…guys just like everybody else
While not something that happened to him directly, World War II veteran Rex Graham related a story that highlighted some of the underlying absurdity that becomes apparent in war.
While the popular image is often of opposing forces battling for a deep held ideal, the reality of war is that the individual soldiers on the ground are often just regular guys doing the job they’re told to do.
Heads of state and military commanders may play out the great conflicts the history books make war out to be, but for the men actually fighting and dying, war is a far less grand undertaking.
According to Graham, a fellow member of the 45th division, also from Warren County, had an experience that brought this fact into stark relief.
“Sammy Scalise was in my division and he got captured right off the bat when we landed in southern Italy. He was there only about a month and he got captured.
“I remember Sammy, he was in the 180th regiment and his company relieved us about two or three different times and we relieved his company.
“I said to the guys, one time we went to relieve them, I didn’t see Sammy. They said he went out on a patrol and never came back.
“I did the same thing only I came back. They’d tell you to go out and get us a prisoner at night. Well hell, you’d never been there before in your life. You didn’t know what was going on.
“So Sammy, after the war was over, he said to me, ‘Four German boys caught me at night roamin’ around out there lookin’ for a prisoner. Well, I became the prisoner.’
“So he said, ‘You know I could speak a little bit of Italian. They start talking, and these kids were good kids, we were both tryin’ to speak in Italian. They had picked up a little bit and I had a little bit.’
“Sammy told me, ‘They said this is a hell of a thing, you know. You and I were never mad at each other and now they’re tryin’ to make us kill each other.’
“He said they treated him good and he went back and was in a prison camp the whole war over there. From September till the end of the war. He said they were real good to him.
“There was guys like that. You know, guys just like everybody else.”