Based on a true story. At the end of this excerpt you can download the complete book.
Chapter 1. 1968
Everyone I have ever had the pleasure, and maybe some not the pleasure, to meet has told me our government only releases certain highly secretive materials fifty years after the fact. These delayed disclosures are mostly of the embarrassing kind or of a somewhat unlawful nature. Either reason; they are usually held back for public safety and government privacy policies. That being the case, I now believe I have waited long enough in my suppression of the facts related to the Whomba War.
At the time of my typing the very first word at the top of this page it is five months and four years shy of the fifty year anniversary. I’m starting now with the understanding that by the time I have it all down in black and white the vital date will surely have passed.
Just as in the case of all recollections from forty-six years in the past; sometimes there is another person’s view on the topic. I’m affirming here and now, for the record, that if any other view was to be inspected from top to bottom one would have to admit; “These stories are carbon copies; duplicates.”
Why would I have the nerve to have an opinion so bold as this; when the story hasn’t even begun to be written? Simple. Back then we, all the names that will follow, lived together as one family of kids in the neighborhood. For each summer when we were off from school we shared each other’s time, possessions, families and thoughts.
The summer of Nineteen Sixty-Eight was as different a time compared to today, as if we tried to compare last week with the first week after man invented fire or the wheel. We didn’t lock ourselves in our rooms with a smart phone or stay up all hours of the night entertaining ourselves on the internet. We slept at night in the Sixties. Hell; we were tired from our nonstop days. Everyone back then lived. They mostly didn’t have a huge choice on how they lived, but they lived all the same.
When you heard about one of the guys being indoors it was taken for granted he was either being punished for some wrongdoing or about to die. People didn’t stay in the house in their off time. There was a world waiting for them beyond that front door. A world that could disappear in a heartbeat if either the U. S. or Russian leaders thought it should.
Strange how people really start to appreciate something when there is a fear it may vanish forever. Today we donate hard cash and pray for the survival of the Polar Bear and the elephant. When I was fourteen years old we thought about a bigger issue; the planet.
I may be wrong, I was only fourteen back then, but I don’t remember any television commercials or ads in magazines for donating to save the planet. I guess they figured if we were supposed to go door to door with one of those UNICEF boxes we’d need something more the size of a boxcar.
Or maybe it was more simple than that. Maybe when everyone knew of somebody’s father, brother, cousin, uncle or classmate getting killed or maimed over in Nam they just didn’t care about anything outside the family.
Maybe the grownups at the time ran out of tears and compassion. Maybe that’s why they took so long to stop our side from killing those other people over in that God forsaken jungle.
We were told back then that they didn’t think and act the way they should. Hell; they didn’t even look like us. How can you trust a people that don’t look like us? So I, like every child that matures, learned later that we’re not always on the team with the highest moral values. But our team always won; so we were told.
Growing up in the Sixties was a time where everyone around you was familiar with war. It was as commonplace as polio and TB. Your grandparents went through the First and Second World Wars. Some of them had even heard the stories of the great Civil War from their grandparents firsthand. Your own parents went through the Second World War or if not that at least the Korean War. Even if you were one of the lucky one in two-hundred million that didn’t have a relative die in Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia; you’d still be exposed to the misery at school, work or place of worship.
So it was different back then. The kids in high school and college paid attention to the political leaders at the time in a different sort of way. They didn’t care how eloquent the person spoke or how good they looked in a suit. Their judgment was more on a personal note. Was the next senator, congressman or president going to be in a pissing match with some other world leader? \Was the next guy voted into the capital building going to be putting his money in the U. S. timber industry because he knows caskets will be selling by the thousands?
The social security crowd of today hesitates to look back on what those days were really like. They’ve forgotten something very vital they had learned in school; history does repeat itself. Now when you hear a senior citizen complain about the government it revolves around what they haven’t got in the way of money or benefits. If reminded, more than half would tell you at age twenty-one they voted more to save the countries young men from senseless death overseas, than a one percent COLA. Seems they cared more back then about a friend in school; than they do now about their own child or grandchild when it comes to voting out the war-monger.
Unlike most of the sixty-plus year olds walking the streets today; I try to force myself to remember the Sixties at least once a month. I try to think back on the time when money wasn’t so abundant and yet we got by. When modern medicine wasn’t able to conquer a heart attack or cancer as it does today. When we kids didn’t stare or make fun of men with no arms and legs; a small by-product of war. When the only eighteen year-old who didn’t worry about dying in a foreign land was a retard.
Actually, I’ve noticed there seems to be a lot more younger men today with missing limbs. They aren’t so recognizable until you go to the beach where the artificials become a nuisance. I have the highest respect for these guys. I’m not ashamed to say that as soon as I get myself to a private location I usually wipe the tear from my eye. Funny isn’t it? When I was a kid you’d always see the older men crying at the Memorial Day parade. Took my stupid ass over fifty years to finally understand why.
There is always a difference in the past and the present. Back then I think they were crying for their friends that sacrificed “ALL” for their love of country. Today I have to admit I cry because I believe it is our country that has sacrificed our men for certain politician’s “ALL”.
My grandfather told me as a young boy that you couldn’t start a war without a politician and a manufacturer of weapons. When I asked; “What about the soldier? The soldier does all the fighting.” He didn’t make a smile. No, he was as serious as could be; “My boy, the soldier is always in the middle. The politician will start and end the fight. But it’s always the soldier who’s in the middle of it. Ever hear of a politician coming home in a B-Bag? Hasn’t happened when I was your age and it sure as shit won’t happen when you’re mine.” I’m getting pretty close to that age he spoke of and I think he may have been on to something back then.
