Monday, May 27, 2013

Remembering on Memorial Day - 2013, but Especially WWII and The Greatest Generation

As a Vietnam combat Vet who spent 30 years in the Army (and have been in Afghanistan as a civilian), I honor ALL those killed in defense of our country but this Memorial Day 2013, I will especially remember those lost in World War II. All other modern Wars pale in comparison to that fought by our “Greatest Generation” and I’m proud that both my Father and Mother served overseas in WWII.

To put World War II in perspective, compare it to our other modern wars and conflicts.

In the almost 12 years we’ve been in Afghanistan (Oct 2001-Today/27 May 2013), we’ve lost 2174 military killed from all causes in country and the surrounding regions and the breakdown of those lost is: 70.0% Soldiers, 19.7% Marines, 4.7% Airmen and 5.6% Sailors. Hence, like in all wars, the Army has done the overwhelming bulk of the fighting and dying there.

In the 9+ years we were in Iraq (Mar 2003-until our withdrawal), we lost 4472 military killed from all causes in country and the surrounding regions. Again, the breakdown was: 73.7% Soldiers, 22.8% Marines, 1.2% Airmen, 2.3% Sailors (+ a single Coast Guardsmen) so the Army did the “heavy lifting” in Iraq also.

Between Vietnam and our present wars, our military also saw combat in Grenada (total lost from all causes = 19), Panama (24), The Gulf War (293).

The Vietnam War lasted 10 years but 51,585 of the total 58,220 killed occurred during the real 5 years (1966-70) of the war when we were heavily engaged (at the height of that war in 1968 we were losing 50+ a day killed and in May 1968 alone we had 2416 Killed!)

The Korean War lasted 3 years and one month (Jun 1950 – Jul 53) and total US Killed was 36,516 (that averages ~32+ killed a day).

But ALL these conflict pale in comparison to World War II where the US lost almost half a million men. The Battle of the Bulge alone lasted 40 days (16 Dec 44 – 25 Jan 45) with over U.S. casualties 81,000 and 19,000 killed. The 36-day Iwo Jima assault resulted in more than 26,000 American casualties, including 6,800 dead while the 82-day Battle for Okinawa lasted from early April until mid-June 1945 and U.S. (5 Army and 2 Marine Corps Divisions) casualties were over 62,000 with over 12,000 killed.

To me, the real heroes of WWII were the men of the 8th Air Force (one of 16 numbered Air Forces in the War). The 8th AF sustained more than 27,000 killed; that’s more than the entire Marine Corps (24,500) lost in that war. I will never understand how men had the courage to board those bombers day after day knowing they would often sustain 40-50% casualties on a single mission.

Like all Memorial Days, I honor ALL who've served and especially who made the ultimate sacrifice but I reserve a special place for the Heroes from World War II and especially my Mother and Father!