REMEMBERING WORLD WAR II - A Memorial Day Tribute
©2009 Robert C Burnham
June 6th 1944, a troop transport makes its way across the English Channel, ferrying its cargo of human soldiers to almost certain death. The man at the helm, nineteen year old Everett Burnham is excited and terrified at the same time. In preparation of this historic day he had visited a Marine tattoo artist a few days before and had a heart with the word 'Mother' emblazoned on his right bicep. Tomorrow will be his twentieth birthday. The few on board who know him make their passage up to the wheelhouse to wish him "Happy Birthday". They qualify their early greeting by saying they wanted to be among the first to offer their congratulations. On another day, in another year, such explanation may have actually been true. But on this day, it is not.
In reality, the greetings come early because the men offering them know that they in all likelihood will not see the young helmsman ever again. Once the transport approached the beaches of France, these men will voluntarily part ways with the ship, they will grab their gear, their rifles and jump into the churning waters of the channel. As part of the first wave of an invasion, they will storm the shore. They will die, so very many of them did.
Within sight of the German bunkers, the young helmsman watches the men, his cargo, being killed. He can see their bodies going 'belly-up' and floating in the ship's path. Through the high-polished wood of the helm, he can feel the propellers slicing through the mass of bodies, tearing them, grinding them. The young Seaman First Class is horrified. This expression of horror on his young helmsman's face does not go unnoticed by the ships' wise and compassionate skipper. The captain crosses the bridge and placing a solitary hand on my dad's shoulder whispers, "It is okay, Mr. Burnham, stand tall, the bodies you are sailing over are already dead, their souls have already left for greener pastures. By their deaths we will close out this war; we will close out this war and we will go home!"
My daddy did come home. The following poem was written for him and for all who came home and gave to this country my generation. The generation, whose responsibility it is to remember their sacrifice and to pass the memories forward. Today I also dedicate to all the men, of every nation, who didn't get to come home. May God bless their souls.
[as told to me by my father on many occasions throughout my life]
WORLD WAR II
© ROBERT C BURNHAM (99, 95)
Fifty some odd years ago a tyrant crawled from under a rock
With a deceitful tongue, he enticed people with the way he talked
He fired up his nation by declaring, "on top is our rightful place"
Better than ordinary souls - they were to be "the Master Race"
World domination; Power by fear
Intimidation and Oppression comprised their master plan
Following the small coward, they first attacked the Jews
Telling the rest of the world not to worry "because its not you"
Speeches and propaganda pushed the swastika to power
And six million Jews were marched into the fiery shower
Their voices cried out to their God in distress
The rest of Europe heard and donned their battle dress
The Russians, France, and the "Brits"; all valiant souls
Joined forces to fight this "unbeatable" foe
Their odds were slim, their casualties were great
For a while it looked as though Hitler would have his grand fate
Across the sea, America watched but tried to ignore
What to many Americans seemed a "European war"
But then Japan chose lots with the mustached devil
And with brutality and deceit, Pearl Harbor was disheveled
Americans were shocked and shaken on that "Day of Infamy"
They woke up, their eyes had opened, they would fight for you and me
Fathers left home as mothers held back tears
Little girls entered the factories despite all their fears
"Rosie the Riveter" built the ships and the mighty guns
That her daddy needed to fight the barbaric Huns
And all of a sudden that little "European" war
Had come a knocking on America's door
Brave men sailed across the Atlantic to join the Allied's stand
Other men island-hopped the pacific where there wasn't much land
There was fighting in Africa, blood stained the Sahara
Rommel was the enemy dealing out death and terror
U-Boats off the east coast, stacked bodies in Stalingrad
The death march in Bataan, seemed the whole world had gone mad
Called into fighting by evil, hypocrisy, and greed
Surely the turmoil even caused God in Heaven to bleed
For many months the allies struggle just to stay alive
While three different men had to set their differences aside
Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt too, could not afford to wait
Unsung heroes of all nations, were dying each minute of debate
As the storm grew darkest and faith wore paper thin
Praise God that the allies found the power from within
They would attack from across the channel and reclaim France's shores
The Russians from the east, cold and starving, would make a stand once more
In the Pacific, on little Iwo Jima, the US flag flew high
And at the 'Battle of Midway' there was a turning of the tide
Men were still dying, their blood flowing free
But no longer in vain; there was now a sense of victory
Hitler and Germany were the first to crack
They scrambled in awe as the allies broke their armored back
Into their bunkers they ran like scattering hounds
As the bombs from England could be felt all around
"Paris Liberated", the bold headlines screamed
Throughout that war-torn nation people again had a chance to dream
"Freedom" and "Hope" were the buzzwords that day
As the Allies accepted the Nazi's defeat with no more delay
Berlin would be divided - just a spoil of war
Russia claiming the east, a wall built without doors
Then all the attention was turned to the skies over Japan
Under God's eyes all watched the extreme cruelty between man
Today people still ask the question: "Was it justified ?"
Hiroshima and Nagasaki disappearing in the blink of an eye
The ending of the ultimate war, with the ultimate rage
The opening of Pandora's Box bringing in the Atomic Age
When the tally was done and the living buried their dead
Millions upon millions had perished the newspapers said
Life's lessons are expensive; but this one was way too high
Let's keep the hope that this lesson was learned by all mankind
World war II now lives in history books and on late night TV
John Wayne looks good as he brings the Nazis to their knees
But we need to remember for our children's sake
That our fathers did fall and the Earth did shake
Because of all their sacrifice, this poem has no end
The story must be told to our children, again and again ...