason whatever why her words should have startled this memory, or why the memory should have overwhelmed me.

Posted in War Stories

7 Responses to “War Is ?”

  1. marianne
    January 16, 2012 at 2:17 pm

    war… raw consciousness

  2. Paul H.
    January 17, 2012 at 1:16 am

    War is …

    The cannonade that rings down from the cliffs
    As the rams challenge and charge and butt again.

    The flashing leap and endless struggle striving upward, onward, and up again, then swept from the torrent by the bear’s great clawed hand.

    But not enough for the hairless ape, too clever by half to strike and run.
    No! Stay and strike again – let the deed be done.

    War is …
    The birthright challenge to spread the seed, to be the One.
    Life’s elixir served in Death’s own chalice – from the hand of the Mother to the mouth of her Son.

    War is …
    Life is …

  3. Michael A. Michaelides
    January 17, 2012 at 4:27 am

    Just posting what Heraclitos,a greek philosopher, wrote about war.
    “War is the father of all; it is the king of all. It made others to gods and others to humans, others slaves and other free.”

  4. Tina
    January 17, 2012 at 8:25 am

    War is necessary:

    They will tell of the peace eternal

    And we would wish them well.
    They will scorn the path of war’s red wrath

    And brand it the road to hell.
    They will set aside their warrior pride

    And their love for the soldier sons.
    But at last they will turn again

    To horse., and foot, and guns.

    They will tell of the peace eternal.

    The Assyrian dreamers did.
    But the Tigris and the Euphrates ran
    through ruined lands.

    And amid the hopeless chaos
    Loud they wept and called their chosen ones

    To save their lives at the bitter last.
    With horse, and foot,, and guns.

    They will tell of the peace eternal,

    And may that peace succeed.
    But what of a foe that lurks to spring?

    And what of a nation’s need?
    The letters blaze on history’s page,

    And ever the writing runs,
    God, and honor, and native land,

    And horse, and foot, and guns.

    Read this in a book about Douglas Mac Arthur — he might be the author of the poem.

    • bill cooper
      September 20, 2012 at 10:31 am

      I was looking for this poem as I read it in the book American Ceasar, the life of douglas MacArhtur. This poen was delivered by MacArthur but the Arthor of the book insinuated that he was not the one who penned it. The arthor stated that MacArthur delivered the words as if they were his own.

  5. January 17, 2012 at 10:03 am

    War is necessary to avoid a total economic collapse …

    and therefore is inevitable. With 15+ trillion in debt and well over 80+ trillion in unfunded liabilities, the only way America can stop it’s continued slide down the razor-blade of history towards total economic armageddon is to manufacture a new war.

    The QE’s have proven ineffective and interest rates are near zero so the Federal reserve is out of ‘economic bullets’. We are headed for an unavoidable economic depression and the only way to prevent a total collapse is for the US government concoct new bogeyman and incident to justify a new war.

    The great depression, massive unemployment and widespread social unrest did not end because of Roosevelt’s socialist policies, they ended because of our entry into WWII.

    History will repeat itself. Another war is inevitable. Grab your ankles ….

  6. John
    January 17, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    War allows man to reach his full potential. Martial life and its ancient discipline gives us a stage to show our bravery, resolve,and our compassion. It can reveal to us our true nature in a world where we would otherwise take another persons word for who we are.