To put it in perspective, if you like; in a nutshell. The Sixties were a time when every ethnic, religious and age group seemed to be at each other’s throat. There was one common thread that bound the Jew to the Episcopalian, the Black to the White, the young to the old, and the rich to the poor. And this slim strand of the media, called the evening news, was starting to fray like the fringes of the flag that flew over Ft. McHenry.
Money, power, education and sheer stupidity could no longer shield one’s own true conscience as to the reality of what was going on outside past the La-Z-Boy tucked in the corner by the radiator. Men on all channels, from ABC to WOR, started to share their own personal doubts out loud. The politeness of keeping quiet and following in the steps of the views of Government Almighty was being questioned. An American society based on something other than war was being pondered.
History is always slow to move unless there is a revolution. We all know that we never had an uprising back then, so it took a while longer for the idea of a warless nation to be slowly indoctrinated into our society. Granted it may have went a little smoother and faster had we not had so many great American heroes like Archie Bunker to put people like Walter Cronkite to rest. I always thought Archie would have liked it if King George had kept his colonies; he’d probably would have even voted for the man.
All I can say about the political view of a fourteen year-old in Sixty-Eight is; I was so grateful we hadn’t outgrown our War Years. I can’t imagine how bored I would have been; fishing and playing baseball every afternoon with the guys who had just entered college. I would have heard the older guys talking about girls and getting an education; instead of how to get to Canada on foot or how long it takes to bleed out from a punji.
I’d guarantee I’d never have had the chance to have the mind and know-how of a twenty year-old at the age of fourteen. You can’t imagine how fast a person’s mental acuity can grow listening to stories of monks setting themselves on fire and Air Force runs over foreign lands that drop bombs by the mega-ton. It was much better listening to the guys hanging around the school grounds, than Ben Cartwright bitching at Hop Sing.
It was almost comforting at night to put your head down on a soft pillow knowing God was on your side. We were bombing someone, somewhere; as long as I can remember. And will be bombing someone, somewhere else; for the times to come. It must have been a great feeling. I can’t say I ever remember having that feeling at that age; but it must have been great. Otherwise; why did everyone support it with such pride and enthusiasm?
Yes, I was an American. Albeit; only fourteen years old. Still, even at that age, when the older guys wanted me to be on their side in the Whomba War; how could I refuse? Hell, I’m an American. I was born right where the Manhattan Transit lines cross the infamous Garden State Parkway. Who could be more American than me? Sure, I was only fourteen.
If this was the American Revolution and the King’s men had just hung my father and uncles the day before; was this no different? To be called for action in the Whomba War was to be called upon as a patriot. God was watching closely for my response. I agreed to serve with my fellow Americans; I agreed most religiously.
I do remember going to my Uncle Andy’s bar in Passaic and hearing the old men talk about the First World War with a sheer horror in their voices. The stories of the mustard gas were gruesome. Worse thing I remember about their discussions on the gas was how it destroyed the mind and soul of the soldier before it took his life. It forced them to make a choice. Not of whether to stay and fight or run and live. No, it wasn’t that elementary. They had to choose how they preferred to succumb on the field of battle.
To escape the toxic effects of a gas, that was heavier than air and hugged the ground, many men would simply stand up. Of course; within three seconds of standing erect their heads would be blown off. So as the men drank they would discuss the choices they had made back then in the trenches. Stay down on your stomach and get gassed or stand tall and get shot to hell. I was always impressed that even after hours of drinking they never changed their original selection. Thinking back now, at those times in the bar, I’m aware they had fifty years to rethink on their preferred selection. If time didn’t sway them, I guess alcohol couldn’t either.
At the VFW and Legion the guys chain-smoked, drank and talked about the freezing conditions in the Ardennes and North Korea. A few would cough up a little blood from the jungle diseases they caught in Burma or the Philippines. The Vietnam Viet was non-existent. They hated to be in the public eye. Probably because the simpleminded public hated them for doing what they were forced to do.
The World War II generation was tired of the younger generation’s protest of war. They would prefer to have their Commy sons shot; than enrolled in the local community college. Always not comprehending why their own children were too stupid to understand they were directed by the ever-loved politicians. The ones their knowledgeable parents elected and reelected.
Responsibility and consciousness have never been an American strong suit. When the person they voted for does exactly what he or she said they’d do and it hurts someone else, the inept ass-wipe who voted for them will say; “Well, I didn’t hear that. Can that be true? Maybe you’re wrong.” Obviously they never hear any of the truth, cause some of the people that were in power then are still in power today.
The men in the war-clubs all talked about their particular war. They hardly talked of work, finances, or even women. The subject of the past, the now and the future would be of our strength as a nation and upon which foreign land we should use it upon. We were still praising the glory of World Wars I and II and somehow not the latter two conflicts.
Would the parade next May have men standing at attention for all to cheer that fought the battle so close to home? Would the bars and armed forces clubs be speaking about the third major conflict since the one with Germany and Japan? Would it be Mr. Rooney or Mr. Cronkite who puts on his turtle shell and crawls among the weed covered hills searching for the truth? What news station would become the first to disclose to the world the true facts of the first war in Bergen County since General Washington’s time?
The way to win a war is to be prepared and be secretive. All good generals and politicians alike know this. There were a few there at the playground those nights before the encounter that would have made either an impressive general or a noble politician. Proof of this is in the libraries or on the internet today. Try doing a search for the Whomba War and see what you get. Not a damn thing. You want to talk about a well-kept secret military operation. And a War no less. Yes, I think you would agree with this fourteen year-old back in Nineteen Sixty-Eight.
Read the rest: Whomba War – Paul M Geiger