|Sinking The Tirpitz
||[Dec. 12th, 2007|10:14 am]
Our friend John was persuaded to talk about his naval service yesterday. (Actually we didn't know he'd been in the war- we didn't think he was that old) and he mumbled something about "D" day and the Tirpitz, then hurried on to the training he did after being demobbed. Isn't that marvellous? I don't really buy into all that "greatest generation" guff but I love it when a man who was involved in two of the legendary campaigns of the Second World War would rather talk about almost anything else. |
The Tirpitz was the biggest German battleship of World War II. She spent the war holed up in Norwegian ports and- in spite of never actually firing a shot in anger- hobbled the Royal Navy by compelling it to maintain a strong defensive presence in the North Sea. The British sank her- after many attempts- in November 1944. Nearly a thousand men went down with her.
I had an uncle who spent more than 3 years in a Japanese POW camp and never really talked about it either. Not out of modesty, but out of horror. I think they were the greatest generation - they didn't want to be, but they had to be. We were lucky that they stepped up.
My father spent the war defusing unexploded bombs. Unglamorous work but highly dangerous. Again he had no wish to talk about it.
It's something that makes me proud.
My grandfather was Airborne in the US Army. I tried more than once to get him to talk about his time in France during the war, and about the only thing he would discuss in detail was that the war ended before he could be deployed to the Far East.
Is it just an inherent difference between that generation and later ones who seem addicted to confessional culture, or something particular to World War II that makes so many who participated in it so reluctant to discuss it?
I believe there was a culture of reticence- a sense of it being "bad form" to talk about experiences that might cast you in a heroic light.
Why do you like it or feel proud about someone else's horror? I don't quite understand this.
You're assuming the experience was horrific- it may not have been. A lot of British service men and women had the time of their lives in World War II.
What I applaud is the reticence, the modesty...
My dad was in the Marines in WWII; the only stories he'll tell are the highly seasoned tales about off-color escapades on base that the lads got up to during lulls in the nastiness.
A friend's dad was a POW for a while after his plane was shot down over Italy, and only in the last couple of years did he open up much about it. Even so he mostly talks about his friends, rarely about himself.
Funny how they won't talk about it. I think it's a generational thing: don't dwell on bad things, and if you're male don't talk about things that will make you want to cry.
Yes, I think it has a lot to do with a now old-fashioned ideal of masculine virtue. You don't brag, you don't show emotion, you maintain a "stiff upper lip".