May 17, 2004

A generation passes

Ever read the obits? I do. Not every day, but fairly often. They are usually fascinating. First, at many papers, they are written by new journalists who are just learning their skill and you get the impression, sometimes, that these newbys try harder. Second, you get to read a mini-biography about someone who has usually accomplished something interesting.

Eventually, you begin to notice a pattern, though. The pattern I've been noticing for a very long time now is that the generation who fought in WW II is passing. I recognize that this is not a new observation and, in fact, I sort of doubt that there is such a thing as a new observation, but that is a topic for another time.

The WW II generation has been lauded in books and films and I distrust romantic appraisals even as I am persuaded that this generation exemplified virtues which we are in need of again and which I worry we may never see. Forget the films, though. The place to learn about the individual accomplishments is in the obituaries.

The obituary of Captain Charles Moore is a good example. Most of the best obituary writing, by the way, is English, not American. Captain Moore was an SAS officer dropped into France in 1944 and charged with providing WT (wireless transmitting) facilities to the other SAS groups occupied in sabotage and preventing German reinforcement in Normandy.

"The sound of machinegun and rifle fire reverberated in the woods as groups of Maquis engaged the Germans, and for several days they were involved in a series of running fights with the enemy before they were able to make contact with Squadron HQ.

For the next three months, Moore maintained wireless contact with base despite repeated enemy attacks; and, at great personal risk, he prevented the WT equipment, some of which was highly secret, from falling into the hands of the Germans."

The obituary makes clear that he was an ordinary guy who did some extraordinary things, went on to a career in food sales, and stayed married to the girl he married in 1939.

I wonder, as this generation passes, do we have what it takes to replace them?

Also,the fellow who wrote "Danny and the Dinosaur" died. The book grew out of his sketches for his daughter when she became very ill with a childhood disease.

Posted by Random Penseur at May 17, 2004 08:29 AM
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