With the threat of a nuclear holocaust all around me, at the height of my skewed idealism, (I was ignorant to the harsh realities of life), I saw a great honor in the concept of man-on-man warfare. You can prove this by excavating my mother's flower beds and backyard lawn where, circa 1962, I buried dozens of plastic army soldiers who died in my fantasy battles. After all these years, I specifically remember rehashing (many times) a sequence from the WWII movie, "A WALK IN THE SUN." In that scene, GI's hide on each side of a road and bombard a passing German half-track.
During that period, I was also influenced by the TV show, "COMBAT." It had a six-year, 152 episode run that lasted until after the 1967 season. Originally shot in black and white, Combat gained popularity with a gritty realistic depiction of an infantry platoon fighting in Europe.
In his most memorable role, actor Vic Morrow portrayed Chip Saunders, the All-American, no-nonsense sergeant. You may recall he died in a helicopter accident while filming the 1982 movie version of the, "TWILIGHT ZONE." COMBAT was so good, that the other networks produced less compelling "knock-offs;" "THE GALLANT MEN," "RAT PATROL," and "GARRISON'S GUERRILLAS."
EVERY KID ON MY BLOCK WANTED TO BE A HERO LIKE SGT. SAUNDERS
Army shows spurred us kids to play "war" at night. Our street became a great battleground and every neighbor's bushes, yard, garden, shed and garage were incorporated into our games. In retrospect, because of today's intolerance towards guns as play-things, isn't it ironic to consider the arsenal of toy weapons we had. I had (amongst others) a cap-gun firing machine gun ala Sergeant Saunders. I also had a pearl (plastic) handled six-shooter, like "THE LONE RANGER" but that, as you might expect was used strictly for playing cowboys and Indians.
My friend Jason had a projectile firing toy bazooka and several GI Joe's (the original action figure...they were NOT dolls and the added paraphernalia were uniforms and gear...NOT a wardrobe and accessories)! Down the street, Ira had a rocket launcher that shot plastic grenades and he had his uncle's authentic naval helmet...plus, way before they were popular, army fatigue pajamas. Another, kid named *Jonny had a pre-transformer gadget that was aptly called, the "THE JOHNNY ACTION EIGHT RIFLES IN ONE." I was actually jealous that there wasn't a "steve" gun. Of course I was seven, so don't judge my value system too hard...even if I did think toy landmines were a great idea...ah, kids!
*Jonny also had a real (broken) policeman's service revolver. Even though it weighed a ton, he kept it tucked in his pants and rarely let us use it.
Somewhere along the line, we poked our heads out of the atomic bomb shelters and the Vietnam-era started...abruptly bursting our man-on-man war bubble. By the mid-60's, boys a few years older than us were being shipped to a place they never heard of, for a cause that was never made clear. Far worse, too many of them never came back. I was lucky because I didn't directly know anyone who went. Even luckier, I became eligible for the draft, the first year the war was over.
In the last years of the war, Selective Service used a lottery system and selected draftees by birthdays. In 1973, my first year of eligibility, even though they weren't sending anyone any more, they kept the lottery in place, in case the goop hit the fan.
To make it fair, they scrambled the 365 birthdays and randomly? assigned each day with a number. Hypothetically, if April 1st was chosen first, every one with that birthday was number one. This process would go on until each birthday was given a number. The general rule was if you were a 200 or higher, you were safe. Those in the 100's were iffy and anything lower was guaranteed to go. My original draft card, (I still have it as a wry souvenir) included my lottery number...16! That meant I would have had a front row seat on the troop carrier's first flight over.1973 DRAFT CARD - ON THE FOURTH LINE DOWN, YOU CAN SEE THIS MAN'S NUMBER WAS 152...HE PROBABLY HAD A FIFTY-FIFTY SHOT TO GO !
If you ever have the time, in Washington D. C., visit the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. Its an eye-opening jolt to the waste and horror of an unnecessary war. Designed by Maya Lin to be elegantly simple, it is hidden intentionally? along the great mall, amongst an innocent copse of trees, near the Lincoln Memorial, (across the street, to the left of the Reflecting Pool). Its aesthetic qualities include a subliminal walk down into a mass grave. Today, thirty-five years later, you can count on a continuous flow of mourners as well as personal messages attached to the long granite wall that bears the etched-in names of all the fallen servicemen and women.
A SECTION OF THE VIETNAM VETERANS MEMORIAL
Its unfortunate, because I think we'll see peace on earth before we ever see children playing army back in vogue. With that in mind, please, regardless of the politics that has...and is putting our people in harm's way, take a moment to reflect and thank those who have sacrificed their time, energy and lives to support our way of life and freedom.
EDITOR'S NOTE - Today's blog marks
MORE GLIB ThAN PROFOUND'S 99th edition. Thanks for your interest, comments and support...Steve